Top Spin 3 Xbox 360
Published by: 2K Sports
Developed by: PAM Development
Release Date: Out Now
I stopped caring about the real world of tennis a long time ago but my interest in tennis games has never waned. The better tennis games can be hugely enjoyable and it's possible to spend months developing your player's skills in a bid to become the world number one. The Top Spin series has always been more of a tennis simulation rather than an arcade style game and Top Spin 3 is the most accurate tennis simulation to date. Top Spin 3 definitely takes the realism to the next level and whilst this can be really satisfying, it's a game that can be difficult to get to grips with during the first few hours of play.
Top Spin 3 offers a variety of modes to keep you busy. The game includes: Exhibition mode, Tournament mode (there are 24 tournaments some of which are licensed), Career mode, Top Spin School (effectively a tutorial mode) and of course Xbox Live play. There's a healthy amount of professional players in the game (past and present) including the likes of Federer, Sharapova, Becker and my personal favourite, Borg. The online play is impressive with both single and double play available and you can compete in tournaments as well as ranked and unranked matches.
The Career mode has undergone a quite a few changes since Top Spin 2 and on the whole it's a better experience. First of all you have to design your player and the options you have to customise your player are plentiful, in fact it can be a little overwhelming and you could spend hours getting the look of your character just right if you wanted to. Progressing through the Amateur and Challenger ranks will only require a few victories and then you'll move on to the Junior, Pro and Legends rank. You no longer have to find a coach and take part in mini-games to improve your skills. You'll earn experience points (XP) from winning matches (the amount depends on what rank you're playing at and what round of the competition you've won) and you'll use these XP points to improve your character's eight attributes: forehand, backhand, service, return, volley, power, speed and stamina. It's worth pointing out that you can't level-up every attribute to its maximum so you're forced to either create a player who excels in a couple of areas or one that's generally well rounded and this makes for a greater sense of realism and helps to keep the game challenging. You can also use your player in the game's other modes and gain XP there too which is an excellent idea and makes the other modes far more appealing. You'll also earn unlock points and with these you can buy extra gear for your character and this gear is provided by brands such as Adidas, Nike, Yonex, Ellese and Babolat.
One of the aforementioned character attributes, stamina, really plays a key role in Top Spin 3. Before taking a serve, a heart-rate meter will be displayed by each player. To begin with this meter has a dark blue background with a flat white line. As the players become tired the background will change to red and the white line is anything but a straight line. Keeping your player from getting too tired is essential because as their energy starts to flag, mistakes creep in and you'll find your shots won't be as accurate as they should be. You'll also see the performance of the AI players degrade too as they become tired and those who don't have a good stamina rating do tend to tire easily and it can be a beneficial tactic to move the ball around the court and tire them out. Whilst you won't want to put all of your XP points into your player's stamina rating, you will want to ensure that your player has a good stamina rating to prevent them from becoming too tired in a game.
Most will find Top Spin 3 a little difficult at first. You really have to take care to position your player and perform and time your button presses with accuracy or you'll perform shots that go astray or miss the ball entirely. There are no meters to help you perform a great serve. The risk shots can be fiddly to get to grips with (as they have been in other Top Spin games to be fair) and there are a few shots you can perform with the right analogue stick which take a little getting used to. Initially you'll find yourself making these kinds of mistakes and it can be frustrating. It's advisable to take a look at the tutorials as they cover the new controls, although it has to be said that they are a little dry and can be tedious to work your way through. Investing time into the game and fully getting to grips with everything rewards you with a very satisfying tennis game that's arguably the finest tennis game to date but the learning curve isn't for the faint of heart (or those who simply want a pick up and play arcade experience).
Top Spin 3 is the best looking tennis game we've seen so far. The player models are impressive and their animations, for the most part, are also pleasing. What I found particularly impressive is the way the players actually tired toward the latter stages of a match. You'll notice the players sweating profusely and their faces looking rather flushed, particularly when the weather is hot. Top Spin 2 had some rather long load times and whilst the load times in Time Spin 3 aren't exactly short they are not as long this time around, which is a relief. There are an impressive number of different courts to play on and some of them look superb. The crowd are also nicely detailed and actually look as though they are watching the game. You'll also find a good assortment of camera angles (Top Spin 2 only had a couple) to choose from and you can even choose to have the camera remain behind your player in single player games.
Deaf gamers won't have any problems with Top Spin 3. The tutorials are delivered exclusively in text. All of the messages you receive in the game's Career mode are in text too. In fact the only verbal comments come from the umpire during a match. The umpire's comments are not subtitled but you are notified in text for all of the decisions, faults, break and match points and so forth. Voice communications are used for online play, which isn't ideal for deaf gamers, but in regards to the singe-player game deaf gamers will have no problem at all in enjoying Top Spin 3.
As long as you're not looking for the simplicity of an arcade tennis experience you'll find Top Spin 3 to be the best tennis game so far. As we've already mentioned however, the game does initially require a lot of patience. You can't expect to have the controls mastered in your first few games. You're probably looking at a few hours before you're fully aware of how the game should be played. Once you're familiar with the controls you'll really appreciate just how good the game is and how much depth the control system has. If you're looking for a tennis simulation Top Spin 3 is the only game you need to consider.