I have a friend, a good friend, who I used to hang out with a lot when I was younger. Though the good friend he was and still is there was one big problem. He loved to play tennis, and so did his older brother, and father. You see the problem with people who play tennis is that they also like to watch tennis, A LOT. I don’t know if you know this but a tennis match is not like a soccer game or basketball game where you have a certain time limit to take the victory, what I like to call “buddy friendly sports”. Tennis is in no way like that. You see a tennis game can pretty much drag on forever, and people who play tennis keep watching it forever, often with their best buddy who don’t play tennis. As you should have figured out by now, I was that best buddy.
Being over exposed to tennis in my early childhood has pretty much made me allergic to all games with the word Tennis written on them. So when the package arrived from Microsoft last week labeled Top Spin Tennis I have to admit I was not overly excited. But things were to change and boy was I wrong about this game. I have discovered that it’s with Tennis as with Golf. While the real life version can be absolute torture, the video game version of the sport can be surprisingly enjoyable.
The real fun lays in the multiplayer or live play, but first let’s talk a little about the single player game. You start you tennis career by choosing your players gender, this is an important choice as it will decided where you will be playing online when your character is fully trained. The level of detail in which you can create your character is truly amazing, and will most likely set a standard for future games. Not only do you get to choose your clothes and hair style, stuff that are now standard in today’s games, but you get to actually model your face to look pretty much the way you want. Hell, if you want you could make him/her look just like you. The fact that no player will look the same takes the online part of the game into a whole new dimension, but more on that later. After you are done creating your character, it’s time to get started on the long and hard path to becoming a tennis legend. Well, actually it’s quite a short path and not a too hard one either. The whole single payer game, even as good as it is, is really just there to prepare you for the real thing, which of course is the online part of the game.
The concept works a bit like Amped , you must complete different kinds of challenges set up by sponsors to get money and other neat stuff. You can use the money to take different courses at tennis schools around the world, so you again can win the big tournaments that will become available as your ranking goes up. You have 14 stars in total through out the game that you can devote to different skills. You also get to pick 4 special skills as you progress through career mode. At the beginning of the game you have to choose the basic style of play for your character, so building upon the same skills can be a good idea to get a truly specialized player, or maybe you want to be more of an all-round type of player, it’s up to you. So not only will no player look the same, but they will all play very differently. It will take you about 2 hours to get your character fully trained, the forth and final special skill is like a bonus skill that you get when you become a legend and that might take a bit longer but you don’t need that last skill to compete online, though of course it won’t work against you if you do. But if you are like me, lazy and hungry for some online action you will settle with 3 special skills and get the forth one later. Even though the career mode is pretty short you will find yourself playing it over and over again to make new characters that you can use online or in multiplayer.
Playing Top Spin online on Xbox live is truly a unique experience. I know it may sound weird, but playing Top Spin online can be even more tense and exciting than the more action packed of online games out there. You can chose between exhibition matches, official matches or play in one of XSNsports official tournaments. Every player online is ranked, if the ranking system works like in real life tennis I don’t know but I would assume it does. You can only hold one male and one female character online at a time. If you load in a new character your player stats will be reset. Why they chose to do this I don’t know but it makes people more devoted to their character and it prevent the stats from being flooded with dead characters, so that might be the reason right there. There is also a rumor about the top ranked players getting a real sponsor deal, and tournaments with real prize money. But the coolest part about the whole online experience is that no player will look the same. This game has so much personality, and so many personalities that it’s almost like some door to some kind of absurd tennis dimension has been opened in your Xbox.
It is a bit unreal what is happening with gaming today, it’s almost like the future is here already. We keep talking about tomorrows games, but if we can manage to drag our eyes just for one second away from the Halo 2 trailer we will discover that there are other games worth talking about, games that are out today and not tomorrow, games like Top Spin. Play with three of your friends in a double match in your living room or play some Australian dude online. Like all sport games Top Spin is all about the multiplayer, and this review is going to end here as it’s much more fun playing Top Spin than writing about Top Spin. Just get the bloody game ok.