• Now speaking as both a Tennis Fan and being born a Brit, I love to watch a good game of Tennis, especially when it is time for Wimbledon, watching players hit the ball back to each other at incredible speeds and seeing which player can force the other to miss or commit errors giving them the crown and title of Wimbledon Champion. But with that statement I think many a Brit will agree, that we…well, are never likely to see a Brit take that crown.

    Now for all those fans of tennis, but hate the fact their countries just don’t seem to have the necessary talent on the court to cut it…your time has come! What you can’t ever see happening on the real life tennis courts can be taken onto the gaming court. It’s payback time, you have the controller, and its time for YOU *points finger* to control the destiny of your player.

    2K Sports bring Top Spin 2 to the Xbox 360. Top Spin was a huge hit on the original Xbox and 2K have looked to ramp up the playability to keep us entertained for months. Top Spin 2 features 24 or the World’s top ranked players including, Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt to name a few of the hard hitters. Players can also create and build up their own personal character, along with taking either the pro’s or their own creations onto Xbox LIVE Multiplayer… Is Top Spin 2 set to be a ‘smash’ hit (sorry Ed – pun was intended) or will it just fail to score, read on to find out.

    Top Spin 2

    There are a number of game modes open to you in Top Spin 2, namely; Exhibition Mode for that one off match, Career – which without doubt is the bulk part of the game. Party games where you and a friend can have fun painting a court…no seriously you can, and finally Xbox LIVE Multiplayer, where you can prove your tennis skills to the world.

    In Exhibition mode you can choose from any of the 24 available professional players, or you can choose from your own creation (I will get to that soon) and either set yourself up with a friend sat next to you at home or take on the Com (computer) on a one off match. You have freedom to choose from a Singles or Doubles Match, Male vs Female if you so choose and which of the many available courts there are on offer to play on. This is the instant pick-up-and-play aspect of Top Spin 2 and good for practicing against some of the pro’s you will meet later on within the Career Mode.

    Speaking of Career Mode – and as I have already mentioned this will in part make up the biggest ‘Slice’ (sorry Ed – I will stop now) of your Top Spin 2 time. You start your career by picking to create a male or female player. Now the customisation options available here for you are unbelievable, think Oblivion, realise, just as a sexy…you literally could spend a good thirty minutes moulding this creation getting it as close to your own looks as possible. I have seen good character personalisation before, but it has to be stated “hats off” to 2K Sports – their version is the business.

    Now once you have decided on your characters good looks you can also adjust the players attitude and choose between a left or right handed player, how they serve, etc. Move on from there and you can spend three, free star points on what is now eleven different attributes, techniques or skills, attributes like focus, stamina, serve and power to name a few. Once done your character is ready to take on the tennis world you are introduced to the ‘Tennis Central’ system, Top Spin had a world map system were you would fly from place to place…Top Spin 2 has changed this and you have a simple set of menus to navigate. The main blade if you will is the Tennis Central blade and this is where you can quickly setup your training or tournaments. Other blades include your sponsor, stats, e-mail, and personal character screen. Speaking of Sponsors…as a quick note when you create your career this time you are given a Sponsor and a large amount of game cash, you cannot change your sponsor for a year, and well its kind of, you get what you are given for your first season…but do remember, one year in – you will be able to change to the brand you really wanted, and once again given a large sum of game cash to spend – nice huh!

    Your first port of call no doubt on your path to glory will be to get some training sessions under your belt and thankfully this time, this is where Top Spin 2 has out done Top Spin. Top Spin’s training was fairly boring, and sometimes painful. Top Spin 2 has lifted the player’s spirits and training comes in the form of some very funny moments, like smashing down a wall, or ten pin bowling – tennis style. This was nice to see, as yes of course I want to train my player to be stronger, faster, etc…but I also want it to be fun, and well Top Spin 2 has delivered that fun factor. Complete your training and you will attain another 2 stars to spend on a group of three attributes from the available eleven, therefore certain specific training is needed to concentrate on certain chosen skills and is not just a free for all on where you would like to spend them. It’s a neat system and very well done.

    In terms of playability, Top Spin 2 is after all a tennis game, and funky menus and character creations do not make a cool sports sim on their own, you need the playability to be spot on, and Top Spin 2 is very slick. Character movement is very lifelike, watching your players shift their weight as they reach or move for shots and with all the grunts and groans sound effects with it too. Striking the ball feels very solid, and it terms of positioning your shot is also very well done and the left Thumbstick is very accurate at getting the ball exactly where you want it for that winning shot. The tennis venues/courts themselves also feel very well done, and playing at a grand slam gives you that nervous feeling as you walk out on court and the crowd applauding you as you do so.

    In terms of the shots available to you 2K Sports pretty much have taken the formulae from Top Spin and well…beefed it up. On the face pad A is your safe shot and won’t go out of bounds, B pulling off a top spin shot, with X being your slice and Y the lob. The risk shot or power shot if you will has been tweaked this time and they are damn hard to pull off, you have to pull and hold the right trigger at the same time as your face button choice and release the face button once you have powered up the shot as necessary. Timing is very key and whilst getting it right pulls off an amazing serve or shot, getting it wrong this time is unforgiving as you will either slam the ball into the net rather than over it – or completely out of bounds. My advice is to limit your risk shots for your first serve, as you can afford to screw up one serve, where as trying to concentrate on pulling off a risk shot mid rally will just add to the confusion. I have to say, the risk shot is a let down for me now, but that said Top Spin 2 has gone all technical on us, and maybe this was needed…as without any doubt pulling off a risk shot in the previous version was VERY easy. On a final note on your available shot choices, later on in your career by filling up your momentum bar, you will also be able to unleash some counter shots which are pulled off with the left trigger and face button choice.

    Carrying on with playability and back in reference to your career, 2K has done a good job with Top Spin 2. This time around you will be ranked in 200th position from the off and tournaments are not just free to choose. The system works on a calendar based system with certain tournaments coming up at chosen points throughout the year. It’s a very neat system, but as a word of warning if you get to stuck into training all the time you could well miss out on tournaments you wanted to play in… They will only highlight at certain points and therefore you need to keep your eyes peeled. The actual career mode in total spans for a number of years with you of course aiming to reach World Ranking number one. You need to balance your training and tournaments to keep the cash flow moving, training is not free and your sponsorship money will only get you so far, so keep that balance neat and tidy and you will do well.

    Xbox LIVE Multiplayer supports up to four players and whilst the game modes on offer are what you would expect from a tennis game, they are a tad bland. Another point you need to take note on is that playing in ‘Ranked’ matches requires your career character…so the experience and training also carries from your offline career mode onto the Xbox LIVE play. Don’t expect to just jump on with your newly created character and kick ass…practice, practice, practice and then get ready to show off your skills.

    For my money Top Spin 2 is a very enjoyable tennis sim. There are a few problems with the game as I have mentioned, but those problems could be simply put down to what I would have preferred to see, I enjoyed my risk shots before and well now I just find myself grudgingly opting for the safe bet. Graphically the game is pretty slick, its not perfect but ticks all the boxes on what I expected a tennis sim to look like. Sound-wise there are some very cheesy accents coming from your coaches but again ‘balls a bouncing’, ‘characters a grunting’, its exactly what you expect and 2K have delivered on those expectations. So is Top Spin 2 worth the money? Well I have to say yes indeed, 2K Sports have served up a cracking ‘ace’ of a game (Sorry Ed – Couldn’t resist).

    Score: 8/10

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