Next Generation Tennis
It's Wimbledon again and the tennis games are beginning to emerge. The most popular tennis game to date has to be Virtua Tennis. SEGA's inspirational game attracted gamers to a sport they would otherwise be disinterested in. Carapace were obviously impressed by Virtua Tennis as what we have here looks very similar indeed and has clearly been influenced by SEGA's masterpiece. Will the gameplay be as good though?
One thing the game cannot be faulted for is the lack of gameplay options that it provides. There are several modes available to you when you first play the game, Arcade, Championship, Race, Training and Career but several are hidden and will have to be unlocked. Arcade mode sees you attempting to win four matches in a row on different surfaces in Australia, England, the USA and France. Championship enables you to take part in a one off championship where you pick the venue and the gameplay parameters. Race is where you attempt to defeat as many opponents as possible. Training allows you to practice your shot types by either facing a ball machine or hitting the ball against a huge wall and dealing with the rebound. The heart of the game is Career mode.
In Career mode you get to create a male or female player and guide them through a succession of seasons in your bid to become the world's number one. A season consists of taking in the Australian Open, US Open, Roland Garros tournament and Wimbledon. For each of these tournaments there are singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches that have to be played. There is a comprehensive practice mode that accustoms you to the different techniques, all information is given in text, and as you improve so will your players statistics and in turn you will have a better chance of winning tournaments. You can also choose your player's outfit, doubles and mixed doubles partners.
There are plenty of top Professionals to play against. There's the likes of Henman, Grosjean, Rubin and Razzano. All of these players have their own unique styles and surface preferences that are clearly noticeable. There are a variety of courses and surfaces although at the beginning there are only a few available to you and the rest will require unlocking via the Career mode.
The game looks very impressive and both the courts and the players look very good. Both the textures that have been used on the players and the court surfaces look great. The players animate beautifully and again the influence of Virtua Tennis is very clear. The serve meter that Virtua Tennis had is present here too.
For me where Next Generation Tennis comes unstuck is in the gameplay, more specifically in the unswerving accuracy of your AI opponents. I'm all for the dumbing down of games for making them more accessible to the gaming public but why does your AI opponent never knock the ball out? The only faults the AI makes are on the serves. It can be soul destroying to know that every single time your opponent lobs a ball at you it is going to be in. It's like John McEnroe programed the thing to cheese Umpires off. The annoying thing is that it is quite easy for you to knock the ball out. This leads you to feel like you're being ripped off and all the good work the game does in other areas is completely forgotten when your opponent lobs at you for the hundredth time and all of them are in. It just feels so unnatural.
Next Generation Tennis is fine for deaf gamers. The Umpires comments are not subtitled and there are no visual clues for crowd applause or various beeps that are made but whilst this is a disappointment it doesn't have an effect on the gameplay in any way at all.
Next Generation Tennis is the tennis game that could have been a classic. The ultra precision of the AI will soon damage what good impression the game initially gives though and that only leaves multiplayer options which is a shame because the content of the game as a whole is very impressive.
Overall Game Rating: 5.0/10 The 'perfect' AI damages what could have otherwise been a classic tennis game.
Deaf Gamers comment: Umpire calls are not subtitled and various other noises are not given as visual clues. This doesn't harm the gameplay though.