Viewing Review –
Before I go into my review for Grand Slam Tennis, I want to let you guys and gals know that I am not too keen on sports games. I have never been athletically inclined, and I’ve found most sports to be boring.
Tennis is a sport that I would never play in real life. I’m just too lazy to run back and forth on the court just to hit a ball, so that brings me to video game tennis. I’ve played it in the past on various systems (Virtua Tennis on Dreamcast, Smash Court on Playstation 2, Top Spin on Xbox, and Wii Sports Tennis on Nintendo Wii), but my most recent video game tennis experience was far better than I could’ve imagined.
Grand Slam Tennis by Electronic Arts (EA) for the Wii is a fantastic game. Right from the beginning you can tell that it’s a clean game. I liked how you had the option of playing singles, doubles (together or versus), Career Mode, and online. From what I’ve read, Grand Slam Tennis has been praised for having a highly addictive online play. Great thing is that you don’t need to have friend codes in order to play with people. All you have to do is sign up for a free EA account to have access to the full online experience.
While playing online you can particpate in ranked or unranked matches. Having that choice is nice because sometimes all a person wants to do is pick up the controller and play a few games for fun without having to worry about being so competitive. It can take the enjoyment out of a game. Online also matches you up with people playing the game from all over the world and I think that’s great. Having such a wide community to play with adds variety and versatility to the game.
If you choose to play ranked, you earn points when you beat somebody. Those points then determine what your overall ranking in the world is. A nice feature is that when playing ranked, not only do you earn your own personal points, but you earn points for your country. There is even a National Leaderboard where you can see which country has the top players. Unranked matches do not earn you any points, but like I said before those games will be friendly and very low-key. Unranked can be good for people to prepare for the leaderboards without all of the pressure and stress.
Grand Slam Tennis features 23 different players to choose from. 12 of the characters are some of the current top players, while the remaining 11 are retired legends. The 12 current players are Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Andy Roddick, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Kei Nishikori, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova, Ana Ivanovic, and Lleyton Hewitt. The 11 retired legends are Chris Evert, Justine Henin, Martina Navratilova, Michael Stich, Lindsay Davenport, Pat Cash, John McEnroe, Björn Borg, Pete Sampras, Stefan Edberg, and Boris Becker. There is even a “Create-A-Player” mode that will be familiar to people who have played the Tiger Woods golf series by EA.
One of the things I noticed while watching the game were the stadiums in which you played in. They were very realistic, vibrant with colors, and you had 12 different ones. Grand Slam Tennis is the first game since Top Spin 2 on the Xbox 360 to feature a licensed Wimbledon. Here are all of the venues:
- Australian Open: Hisense Arena, Rod Laver Arena, and Court 15.
- French Open: Court Suzanne Lenglen, Court Philippe Chatrier, and Court No. 12.
- Wimbledon: Centre Court, Court No. 1, and Court No. 3.
- U.S. Open: Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium, and Court 9.
When I was watching Grand Slam Tennis, I saw both singles gameplay and also co-op doubles. Chris mostly chose Federer, while his cousin Lee would switch between McEnroe and Cash. One notable match was the two of them versus the Williams sisters. After the first serve, I knew that it would be an intense match. Both of the guys attached the Wii MotionPlus to their Wii Remotes so that their actions could be rendered identically on the screen in real time, and there is a dramatic difference between using the Wii MotionPlus and not. When they would swing their arms to volley back the ball, there wasn’t a lag like you’d get without it. It was by far one of the most fluid tennis matches I had ever seen on any video game console.
The announcer who was calling the scores wasn’t annoying, the clapping after each round wasn’t overdone, and the sounds of the game were what you’d expect to hear when watching a real competitive game of tennis. Chris and Lee were really enjoying themselves and I found myself getting into it as well, even though I was just sitting on the couch.
I would highly recommend Grand Slam Tennis to anybody who owns a Wii console. For those of you who don’t, yet own a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, Grand Slam Tennis will be released on both of those consoles later this year in the Fall. Details on those versions are minimal right now.
All I have to say is, Virtua Tennis… you better watch out. Grand Slam Tennis delivers all you could ask for in a tennis game, and more.
Playing review –
My cousin recently purchased Grand Slam Tennis for his Wii. At his in-laws house on the 4th of July, we decided to give it a shot together. We had both been great fans of Virtua Tennis on the Sega Dreamcast, and are both fans of tennis in general, so it seemed like the thing to do. Loading it up, the menu system was very easy to navigate. The selection screens are all well done, and very clean looking. The animations are smooth, and do not lag. We chose our location (U.S. Open, Arthur Ashe Stadium) and our characters. I started my first match with Pete Sampras, while he chose Pat Cash. Finally, it was time to start our game. My cousin didn’t go into a great deal of detail about gameplay, so I had plugged in the nunchuk and was prepared to dash around for the ball. I controlled my movement for the first game, before finally realizing that the game itself will control your movement for you, if you want. This helped me immensely, because the nunchuk wire was quite the nuisance when trying to swing at the ball. It caused me to miss a few shots that should have been fairly easy.
The game got into full swing, literally. While I have been told that smaller, suble movements are sufficient to manage your player, they don’t have the flare and effort a good game of tennis deserves. With this in mind, I was playing with my entire body, and with as much effort and energy as I could. This level of physical engagement, however, may have been the cause for some of my accuracy issues. When returning a service, I would more often than not hit the ball completely wide of the court (especially in doubles matches). I tried varying my swing strength and angle, but generally ended up out. This continued through my matches as McEnroe and Federer. Controlling the direction of the ball could be difficult at times, especially compared to DC Virtua Tennis. There were times where the trajectory of the ball seemed to be completely arbitrary, having absolutely nothing to do with my actual swing. However, this could be a sign that I was playing a bit too exuberantly, as I have mentioned.
When playing in a doubles match, the system handles player positioning fairly well. When one player makes a mad dash for the ball, your teammate moves to cover, which is extremely handy given the recovery time after a particularly epic dive. The AI players do a decent job, but as with all AI players, they do have exploitable patterns and routines. Look hard enough, and you’ll find them!
Two days later, my right arm is still sore from the exertion. Grand Slam Tennis has some incredible, and obvious, improvements over games like the Dreamcast’s Virtua Tennis, while in other aspects, I feel Virtua Tennis has the upper hand (ball control!). As I mentioned, though, this could have been due to my flailing, and not any fault with the game itself. When looking at Grand Slam Tennis, the most important thing to consider is the fun factor. In that respect, Grand Slam Tennis is one of the most fun sports video games I have ever played. What more could you really ask for?