Top Spin Xbox Review
Ever wanted to play with Anna Kournikova? Well now you can thanks to Top Spin, a tennis game where you work your way up the ranks from a rookie to a legend amongst the people in the audience and tennis players alike.
Graphically Top Spin is rather good; it has a nice smooth frame rate without any slow down in sight, the animations are superb and the courts look just like the real thing. The crowd are actually fully 3d although are nothing special to look at. Luckily you will only see them from a distance and even then you should really be only concentrating on the ball. The players themselves move around the court extremely realistically, hit a good winning shot and the crowd will even stand up and clap for you, or hit an ace and you will be treated to a close up of the speedometer for you to rub in your opponents face. The graphics certainly aren’t anything to wet your self over, but they certainly do add to the experience.
The main mode in Top Spin is Career, where you create your character from scratch and build up his stats to become world number one. You start of having to create what your character looks like; there are plenty of options to make your virtual self unique, from eye colour, build, height, chin, nose and more. Spend enough time here and you can create an almost exact replica of yourself. The real fun starts however once your player is ready to enter tournaments.
The controls don’t seem too special when you start off; you will mainly be just hitting the A button to shoot the ball over the net, but after a while you will start putting top spin on the ball with B, pressing X to perform a slice shot, using Y to lob the ball over those pesky net players and holding the buttons in to make your shots more powerful. There are two other types of shots, accessed by the triggers. When executed, both of these shots bring a meter with a small line going up and down onto the screen, your goal is to let go of the trigger when the line is in the middle. If performed correctly, the left trigger will make your player give the ball a tiny tap, just bringing it over the net, and the right trigger will perform a high powered shot almost guaranteed to win you a point. However, stop the line at the wrong time and your shots will almost certainly go out, costing you the point.
As you play matches, you will notice that the better you play the more your ITZ meter will go up. This may not seem to useful to begin with, but if your ITZ meter is maxed out then your attributes will become substantially better, and it will become more likely you will win the point. This also affects your drop shot and risk shot (The two triggers.) in the way that the line will move slower p and down the meter making them easier to perform. Don’t think once your meter is maxed out that it will stay like that though, losing a point or playing badly will drain your meter.
Winning tournaments or matches will earn you coins, which can be spent on clothes, accessories or training sessions. Training sessions are mini games, which when beaten to raise your player’s stats. There are four major abilities of which to improve: Serve, Forehand, Backhand and Volley. You only have fourteen stars to upgrade with however, meaning you can’t become perfect in every aspect. There are also skills, which you earn every four stars you get. (I’ll let you figure out how to get the last one by yourself.) Skills are designed so that you can create the type of player you want, basically you are given a list of well, skills, such as power, speed, accuracy ect. to which you can choose one. Choose wisely, as you can’t change your mind later.
You start of as a rookie, but work yourself up to a legend by completing specific tasks viewable in your scrap book on the start page, and by doing so you unlock higher level tournaments such as Grand Slams. There are also sponsors such as reebok and prince, who will give you free clothes if you complete specific tasks (such as TV commercials), set by them.
There is no music or commentary during matches, and all would be silent if it weren’t for the score announcer, the audience and the sounds of the ball hitting the floor and racquets (which I must add all sound superb). Outside of the games you play is area-specific music that sounds very fitting. What is odd though is the lack of a custom soundtrack option, as it would seem the perfect game to utilise this Xbox feature.
There are plenty of tournaments in this game to get stuck into, and you may even want to play the whole game again using the opposite gender to which you were the first time. However once you reach a certain level of skill you should be able to beat any computer player with ease. This is where the Xbox Live support comes in, which I’m sure will keep you busy for a while.
This is the best tennis game ever created. There I said it. Better than the likes of Virtua Tennis and Mario Tennis. Not to say there aren’t any flaws; the inability to play mixed tennis at any point in the game, including multiplayer, is a shame. As is the fact you can’t use a custom soundtrack. To put it simply, if you like tennis, this game is a must. If you despise the sport then you should still consider getting this game even if it goes against all instinct. It’s time to grab your racquet and sweat bands because Power & Magic have served up something special.