Virtua Tennis 4 review

Review of Virtua Tennis 4 for the Nintendo Wii, PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 rated 7 out of 10
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Tennis and Video Gaming have been side by side since the dawn of video gaming. Pong was one of the very first video games and is essentially just a primitive tennis game. Things have advanced greatly since those days; Pong was fun but the black and white graphics don’t impress nowadays - not to mention there wasn’t a net.

Pretty much anyone can play Tennis either in real life or virtually. In the UK for example we have over 2600 public tennis courts (nearly half of them having nets), not to mention over 8 million Nintendo Wii owning households all with the free Wii Sports game. So why do we need yet another Tennis game?

Virtua Tennis from became a hit in the arcades in 99/2000, not just because it was quick to pick up and play - it had awesome graphics too, most notably the (semi) photo realistic players. Shortly afterwards the game was ported to the brand new Sega Dreamcast console and was quickly voted a must own game. To all intents and purposes it looked and played just like the multi-thousand arcade cabinet - who wouldn’t want to say no to arcade graphics at home?

So eleven years later and Virtua Tennis 4 has just arrived, are Sega still the kings of the tennis game or have they hit a double fault? Let’s find out.

Some sports games like Fifa and Madden tend to evolve slowly each year. In contrast Virtua Tennis with its two/three year interval means that you’ll see a huge wealth of improvements over the last with each release. This version is no exception, here’s a short list of the most notable improvements over Virtua Tennis 2009:

  • Updated player roster which includes Nadal, Federer, Murray, Williams, Sharapova and Wozniacki.
  • A brand new World Tour single player campaign.
  • Play Styles which affect how your custom character plays
  • Improved online networking, rankings and matchmaking.
  • Realistic graphics. You’ll recognise the players as if you’re watching them on TV.
  • Games For Windows Live integration, earn Achievements for your XBox 360 profile.
  • Xbox 360 Controller Support
  • Multicore and SLi aware.

After you’ve installed and booted the game you’re first task is to activate your copy of the game with Games for Windows. If you already have a profile them this is quick and simple and you’ll just need your Gamertag and Password. Newbies will have to create an account but that shouldn’t take too long.

Next I recommend either creating your own custom character or heading into the party mode with one of the default real world players. Creating your own character is a fairly straight forward menu driven affair, simply choose the body part, clothing or facial feature and cycle through the options. It’s worth nothing that despite the huge number of options to customize the face your player, he or she will never look quite as good as the specially created default ones.

The party mode features eight different game types and they are an excellent way to get you used to the control mechanics. They’re also quite fun to play over and over to beat your high-score too.

  • Ace Striker - Practice your serves against a soccer goal keeper and defenders.
  • Clay Shooting - Smash moving clay targets, this helps with aiming.
  • Wind Match - Try to keep a rally going whilst fans blow the ball around.
  • Bomb Match - Pass the parcel but with a bomb, try to time your shots so that the bomb explodes on your opponents side.
  • Royal Poker - Hit your ball onto a wall of playing cards to score a good hand, improves your accuracy.
  • Coin Match - Collect coins that appear randomly on the ground whilst you play. Teaches you how to judge where you opponent may hit the ball.
  • Wall Match - Try to trap the ball on your opponents side of the court by hitting wall buttons which raiser barriers by the net.
  • Egg Collector - Run around the court collecting eggs and taking them to an awaiting mother hen whilst avoiding tennis balls. Good practice for moving around the court.

Once you’re done practicing you’ll want to get playing the real game. You can either head straight into the single player World Tour, play Arcade Matches solo against the CPU or head online.

The World Tour is probably the place where you’ll spend most of your time so let’s cover that first. Here you’ll take your custom character across the globe in a bid to become the number one SPT (Sega Professional Tennis) player. You’ll start off with low skills and a rubbish doubles partner, the idea is to improve your skills and move up the ranks as you go. You’ll travel across four areas of the world in a bid to qualify for each of their respective tournaments, to do this you’ll need to earn special ranking stars. You’ll get these for almost everything you do; taking part in exhibition matches (both singles and doubles), mini-tournaments, meeting the fans and charity work. Sounds easy huh? Well to make things a bit more challenging you’ll have to take several things into account.

First and foremost is the condition of your player, any activity that isn’t resting uses up your stamina/condition. If you don’t rest your player every so often you will notice a drop in form and possibly even risk them an injury. To avoid this you’ll need to check in at hotels, spas and massage parlours to recuperate properly. But this brings in a second factor, your tour schedule. You mustn’t forget that every day spent resting is another day lost to the world tour - if you don’t travel across the globe quick enough you’ll miss important events, and in turn your chance to be the world number one. As you progress your skills will improve and you’ll earn cash, lots of cash. You can spend it on such things as new clothing, different coloured rackets and play styles. These play styles alter how your character plays, for example; choosing the Hard Hitter style makes you hit the ball harder. Other styles include; Ground Strokes, Tactical and Aggressive Volley. All that fuss aside, the goal is to keep moving quickly and play as many matches as you can without getting too tired or injured. The CPU opponents rank up just as you do and will get harder to beat as you go along. As long as you improve your skills you should stay in contention and I found that as long as my player wasn’t tired, I won most of the matches.

Arcade lets you pick any style of match you’d like and puts you in a round against four different CPU characters. You can choose a difficulty level from Easy through to Very Hard, if you want to unlock the bonus characters this is where you’ll need do it. Other options include; number of games, number of sets, type of court and tiebreak. You can play this mode with friends on the same pc if you have extra controllers.

Online play is another area you’ll want to spend some time because playing against another human is generally always better than against a CPU controlled opponent. Rather than sit in a lobby and wait for a match, Virtua Tennis does something interesting. You’ll actually start by playing a standard Arcade Game against the CPU whilst the server searches for a suitable player to match you up with; at this point you’re whisked away to an online game. This is a bit like shooting at the goal while an online Fifa match is loading.

So when all said and done - you just want to know if the game looks and feels good. Well it does, the controls are mapped to an Xbox 360 controller by default, those with other pads can customize theirs to suit - keyboard only players are catered for but the lack of analogue control will be a hindrance. Every type of shot you can think of is available; Slice, Lob, Smash, Forehand and Backhand. Your player will automatically choose the correct stance for the shot providing you hit the right button at the right time. One interesting addition to this game which will split opinion is the presence of the Super Shot. As you play and hit successful ground strokes a power meter will fill up which, once full, will unleash a power shot.
If you’ve played Mario Tennis on Gamecube this may sound familiar. The effect isn’t quite as devastating as a giant red shell hurtling across the court - but it can be as effective. This super shot travels at well over 200mph and if aimed well is almost impossible to stop.

Graphically Virtua Tennis 4 is probably the best looking Tennis game ever, the real players look very realistic- you’ll even see them sweat as they get hot and bothered. The motion captured movement is top class and looks very natural - enough to visibly see your player getting physically tired or injured. Everything else you’d expect is here too; Live Scoreboards, Ball Boys and even the Umpire filling in the scores on his little computer upon that tall chair.

The good
Virtua Tennis is a great arcade title, it’s easy to pickup yet difficult to master. The game looks great and there is a wealth of stuff to do - the tennis is fun, as are the party games. Playing singles and doubles really does feel different and requires fresh tactics. Sometimes it’s a bit too easy and you’ll be tempted to hit those simple aces against dumb opponents. If you choose hard or very hard this will eliminate that temptation. Online play is fun if a little limited for PC owners, for example I didn’t see an option to invite a friend.

The bad
There’s not much I don’t like about Virtua Tennis 4 at all, the online play as I just mentioned could be better - sometimes it took ten minutes to find a match and once it’s over, you’re sent back to playing against the CPU for another few minutes until a new Challenger approaches.
Also the LIVE achievement system is broken, there are a handful of achievements which unlock when you earn them but never stay fixed. The next time you boot the game you’ll end up unlocking them again, and again and again. Before you get any ideas about infinite gamerscore loopholes, let it be known that the points get taken away when you quit the game. I contacted Sega regarding this issue which I and others online have encountered, but sadly there is no news on a fix or patch. PC owners also get the worst deal of all when it comes to controls - just keyboard or pad only. Those who buy the 360, PS3 or Wii version can use their respective motion control system, be it Kinect, PlayStation Move or Wii MotionPlus.

Overall Virtua Tennis 4 for PC is good but not perfect, in this day and age the expectation is to be a fun yet a realistic simulation. For the most part VT4 is an arcade game, which is fine but lacks a little bit of depth when push comes to shove. Example; You’re able to buy new rackets but they only have cosmetic colour difference. You’re able to hire an agent but rather than negotiate cool stuff like sponsorship deals, you just get bonus stars after every game.

Despite being a big improvement over the last game, I hope that for Virtua Tennis 5, Sega will take a step back and look at the Western developers of Fifa and Madden for inspiration. This game needs much better online features and new exciting game modes if it’s going to survive as a top tier sport title. Virtua Tennis 4 gets 7 out of 10.

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Virtua Tennis 4 review pics

Virtua Tennis 4 review screenshots

Related: Virtua Tennis 2009 review, Virtua Tennis 4 3D support

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