Six years ago, we had 2K, SEGA, and EA all making big-budget tennis games. Whether it was due to poor sales or other factors, all stopped making tennis games and thus the drought of console tennis games begun. Now we’re in 2018, and budget developers have clearly noticed there’s a gap in the market and are ready to pounce on the opportunity. Earlier this month Big Ant Studios released AO International Tennis, which the less said about the better. Now, newly-formed Breakpoint Studios have released their debut game, Tennis World Tour.
Breakpoint Studios has mainly been made up of former Top Spin developers, and given that Top Spin 4 is widely considered the best tennis game ever made, both tennis fans and gamers have been fairly optimistic–especially since Pierre André, who previously worked on Top Spin 4 as a producer, is the Game Designer on Tennis World Tour. André has even previously said: “For years we’ve wanted to create a new tennis game, a spiritual successor to ‘Top Spin 4.’ Technical evolutions now mean we can create the ultra-realistic simulation that we’ve been dreaming of.” The big question is: does Tennis World Tour achieve this?
The first thing you’ll see when you load up the game is a lovely sleek menu screen featuring a career mode, exhibition mode, and a greyed-out online mode which isn’t available at launch, something which the developers only told us about after the game had released (real classy of them). Heading into exhibition you’ll see there’s only singles available and no doubles, something else that will be coming in a later update (thankfully they told us this months ago). There’s a wide range of official ATP players, and whilst the likes of Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic are missing, the game does its best at making up for its losses with 25 others, ranging from the likes of 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer to rising star Alexander Zverev to the little to unknown Swede Elias Ymer. It’s a shame the same can’t be said about the women, where only five feature, but at least four of those are ranked in the women’s top 13, including Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki and two-time Grand Slam champions Garbine Muguruza and Angelique Kerber. All the player models are solid; nothing spectacular but good enough and fit the overall look of the game ,which is rather plain but satisfactory.
There are no official courts in the game and to be fair, that isn’t much of an issue. All the major events in tennis have replicas which look similar enough for many to not care. Each court has unique characteristics based on the wind, altitude, and surface in play. For example, in London going for more shots closer to the lines has a more likely chance of missing given the windy conditions, while top spin shots are more effective on the high bouncing clay as well as courts at higher altitudes having faster playing conditions, and for the most part all of these work fairly well. The issue is despite all this being implemented, simple stuff is missing, such as clay courts featuring no marks or sliding, yet another thing which Breakpoint Studios has confirmed will come in a later update.
Jumping into an actual match the aiming is great. Unlike most other tennis games, you can pinpoint the power and length you want to hit at–hitting at more power doesn’t automatically mean more length, something previous tennis games have always assumed. X is to hit flat, O for topspin and Square for a slice; this works about 75% of the time but the rest of the time the game has a mind of its own and will hit what it thinks is best. When I’m sprinting to a ball on the other end of the court sometimes I want to risk going for an outrageous winner, instead the game forces me to slice it back safely. It makes for an incredibly boring experience as everyone will be playing the same “style” of tennis.
A decent amount of animations look good and are what you would expect from their real-life counterparts but unfortunately many players play very similarly. If you play with a player with a one-handed backhand every now and then you’ll see them hit a two-hander. With others you’ll notice jumping frequently while hitting groundstrokes, something you barely see in real life. There’s also these weird “blocks,” which happen very often where the players just use the pace of the ball to block it back over the net even when at the baseline, something I’ve rarely ever seen in all my years watching tennis.
Things only get worse as the game feels so incredibly lifeless. Shots feel weightless, something that even simple vibration when hitting harder shots could have fixed, as well as almost no crowd reactions after every point. I wish I was joking but that’s the truth; crowds don’t react to anything–you can hit a tweener winner and they’ll act like they’re at a funeral (tweeners are also hit at random, because you know, the game thinks it’s for the best or something, so don’t be surprised if you’re down match point and your player hits one).
Every time you or your opponent serves you have to watch them bounce the ball several times before finally hitting the serve, and this can’t be skipped or shortened. It slows down gameplay to a slog, especially when you’re missing first serves and have to wait a few seconds until you hit can hit another. I was playing a friend last night in local multiplayer and after 30 minutes I couldn’t take any more of it and quit.
John McEnroe’s commentary doesn’t help, with awful one liners after every point; they’re so bad you’ll be left wondering why it’s even there. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s hands down the worst commentary I’ve ever heard in a sports game. Who really wants McEnroe to scream something like “That was hit so hard I didn’t even see the ball”? there are even times where he says stuff which doesn’t even make sense, such as “that was a powerful shot” after a drop shot winner. Thankfully, it can be turned off, something I’m sure everyone will do after a few minutes of hearing it.
The game features one generic umpire voice which I wouldn’t say is an issue until you actually play the game. For some reason when a player wins a game or gets to advantage the umpire doesn’t say the player’s name. At first I assumed it was because they didn’t record the player’s names, but then when a player wins a match the name is said after “Game, Set, and Match,” so go figure what has happened there. It’s also the umpire who makes the line calls, not the linespeople like in real life. When you finish a point the umpire also won’t say the score until you’re on the baseline ready to start the next point. It just makes you wonder how much about tennis the developers actually know.
When playing against the AI (which is all you pretty much can do right now), there’s four difficulty levels. Most people will find themselves playing on one of the last two, but the gap between both is so big most players will find themselves in a situation where they’re too good for Professional yet will be getting easily beaten on Legend. That’s not even the only issue with the AI as they have random periods where they’ll either be awful or amazing. Playing as Alexander Zverev against Nick Kyrgios, I found myself 4-1 up without any real trouble, a few minutes later the AI was serving for the set with me barely winning points in the last few games due to no fault of my own. Then the AI’s level dropped massively again before picking up when I was 4-1 up in the tiebreak to beat me. I hope I’m totally wrong, but it feels like the AI is scripted at times to stay competitive.
As you can obviously see by now, the game is incredibly unpolished. Funnily enough, I haven’t even told you about the tons of bugs the game features. I’ll give you examples of the main ones though. Several times in rallies the ball doesn’t touch the racquet yet the game will act like it has. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve hit a “winner” that is impossible for the AI to reach only for them miraculously “hit” the ball back, I would have made by money back from buying the game. Then we also have players getting completely tired after just a few games and not recovering for the rest of the match, players occasionally glitching on the court, the game switching sides at the wrong times, and sometimes no line calls when a ball is hit out. Not to mention how unresponsive and rough matches feel when you first start a match, but this usually sorts itself out after a game or two.
The last thing I’ll mention is the career mode, which is pretty much what you’d expect. You start off as the World #100 and your goal is to make it to the top. You can play events some weeks, train instead, or rest. The more you play the more tired you’ll get and the more likely injuries will get. It’s quite a nice dynamic as it represents the real-life tour better than most other tennis games. There’s also the option of hiring different coaches which have different attributes, such as a former top ten professional who will help you with a certain playstyle, or someone more focused on fitness who will keep your body in top shape, reducing the risk of injuries. It’s all simple and generic but it works.
The problem is when making your player to use in the career mode though, you have just ten faces to use for each sex. You can’t alter these faces in any way, you can’t even change their hairstyle or skin color. There’s only two body builds and no way to change groundstroke animations besides picking if your player is going to be left or right handed, with a one-handed or two-handed backhand. It’s about as basic as any player creator I’ve ever seen in a game.
To conclude, this is a game being sold as a full price finished game when it clearly isn’t one–right now there’s no online, there’s no doubles, there’s tons of bugs, and it’s completely unpolished. I understand they probably rushed the launch to coincide with Roland Garros and Wimbledon in a few weeks, but right now the game is a complete mess. It’s like an alpha version of the game. The developers have said they have many planned updates for the game, so maybe in a few months or so the game will actually be worth buying as the foundation for something good does exist. But for now, as desperate as you may be for a tennis game, avoid this at all costs and go replay an older tennis game.
NOTE: Game was played on a PS4 Pro at Version 1.01.