Top Spin

Review

posted 12/1/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
One Page Platforms: Xbox
After getting pummeled by Electronic Arts in every single major sports category Microsoft has come up with the ingenious idea of picking up a sport that the juggernaut has yet to dig its clutches into. Not only has Microsoft entered a market that’s unopposed by Electronic Arts, it has also produced a title that’s a worthy candidate for the best sports title of the year.

Tennis games used to be of the simple ping-pong variety. Give the players two types of strokes, maybe give them the choice of playing in a doubles match and send them on their way. This all changed after SEGA released Virtua Tennis in the Arcades and on the Dreamcast. It added a huge visuals boost and some much needed depth to the sport. While it was still more or less relegated to two different types of strokes, the ability to wind up for shots and an accurate set of physics made the game the most realistic to date. Subsequent releases added career modes and more professional players and essentially paved the way for deep and engrossing tennis titles to be release. Then there was Top Spin, the best tennis game ever made, period.

Take everything that you loved about Virtua Tennis, multiply it by twenty times and you have Microsoft’s magnum opus. It’s a beautifully constructed game that’s deep, engaging and most importantly, realistic. Never has a sports game done such a great job of recreating the look, feel and excitement that comes from its sport. Sure Madden rules the NFL games and ESPN Basketball is an excellent recreation of the sport but at times they falter when it comes to recreating certain nuances and visual touches that we come to associate with their sports. Top Spin covers it all and if not for some major presentation problems, I’d say that Top Spin is the best sports game ever made.

From the start you’ll be able to engage in a quick match, a custom tournament, the career mode and online play. For those who are short on time the quick match is an excellent suggestion as it allows you to hit the court in the shortest amount of time. From here you will be able to select the men’s or women’s game, the scoring system and whether you want to play singles or doubles. There are a nice assortment of real life pros at your disposal including recently retired Pete Sampras and perennial babe Anna Kournikova. You’ll also be able to play as Leyton Hewitt, Martina Hingis and a couple of other well known players that are familiar to tennis fans. Strangely enough you won't be able to pit men against women, not even in doubles play.

If you’re looking for something a little bit more engrossing you can start up a custom tournament that comes complete with brackets. This is excellent if you have a group of friends who are constantly talking trash and want to match up with each other. Of course it’s also a great way of organizing a competition where players can have some evidence of their prowess.

For solo gamers the Career Mode is where it’s at. Easily the meat and bones of the game, the Career Mode allows gamers to craft their own persona as they work their way up the tennis ranks. It works similarly to the system used in Virtua Tennis in that you travel around the world and pick which tourneys that you want to participate in. You can hone your skills by visiting various trainers around the world or update your look by heading to the sports shops. In a nice move that gives the game some real-world ties you can gain sponsorships from some of the world’s most prominent sporting goods manufacturers. Doing so will gain you licensed gear for you to wear during tourneys as well as net you some good chunks of cash.

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