Don’t let the name fool you; Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a far cry from its predecessor for Nintendo’s Wii console. Instead, EA has decided to revamp the entire game making it more akin to its realistic sports franchises, and thus, catering to a whole new crowd. Don’t be too alarmed, though, the game still sits comfortably between being a hardcore simulation and the arcade style it’s known for. Dedicated and casual tennis players alike will find plenty to love with EA Sports’ newest addition to the family.
The first thing you will notice jumping into the game is the sheer amount to see and do. EA Sports games are always known for having plenty of content, and GST2 is no exception. The career mode works on a year-to-year basis, letting you work your way up through the pros and adding skill points to your created character, molding them into a dominating force. It starts off easy and progressively warms up with each year. While the career mode is definitely meaty, it can start to wear on you after a few years. The repeating tournaments and events don’t mix up the content too much, so more arcade-style fans may quickly burn out on it prematurely.
For those players, this is not a deal breaker. The game packs plenty of other modes that are ripe for casual play. The ESPN Grand Slam Classics is a prime example of this. Here, you get to relive classic moments from past games much like Madden Moments. The impressive roster of available athletes players further sensationalizes this. The Williams sisters, Pete Sampras, Maria Sharapova and more make an appearance. The presentation in the game is outstanding, using these players’ real life tendencies down to the last detail. Every animation is smooth and really caters to the realism of the game.
The real win or lose with any tennis game, though, is in its gameplay. GST2 introduces a brand new scheme called Total Racket Control that allows you to use the right analog stick to perform all of your shots. There is a hefty tutorial on this, and I strongly recommend blasting through it before diving into the main game. Shots feel smooth when things go well, and the precision is fantastic. It took me a while to get the hang of it, and to be honest, I cheated and used the buttons more often than not, but when I did manage to pull it off; it was immensely satisfying.
Mastering this control isn’t a necessity, but it really does flesh out the game. The tutorial is brutal, and missing shots causes John McEnroe to incessantly berate your performance. It may be a shock that once you dive into the game it isn’t as precise as he would lead you to believe. Even being a little off does keep the ball in play. Still, mastering this process is truly rewarding and, by far, the best way to play. If you prefer the classic style, it is always available by pressing the face buttons for each type of swing.
As I mentioned earlier, the game features some truly impressive animations for the players. Signature styles are present, and the courts look fantastic. There is a wide range of places to play and the overall structure of the game is fantastically represented. The audio is equally impressive on most fronts, with some excellent ambience and crowd noise. Where things fall a little short, though, is the commentary. Play-by-play has been disappointingly absent from past tennis games, but GST2 delivers it. The problem, as with most sports games, is that repetition sets in far too early, making it feel more derivative than anything else.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a great step for the series and finally a solid tennis experience for both casual and sim players from the EA Sports line. If you are in the market for a new fuzzy ball experience, I highly recommend giving this one a go. It straddles a fine line, being manageable for casual players while still offering plenty for the hardcore. The Total Racket Control is wonderful once mastered, and the roster and presentation are outstanding. Grand Slam Tennis 2 should definitely become one of the staple franchises in the EA Sports library.
Review copy provided by publisher. Primary play on Xbox 360.