It has never been easy to be a fan of tennis games. Despite one of the first games ever made, Pong, being influenced by the sport, this genre has had a hard time recruiting new fans. In Tennis World Tour 2, the developers over at Big Ant Studios have attempted to create the most realistic tennis simulation game to date. Between a career mode, online matchmaking, and the introduction of doubles matches, there is enough in the game to keep any fan satisfied. While the game looks great and is packed with a large selection of different athletes and stadiums, the ball hits the net when it comes down to actually playing this title.
Story – Rise to the Top
Over the past few years, many sports games like Fifa, Madden, and WWE have attempted to create a narrative based campaign to allow players to role-play as their rookie athlete. Unfortunately, Tennis World Tour 2 does not provide anything like this. Story mode aside, the career mode has everything you would expect between playing in exhibition matches or tournaments to training your athlete and resting up to recover stamina. While it is missing modern sports titles’ story beats, it was nice to go back to something more simplistic and arcade influenced.
With a career mode similar to the past generation’s sports titles, it can be easy to get lost in the grind of it all. Every month, you will have to choose one activity to participate in to help continue your ascent into tennis superstardom. As you begin progressing further into your campaign, you will begin to make more money, hire better managers, and compete against tougher opponents. Creating a character for this mode is easy enough as well. The creator allows players to choose their facial appearance, height, and a personal favorite, groan frequency. I was happy with how my custom player came out and could visualize myself out there on the court.
Gameplay – Out of Bounds
While everything on the game’s surface looks decently polished and inviting, it was about thirty minutes into the tutorial before I could feel myself getting frustrated by the core gameplay mechanics. The basic controls of moving your character around the court and serving the ball were easy enough to pick up and understand. I was able to clear the basic tutorial section of how to’s, but it was the first of the advanced tutorials that I couldn’t get past. This tutorial tries to teach the player how to control where the ball lands after hitting it, and with only an on-screen prompt of “Hit X. Use L Stick to control the ball,” I found myself confused about what the game actually wanted from me.
I decided to quit out of the tutorials. Maybe there was a drift issue with my controller? Perhaps timing and landing a hit are intentionally difficult to increase satisfaction when learning how to master them.
After spending hours with the game and playing against over thirty AI opponents, I have officially lost thirty times. I thought that playing the game more and having experience on the court would allow issues like ball control and managing power shots to become easier over time. While I was able to rally the ball across the court a couple of times, I rarely received points for genuinely outmaneuvering the AI. Most of the time, I would hit the ball out of bounds, into the net, or miss the swing entirely.
To make things slightly more difficult, the tennis ball itself is almost impossible to see. While trying to master timing and ball control, it becomes a much steeper hill to climb once your target is the size of a little green dot bouncing across your screen. The combination of all of these factors come together to create an overall frustrating and mind-numbing experience. There is a chance that players of the first Tennis World Tour will be able to overcome these obstacles, but as a first-time player, I found that this title asks the player to master its systems and offer’s very little in return for doing so.
Online Play – Fair Game
Fortunately, I was able to find solace in the game’s online mode. I was impressed with the titles loading times offline but was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the game was able to find an online opponent for me to face. While the game offers online tournaments, I spent most of my online play in the Quick Match mode. It was through this option that I was finally able to claim victory. It was way more fun playing against people I assume were also struggling with controls instead of the AI that allowed little to no room for error when playing against.
During my time playing the Online mode, I did end up facing the same person more than once. I only played online for about twenty sessions but seeing the name of the person I had played against the night before facing me again the next day had me curious about the service’s longevity. The connection remained stable during every match, at least, and there appeared to be little to no lag while playing against players online.
Graphics and Audio – Welcome to the Stadium
What Tennis World Tour 2 lacks in engaging gameplay, it makes up for in the overall presentation of the game. The game looks excellent and runs at a consistent framerate. While the crowd looks like the styrofoam mannequins you might see at a sporting event during a pandemic, the athletes themselves are rendered really well. Each Stadium available to play on looks and feels unique, and the venue selection oddly gave my flashbacks to Street Fighter’s II level select screen.
One of my favorite parts of loading up and navigating through the game menus was being able to listen to the catchy anthems provided. There is no soundtrack when playing the actual game, only the sound of groans from the players as they swing their rackets. The music the game does provide, though, is reminiscent of the music you would hear at the beginning of a finals match. It can pump you up for your next match, even if you know it’s a match you are going to lose.
Tennis World Tour 2 was reviewed on PS4. A key was provided by HomeRun PR.