Monday, 23 June 2008

Top Spin 3 - Wii

I had it all planned out. By Friday night at the latest, Andy Murray was to have won Wimbledon before the tournament has even begun; and Roger Federer was to win the French Open. I even had my tagline prepared. Alas it was not to be. Finally, my near-perfect tennis game has arrived. In Top Spin 3 I am able to make Andy Murray hit the ball into the open court rather than yelling pointlessly at the television as the real Andy Murray does a volley which can easily be picked up by an opponent.
So why is it only near-perfect? I had hoped there would be an option where the Nunchuck would be immaterial, however it is needed to manoeuvre the players around the court, unlike the pure simplicity of Wii Sports tennis. I understand TS3 is meant to be more accurate and responsive, but surely for the energetic gamers amongst us the Wiimote could pick up and mimic our movements on its own.
However I had known about this previously, so was prepared. What I was not prepared for was to find that there is no Wimbledon tournament on it; which given the timing of its release seems like a bigger disappointment than Tim Henman’s 2001 semi-final defeat at SW19. Instead, the greatest, most prestigious Grand Slam Tournament in the tennis world has been given to… Dublin. Now I’ve got nothing against Ireland, the manager of my football team is Irish, and he’s doing a better job than his predecessors; but as a Brit, to have Wimbledon left out feels like a national insult. Are we really that unpopular? As for the rest of the Grand Slams, they have to be unlocked before you are even allowed to set foot on the hallowed hard courts of Flushing Meadows or the dirt of Roland Garros.
On the upside, the developer, 2K, has created the best likenesses of the players outside of PS3’s Virtua Tennis. With Andy Murray they have done a better job than Madame Tussaud’s. He may be maturing into a rather handsome young man, but he’s not that pretty (no offence to Andy or Mme Tussaud intended). I can also now understand why he likes the size of his calves on his video-game persona.
The controls are difficult to get to grips with at first: the Nunchuck is used both to move your player and to direct your shot, and the two can seem to blend into one another until you get the hang of it. A word of warning, though, to cut your fingernails as short as possible before playing, as your hands are rather close together and so can lead to some painful scratches.
Playing the game is as infuriating as watching the real thing on television, especially at deuces when advantage goes back and forth. Never have I felt the perspiration as much while sitting down moving just my right arm at the varying number of match points I accumulated. The frustration can be amusing as well as exasperating, as are the players’ reactions. I’m sure GaĆ«l Monfils would have had a fair number of warnings for racket abuse by the time I had finished with him. The selection of players is good, I was even introduced to two British players I had never heard of before.
I do however, feel sorry for PS3 owners. They are paying an extra £20 simply for a player who grunts unnecessarily loudly, dresses like an extra in a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, takes a siesta between each point and has a smaller range of shots than the tennis on Wii Sports. The best part about TS3 on all the other formats is that there is no Rafael Nadal in sight or within hearing distance. If only all tennis tournaments could be like that.
As I was deprived of watching Andy raise the Wimbledon trophy through the video-game, I’m afraid it’s up to him to do it for real.
Good player and venue likeness
Good control over movement and shot selection
No Nadal
No option for play without the Nunchuck
No means of muting Maria Sharapova’s shrieks
No Wimbledon.

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