Published by EA Sports
Developed by EA Sports
As much as I enjoyed the original Grand Slam Tennis, which appeared on the Nintendo Wii and was one of the first games to make use of the Wii MotionPlus attachment, I felt that the game lacked depth. The game played an enjoyable game of tennis but there was a lack of modes, there wasn’t a real career mode for instance, and there was no option to play online. In short the replay value of the game wasn’t as good as it could have been but at the time of its release it was the best tennis game on the Wii.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 sees the series move to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 meaning that game can not only look much better but also take advantage of the bigger online communities that both consoles enjoy. The series has stayed true to its roots however offering a mix of present day tennis greats and legends from yesteryear such as Borg and McEnroe. The game offers all four Grand Slam tournaments: Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open and the French Roland Garros tournament. There’s even a career mode this time around and you can relive or rewrite twenty-five of some of the most memorable tennis moments in history. There is even a new thumbstick control system called Total Racket Control on offer too, although its use is optional.
The big difference this time around is the inclusion of a career mode which allows you to create your own player and play through ten seasons as you bid to become the top ranked player. Whilst the inclusion of a career mode is certainly welcome, it’s disappointing that the career mode itself is a rather weak effort. In any given season there are four Grand Slam tournaments (and this is the only tennis game where you’ll have the chance to play at Wimbledon) to play through and four minor tournaments. The small amount of minor tournaments on offer is disappointing but what’s more problematic is the way the game handles the difficulty level.
Essentially the career mode begins at a difficulty level that’s far too easy. The difficulty level increases after a specific amount of seasons with the idea being that as your player develops their abilities, the opponents will also become more difficult to beat and therefore you’ll be constantly challenged. The problem is that the difficulty level is so low to begin with, you’ll probably win everything there is to win within a couple of seasons if not the first season. Seeing your hopeless player destroy tennis legends without any real effort is actually pretty disappointing. Not only is this unfortunate, it also means it’s difficult to maintain any long term interest in the game past a couple of seasons, which is a shame as when the difficulty level ramps up and becomes challenging it really does become a whole lot of fun.
In addition to the career mode there is also an ESPN Grand Slam Classics mode which allows you to tackle a variety of scenarios from the 2000’s, 1990’s and 1980’s in addition to some All-time and Fantasy scenarios. These scenarios allows you to take part in some of the famous matches that span the three aforementioned decades and in some cases to try and bring about a different outcome. Completing scenarios, there are objectives and bonus challenges for each, will earn you points and when you’ve amassed enough of these you’ll gain access to additional scenarios. The mode will be particularly enjoyable for tennis aficionados.
Up to four players are supported in the game’s online modes. You’re able to take part in online tournaments against other tennis enthusiasts from around the world. Whilst you do have the option of using your custom player from the career mode online, most tend to prefer using one of the included real-life players and playing against them with your custom player can make for an extremely frustrating experience unless your player is fully developed. You’ll also have the option of playing Head to Head matches and there are online leader boards so you can check your overall ranking.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 plays a great game of tennis but it’s a shame that the career mode doesn’t keep you interested for long because the on court action is enjoyable. In addition to the traditional method of control where each of the four primary buttons performs a particular shot type, you can also perform your shots with the right analogue stick in what EA has dubbed Total Racket Control. This latter control scheme works well but even if it proves not to be to your liking, it’s good to know that you can fall back on a traditional control scheme.
The original Grand Slam Tennis on the Wii eschewed realistic looking players in favour of cartoon-style caricatures which helped to mask the fact that the Wii doesn’t have that much graphical horsepower. With the move to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 the caricature look has gone and a more realistic look has been adopted. The player models look and animate much better than in the first game. The game’s TV-style presentation is impressive although you may become a little tired of the ESPN branding which occasionally feels a little intrusive when you’re playing a game.
Whilst Grand Slam Tennis 2 isn’t a bad experience for deaf gamers, there is plenty of speech that isn’t subtitled. The match commentary from Pat Cash and John McEnroe isn’t subtitled. To be perfectly honest however, this isn’t much of a loss as the commentary is extremely repetitive and is occasionally out of sync with the action itself. During the training exercises in the game’s career mode there are comments from McEnroe and none of these are subtitled either. Fortunately it’s still possible to enjoy the game and not miss out on anything important as all of the crucial information such as objectives and bonus details during the game’s ESPN Grand Slam Classic mode is shown visually.
On the whole the Grand Slam Tennis series has made a good transition from the Wii to the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Grand Slam Tennis 2 plays an engaging game of tennis that will keep you coming back for more. There’s not as much depth here as you’ll find in the Top Spin series however and the game’s career mode could have been a lot better, particularly with regards to providing more tournaments to play and the handling of the difficulty level in the career mode just doesn’t make any sense at all. Problems aside however, Grand Slam Tennis 2 offers some of the most enjoyable tennis you can find on this generation of consoles.