Xbox One, PS4, PC,
September 24, 2020
Big Ant Studios
The original Tennis World Tour was unimpressive to say the least. Developed by Breakpoint, it simply didn’t feel like a great reflection of the sport, and so publisher Nacon changed to a different developer earlier this year, in the Aussie team Big Ant, to help steady the ship. This is a curious decision, mostly because Big Ant had already developed the pretty decent AO Tennis 2 back in January. I mean sure, they’ve proven they know how to make a good tennis game at this point, so it makes sense to bring them on. Unfortunately, Tennis World Tour 2 still falls flat, feeling like a step back for tennis games and doesn’t compete on the same level as AO Tennis 2.
When it comes to sports games, gameplay is king, and Tennis World Tour 2 is a mixed bag to say the least. There is a timing system that is difficult to master, mostly because there aren’t strong on-screen indicators to let you know how you’re hitting the ball and the impact you’re having on its trajectory. This is something AO Tennis 2 did quite well, so it’s strange here to see a regression. It’s based on speed and power, but I found it really challenging to nail the timing and get the shot that I wanted, often resulting in the ball sailing out. Other times, the stiff animations often meant that my player would miss the ball entirely or not even take a proper swing at it, which left me frustrated and considering a John McEnroe-esque throwing of my controller.
Once you do get into the rhythm of how the game works, having a rally with your opponent does feel good enough. Indeed, after several failed games of getting destroyed even on the normal difficulty level, the shot timing began to click, but there were still too many inconsistencies that continues to stop me from feeling like I was really getting it. I guess what I’m saying is that if you continue to stick with the game, you will see yourself vaguely improving, but the systems lack the depth and nuance to be compelling for more than a few matches.
“…vague and seemingly ineffective stat increases on a game that is otherwise a simulation of the sport just doesn’t work.”
Starting up Tennis World Tour 2, you’re presented with the expected game modes, like exhibition matches or career, but don’t expect any real deviation in gameplay itself. Matches on a calendar guide you through from one tournament to the next, and you can use the points earned to upgrade the attributes of your player. Creating your tennis star is basic at best, and then you’re not given any incentive to care about their progression with the career itself mostly relegated to a bunch of menus.
Training and tournaments get you out on the court, but otherwise it feels boring to progress through. Gameplay is even more taxing when your player is a low level, too, which simply highlights the problems with the on-court action itself. There’s also no tutorial or way of understanding how you actually progress, and it’s missing that sense of achievement to help push you along.
There’s also this baffling Skill Card system, which pops up frequently. I didn’t play the original and with no explanation of what they were, I was confused when these rectangles appeared at the top right of my screen. It turns out that you have the ability to play cards that can impact in-game performance on the court, such as power, precision, endurance and agility. You can boost yourself and, in a twist, negatively effect your opponent as well. You’re given 30 cards to begin with and you can buy booster packs from in-game currency, but they really don’t feel like they add much to the game at all. Effects are minimal, such as a small percentage increase on how effective your volleys are for a game, but it just doesn’t feel much different as if they hadn’t been there at all. It’s the kind of system that would go well in Mario Tennis if the cards added fireballs or piranha-plants to the court, but vague and seemingly ineffective stat increases on a game that is otherwise a simulation of the sport just doesn’t work.
Visually speaking, players don’t look realistic, and when combined with the basic textures and questionable lighting choices the game is sometimes hard to look at. A key component of a tennis game is that you need to see the ball clearly, and some of the colours and lighting on the courts actually make it difficult to see. Animations are mostly repetitive, with the movement around the court sometimes coming off as stiff, particularly when it comes to changing direction. While Tennis World Tour 2 might not be a full price title, the lack of polish and quality is still off-putting, and production values are lacking which means it doesn’t come close to mirroring a live TV presentation. Sports games have been improving on this for years, while Tennis World Tour 2 seems stuck in the past.
- Gameplay can be enjoyable when you get into a rhythm
- Learning curve is steep and difficult to engage with
- Skill cards system is strange and adds nothing of value
- Career mode is a boring slog
- Visually unappealing, animations repetitive and presentation lacking
Tennis World Tour 2 is a strange proposition. The learning curve for the timing and general gameplay is a little too tricky for casual fans, but the career and other modes included simply lack the depth that true tennis fans will be looking for. Pair this with a puzzling card system and a presentation that mostly lacks the oomph of a Grand Slam and what you’re left with is a pretty underwhelming package. At the end of the day, Tennis World Tour 2 isn’t offensive, it’s just bland and uninteresting. When the sport you’re trying to portray can be one of the most exciting and intense experiences to enjoy as a viewer, that’s disappointing to say the least.