Virtua Tennis 3 Xbox 360 Review

It’s been a long time since home consoles have seen anything new from Sega’s classic sports series, but now they are back with an all new update to the Virtua Tennis franchise. In the absence of Virtua Tennis, Top Spin has stepped in and done a more than adequate job of satisfying our needs for video Tennis, but the big question is can it oust the usurper from its throne as king of the court?

Presentation-wise, VT3 matches up nicely against Top Spin 2, and then takes things up a notch. Character models are highly detailed and are animated perfectly when in action on the court, and the environments match the attention to detail too. All the courts from around the world have been reproduced meticulously and the training facilities where you play the mini games look the part perfectly. It’s difficult to fault the games visuals but there is one small flaw, the only time you’ll notice any difference from watching the real players and VT3 is when you get into face to face conversations with them. When they’re playing on court they emote excellently, showing the joy in their victory or anger and disappointment over losing, but when they’re talking to you they are completely emotionless. It’s not just the visual side of the conversations that’s flawed either, there is no audio to them, the conversation happens in text boxes and is completely one sided. There’s another small niggle on the audio side as well, most of the tunes are classic Virtua Tennis style, a nice bit of guitar rock, but there are a few tunes that just seem completely out of place. These are just small things though, completely cosmetic, and don’t really detract from the game itself.

Nice graphics and sound can’t cover up bad gameplay though, but thankfully the core gameplay remains largely unchanged from previous instalments. Everything is as solid as ever, just a nicely paced arcade style tennis game, there has been one small addition though. Now you get a slice shot as well as top spin and lob shots, it doesn’t alter things much though, maybe makes matches a little more strategic. It’s simple pick up and play arcade action, just like it’s always been World Tour has had a bit of a makeover though. The globe is back, as usual, giving you access to all your matches and training events, but a calendar has been added which can be brought up by tapping the right trigger. This tells you when and where your tournaments are and they appear on the globe when you reach their date. The training mini games are constantly there though, and as you build up your stats with them new levels to the games are opened up. Most of these are new, with titles like Alien Attack, Avalanche and Super Bingo, they are all pretty varied and fun. As well as having conversations with other players, as previously mentioned, you also get messages from them, these will either be making dates for practice sessions or challenging you to one of the mini games, if you pick a regular doubles partner they’ll even send you a card at Christmas. You’ll also get messages from your coach, giving you advice on your training, and informing you of any extra gear you get from sponsors, or for winning tournaments, the Tennis authority will also be in touch, letting you know when you’re eligible to participate in different classes of tournament. Overall things haven’t changed much, and they’ve obviously be borrowing ideas from the competition, but it still retains the feel of the original game in World Tour.

There’s more to the game than world tour though, there’s your standard exhibition mode, which can be played in singles or doubles, tournament mode, which pretty much speaks for itself, and a new addition ‘Court games’. This new mode is comprised of the mini games from world tour mode, but this time you can play them with up to three friends. These make for a nice alternative to a straight game of Tennis and are a lot of fun and could be a good party game for those drunken gaming session that invariably happen after a night down the pub, just a shame they aren’t playable online. Online does support exhibition matches, both singles and doubles, and tournaments. It plays perfectly, no lag, no slowdown, it’s as if you were playing on the same 360. Another option you’ll find is VT.TV which, apart from being a palindrome, is also a spectator mode very much like PGR3’s Gotham TV. It doesn’t really add anything to the game, but it’s nice to know if you’re playing particularly well online you could have an audience just like a real Tennis pro. Compulsive as VT3’s single player is, multiplayer is really where it’s at and should keep you playing both on and offline for a long time to come.

It was a long time coming, but Virtua Tennis 3 is an amazing comeback for the series. It shows that simple arcade style sports games can survive in today’s next generation market where realism is demanded and strived for. It has evolved the series without over complicating it, and in todays market where you have to check the manual just to find out what button does what it is a breath of fresh air. In the next generation upgrade the game has taken a couple of small hits in the presentation department, but it retains the addictive pick up and play gameplay the series is famous for. You don’t have to be a Tennis fan to enjoy this, hell you don’t even have to be a gamer, it’s simple, addictive and fun. What more do you want?

After a break in service Virtua Tennis returns to take it’s rightful place as king of the court.

9.0 out of 10
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