Virtua Tennis 4 Xbox 360 Review

Virtua Tennis was the perfect arcade tennis game and got everything right first time around. Over the years bells and whistles have been added and the graphics updated to keep it looking fresh, but at its heart, it’s still the same game. So here we are at number four in the series, really number five, and you’ve got to ask, is there anything new to make it worth a purchase if you have either of the last two instalments?

Player AI has definitely been improved upon, making for more challenging games. Also, there are meters at the top of the screen with the players’ names on them that slowly fill up with each successful stroke. When your meter is full a press of the right button executes a super shot, a move which varies depending on your chosen character’s play style. The camera zooms in on the player, rotating around them matrix-style as they make their shot in slow motion. It’s very well done and the brief interruption in the game’s flow is offset by the excitement it creates.

Another new feature is the addition of motion control across all consoles, but I don’t have Kinect so couldn’t try them out.

The majority of new stuff is to be found in the game’s career mode though, something that changes with every instalment. This time round it’s played like a board game, with trails of spots laid-out across a map to move round. Some spots are blank, others contain events, a singles or doubles match, a tournament to participate in, mini-games to improve your player’s stats, rest stops to improve your condition, publicity events or managerial slots. Instead of a dice to move around you have tickets, which allow you to move up to four spaces at a time, you only get so many of these at once.

It’s a pretty good system, it gives you enough control to have some choice of what events to do but not enough so that you have to think strategically. You’ll have to balance events to try and build your performance with training, but play enough and do publicity work to build your ranking. Train too much, and you’ll never qualify for the major tournaments, not enough and you won’t have the ability to compete. With four maps to work through and multiple playthroughs being possible, you can build an impressive user-created player. The board game approach would be perfect for a multiplayer tour mode, something to think about for the next instalment possibly.

In online and offline multiplayer you get to play exhibition matches, singles and doubles. The training mini-games are available during local multiplayer only and are a nice distraction. Ranked and player matches are available, and do exactly what you would expect. A nice feature though with player matches is you can set up your own clubhouse, a bit like an Xbox Live party, and play up to four different matches within the group.

All in all it’s another winner from the guys at Sega. Enough has been added to make it worth buying, while not messing with the perfection that made it a hit in the arcades over a decade ago. If you want to play tennis on your console it doesn’t get any better than this.

8 out of 10
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