Top Spin 4: Game, set and match?

Hands-On: 2K promises it won't let us drown in tennis balls again...

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The actual feel of the game stays the same, it's just that you won't miss the ball like a flailing drunk anymore. In fact, as we are playing the memory of swiping at thin air never even enters our head. That's the new pick-up-and-play injection doing its job - and the on-screen prompts after every strike help us understand how everything works within your first few shots.

So, now that you can actually play Top Spin on the court, you can start worrying about the finer details off it as well. 2K Czech's Dupas reckons the team's managed to increase the number of animations by around 80 percent compared to Top Spin 3. The overhaul is geared towards remedying another criticism aimed at the predecessor; now each tennis star from Agassi to Murray has specific celebrations (Nadal's pneumatic victory fist, for example) and unique shot types.

A new attributes system also helps differentiate between players. Technical attributes like sprint speed, stamina, backhand, forehand and volley proficiency skills contribute to three different areas; your serve and volley expertise and your offensive baseline and defensive baseline game. Players be stronger in one of the three areas or a competent all-rounder, either way it pays to know who you're up against.


Andy Roddick, for example, will prefer to fire powerful forearm shots from the baseline, but he's not the quickest player to every grace the court. If you're a speed demon like Michael Chang, then you'll be able to keep Roddick on the move, sending him left and right as if he were taking a bleep test, and out-last and manoeuvre him every time.

It's in all of these areas then that Top Spin has evolved to become a deeper tennis game, giving players, in theory, more control with a simpler system that allows for tactical exploitation.

Having only been able to play a couple of matches, we were unable to see just how far Top Spin 4 can be taken in terms of mastering the racket. It's definitely a simpler system than TS3's, which tended to assume you'd just stepped off the clay that very afternoon.

The pick-up-and-play credentials then, we can vouch for. We'll need more time to determine just how far the hardcore tennis nut will be able to take Top Spin 4, but this one's not making too many faults so far.

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