Grand Slam Tennis Wii
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Sports
We've already looked at one tennis game for the Wii that utilises the Wii MotionPlus in the our review of Virtua Tennis 2009 and here we have EA Sports' Grand Slam Tennis which also makes use of Nintendo's latest Wii remote add-on. Grand Slam Tennis is a great first effort from EA Sports and makes good use of the Wii MotionPlus. The game does have room for improvement however and a lack of modes means it's difficult to completely recommend this over Virtua Tennis 2009 but in some aspects it's definitely the better game.
Grand Slam Tennis offers you the chance to play in the four grand slam tournaments such as the US Open, French Open, Australian Open and Wimbledon. There are over twenty different players to play as or against and it's not just a collection of contemporary players. Legends such as John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg have been included too. The game offers an exhibition mode, entitled Play Now, a Grand Slam mode and the ability to play ranked and unranked matches online. Sadly, there isn't an option to play in an online tournament. Local multiplayer is supported for up to four players. There are several entertaining game variants such as Aussie Doubles (a two-on-one match where you take it in turns playing solo) and Drop and Lob (where drop and lob shots score double points). The game also allows you to keep track of the calories you burn whilst playing, if you play with your custom created player.
The Grand Slam mode is the heart of the game and you'll create your own player (the player creation options are limited unfortunately) and take part in the four grand slam tournaments. You can play through multiple seasons so if you don't win a competition the first time around, there's always next year. The ultimate aim is to win all of the competitions in a single season becoming Grand Slam Champion. There are three difficulty settings so once you've achieved this you can always try again on a harder difficulty setting. It should be pointed out however that Grand Slam mode isn't a fully fledged career mode and in some respects that's disappointing.
Along with the tournaments you do have pre-tournament challenges. These can either be matches or skill challenges. You're given the opportunity to defeat opponents and pick up one of their abilities to assign to your player. There are three different ranks of abilities: Bronze, Silver and Gold and these offer boosts to your player's speed, forehand, backhand, service, hustle, fitness and net/volley skills. Initially you can only assign one ability to your player but when your player becomes a four-star player you can assign three. Prior to a match you can assign any of your earned abilities and this adds a tactical element to the game as you'll need to pick your abilities that best counter your opponent's style of play.
You can purchase Grand Slam Tennis with or without the Wii MotionPlus and unlike Virtua Tennis 2009, it's actually a decent experience if you don't have access to a Wii MotionPlus. Whether you have a Wii MotionPlus or not, you have the choice of using the nunchuk attachment. With the nunchuk plugged in you'll be able to control your player's movements but if you don't use the nunchuk, your player will be moved automatically. You'll want to control your player's movements yourself as your player is rarely, if ever moved towards the net (you can use the directional pad to move your player if you don't want to use the nunchuk) thus depriving you of a fair amount of shot options. That said, it does take a while to get to grips with swinging the remote and moving your player with the nunchuk so you may wish to leave the player positioning to the AI at first. Whilst the controls are OK without the MotionPlus, they are much more accurate with it. It should be noted however that it's also much easier for your shots to be wayward when using the MotionPlus and there's definitely a learning curve to overcome but ultimately it's well worth the effort.
EA Sports went with a cartoon style for the visuals and for the most part it works well. Player models seem more like caricatures rather than accurate representations but they look fairly good and it hides the graphical limitations of the Wii quite nicely. You'll also notice the size of the ball has been exaggerated but this does make it easy to see at all times. The camera angle is pretty much ideal and remains behind the player. In multiplayer games you'll see a split-screen view of the action allowing both players to have an ideal view. The frame rate is absolutely rock solid and is smooth throughout which is excellent and a vast improvement on Virtua Tennis 2009.
There are no real problems for deaf gamers with Grand Slam Tennis. Comments made by the umpire and the match commentary are not subtitled but neither is of any great importance. All of the tutorial messages, that explain the game's controls and also how to perform various shots, are delivered via text and pictures. During a match you'll be aware of all of the decisions as they are shown in text and all other important information is shown visually so you're always fully aware of what's going on. All information in the game's Grand Slam mode is shown visually too, so again there are no problems.
If I had to only pick one tennis game to own for the Wii it would be Grand Slam Tennis. The game isn't perfect but the controls are significantly better than those in Virtua Tennis 2009 and playing matches feels more realistic and more satisfying. I'm not saying the controls are flawless because there is definitely room for improvement but they are adequate without the use of the Wii MotionPlus and with it, it's one of the most involving and realistic tennis games to date. The game really should have had more modes however as you'll soon tire of the Grand Slam mode because it lacks depth. A proper career mode should have been included. The ability to play online is welcome and I daresay some will get some value from tracking how many calories you're burning whilst playing the game. Still, niggles aside, Grand Slam Tennis is the best tennis game you can currently purchase for the Wii and those with an interest in the sport will appreciate the finer points of the control system when the Wii MotionPlus is used.