We're looking for new writers to join us!

TopSpin 2K25

TopSpin 2K25

Written by Jason Dailey on 4/26/2024 for PS5  
More On: TopSpin 2K25

I play multiple sports games throughout the year, including annual heavy hitters like EA’s re-branded FIFA series and NBA 2K, but I usually dip my toes into one or two of the more fringe titles (at least to Americans) as well. In 2023, it was F1 23, and this year, it is TopSpin 2K25. Although I enjoyed a tennis course in college, I won’t pretend to be a huge tennis fan. Even so, I’ve had TopSpin 2K25 on my release radar since its announcement earlier this year in hopes that it would hold serve. So, did it live up to my own lofty expectations? Well, despite some issues with online play, all I want to play right now is TopSpin 2K25.

The last time a sports game grabbed me the way that TopSpin 2K25 has was perhaps NBA 2K19, when I discovered and subsequently became enthralled with its card-based MyTeam mode. TopSpin’s charm doesn’t come from a singular mode but rather its core gameplay. In short, it’s superb. Even before sitting down to write this review, I’ve been having inner monologues about how to improve my game. My wife has been attempting to tell me about her day, but I can’t stop thinking about tactics to counter the “try-hard” players that I’ve already encountered in online competition. Perhaps the most impressive part is that the gameplay is on the simpler side compared to other sports games, at least in terms of button inputs. It might appear to be an inch wide on the surface, but underneath it is a mile deep.

TopSpin is an easy game to pick-up and play, even if its your first exposure to the sport. Five button inputs correspond to five stroke types, and even if you never spent a second in the tutorials, you could easily sort it out. I wouldn’t advise doing that, especially considering that the TopSpin Academy is one of the better tutorial modes you’ll see. It does a great job of introducing both the game of tennis, as well as the TopSpin gameplay to include the basics of play, advanced play techniques, and overall playstyles. Even as someone with a working knowledge of the game, I found it to be worthwhile.

After finishing up at the Academy, I was ready to create myself as a player and hop into the game’s main draw – MyCareer mode. It is both the meat and the potatoes of TopSpin 2K25, which for some will be a point of criticism. The game does feel like it needs at least one more mode, and it is somewhat threadbare when compared to other 2K Sports titles. Personally, I would have liked to see them figure out a way to get my beloved MyTeam mode over to the tennis court, though I’m not holding that against it. Now, to be fair, developer Hangar 13 has made it perfectly clear that this year’s entry is the foundation for the future of the TopSpin franchise after a 13-year hiatus. I admire their honesty, and from the outside, it seems that they produced this year’s game under at least a bit of a time crunch, as evidenced by the fact that online play with friends won’t be ready until the end of May. Thankfully, the package we received arrives almost completely undamaged, and after a few hours with its excellent gameplay, my TopSpin wishlist was mostly an afterthought.

Creating your player comes with a good amount of customization options, though you won’t be creating any one-to-one replicas of famous people like in Baldur’s Gate 3 or Dragon’s Dogma 2. From there, you hop straight into your professional career, beginning as a relative no-name on the pro tour. Like the gameplay itself, MyCareer mode is straightforward and easy to dive right into. You get to participate in one training event, one special challenge, and one tournament per month. One of the biggest considerations is your player’s energy level, which takes a hit following each tournament, or after flying around the world to participate in those special challenges. When your energy level gets too low, you must rest a month (or more) to get yourself back into tip-top shape. Ignoring your energy will put you at risk of minor or major injury, which will force you to sit out multiple months as you watch your name plummet down the world rankings.

Winning matches and challenges awards XP of course, with six attribute points being earned each time you level up. Points are applied to several stats that affect everything from your forehand accuracy to the power of your serves. You can choose to apply the points yourself to mold your own playstyle or have them automatically applied to a pre-set style. I decided on the “Serve and Volley” playstyle, which focuses on setting up volleys with your serves, mainly because it felt different from the other options. Regardless of which route you take, each attribute maxes out at 70, with the only way to increase above that using coaches and fittings, which offer stat bonuses and skills.

Getting back to TopSpin’s gameplay – even with my lowly rookie created player, I still found it incredibly satisfying to play. Player movement feels properly weighted and less artificial than any sports game in recent memory. Animations look great too, complete with variations depending on the type of surface you’re playing on. You will slide across clay courts as your momentum continues to carry you after a long run, for instance. As sports gamers we hear so much fluff about gameplay design these days that it can be hard to buy what we are being sold, but in this case, playing is believing.

I mentioned the five stroke (shot) types earlier and how intuitive it is to pick up and play. In a way, TopSpin 2K25 feels like a sports game for non-sports game people, in addition to hardcore fans. Each face button and the right shoulder button correspond to a shot – flat, slice, top spin, lob, and drop shot. All can be executed as a controlled shot by tapping the button, or a power shot by holding it. Either way, timing is the biggest aspect to practice and learn. Controlled shots require you to tap the button when a timing meter reaches its green area, representing perfect timing. If you’ve played any other sports game in the last decade, it’s a mechanic you’ll be familiar with, but even if that is not the case, you’ll be more than fine.

Mixing up your strokes is a matter of tactics. If your opponent is deep in a corner on their side of the court, a short slicing shot to the opposite side could be an easy point, for example. Conversely, if they’ve rushed the net to hit a volley (shot before a bounce), then go for a lob over their head. Again, I’m not a big tennis person and even I was able to quickly pick-up on the nuances of the game. Adding another layer to the gameplay is the rally energy meter (stamina for short). You lose and gain stamina between points, depending on how much you exert yourself. Longer rallies, meaning runs of play, will drain your stamina faster. On the other hand, scoring a few quick points on your opponent will allow stamina to replenish faster. In other words, you can’t just sit and smack the ball back-and-forth all the time. You need to mix up tactics and shot types in a manner that has you thinking both offensively and defensively.

Gameplay does most of the heavy lifting in TopSpin 2K25, just as it should for a sports game. I’d like to tell you that the gameplay is consistent regardless of which mode you play, but unfortunately that is not the case. Like other 2K Sports titles, going online to compete with other humans can be wildly inconsistent thanks to the internet-of-things. Some online matches were downright unplayable thanks to lag and freezing issues. Other times it felt like my opponent was sitting next to me playing with no issues at all. In my experience, connection issues have plagued the NBA 2K series for years, and while TopSpin’s issues don’t rise to nearly the level of egregiousness as NBA, it is still somehow a thing we must contend with in 2024. I’ve been racking my brain for years with 2K games – why can I play twitch online shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield, and others with no issues, but occasionally when I step on a 2K court, my internet is suddenly not good enough? For context, I am playing TopSpin on my PS5, which has a hard-wired connection to one gig fiber internet. If it gets any faster than that in America, I haven’t heard of it. Connection tests on my PS5 settings also confirm my blazing fast speeds, so what gives? I’m not smart enough to figure it out, but I know I’m tired of fighting 2K’s servers, video game after video game. I’ll keep plugging away online in TopSpin, but losing points because of lag is frustrating. Even when it does work well, there is often just enough delay to throw off the timing and muscle memory you have built up playing offline.

Speaking of playing online, there are two online modes available – World Tour and 2K Tour. Both have a similar gameplay loop but are formatted a bit differently. World Tour lets you take your created player into tournament settings against other human players, while 2K Tour swaps created players for real life pros. Both modes award points depending on how well you do, with your seasonal point total determining your rank on the global leaderboards.

I enjoy playing online in TopSpin 2K25 when it works right, especially against evenly matched players. With that said, there already appears to be a “meta” gameplay style online where players spam power serves to the furthest possible corner of the court. This strategy is nearly unbeatable, forcing you to either hope that your opponent commits an error, or adjust your position to return the serve, which leaves you vulnerable to their next shot stretching you to the opposite side of the court – a nearly impossible task. It feels like players who dump their attribute points into the power and serve categories are going to dominate online unless the gameplay is balanced somehow. At the time of writing, I don’t feel like there is a place for my serve and volley playstyle in the online arena, which is deflating.

One thing that did surprise me is that for a 2K Sports game, the microtransactions are rather tame. Yes, you can buy Virtual Currency, or VC for short, but it doesn’t feel pay-to-win. VC is used to purchase cosmetics such as clothing, rackets, and animations for your created player, as well as timed XP boosters and season passes. But unlike NBA 2K’s MyPlayer mode, you can’t just buy your way to a max level player on day one.

As I begin to wrap up, I also want to point out the excellent ambience of TopSpin 2K25. It features a licensed soundtrack with EDM and pop music from well-known and indie artists that is an absolute pleasure to listen to. It is the best licensed soundtrack I’ve heard since Need for Speed Unbound’s track list. Additionally, there are dozens of venues to play tennis in, including both real life locations and fake venues that make for some cool places to play.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to have this much to say about TopSpin 2K25. I thought I would enjoy it, but I didn’t expect to walk away this impressed. The franchise’s reputation precedes itself, of course, but after more than a decade on the shelf, I didn’t expect this big of a splash. Developer Hangar 13 set out to lay a foundation for the future of the series based on refined gameplay. It cleared the bar with room to spare, setting high expectations for next year in the process. If you’re even mildly curious about the game, play it. Just don’t count on the online experience always treating you fairly, as it could do with a balancing pass and connectivity refinements. I know there is a certain highly-anticipated football series returning from the dead later this year as well, but TopSpin 2K25 has established itself as a contender for the best sports game of the year.

Even when I’m not playing TopSpin 2K25, I’m thinking about playing TopSpin 2K25. I’m obsessed with its gameplay, despite its online play being held back by some inconsistencies. TopSpin is a clear contender for the best sports game of 2024.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.

TopSpin 2K25 TopSpin 2K25 TopSpin 2K25 TopSpin 2K25 TopSpin 2K25

About Author

Jason has been writing for Gaming Nexus since 2022. Some of his favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports, RPGs, shooters, and simulators. His favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2, logging nearly 1,000 hours in Rockstar's Wild West epic. Jason's first video game system was the NES, but the original PlayStation is his first true video game love affair. Once upon a time, he was the co-host of a PlayStation news podcast, as well as a basketball podcast.

Follow me on Twitter @TheDualSensePod, or check out my YouTube channel.

View Profile