Tennis World Tour 2 hits the courts again in a sequel that aims to address the first game’s woes and serve up an indubitably delightful match of hitting green fuzzy balls with racquets. Developed by Big Ant Studio who are responsible for bringing us the moderately successful A.O Tennis titles, can they turn the misfortunes of the first game around and make Tennis World Tour a smashing success, or has Tennis World Tour 2 caused this franchise to double fault?
First thing you may notice about Tennis World Tour 2 is how slick the menu looks, with each mode neatly labelled down the left side of the screen opposite images of expressively exaggerated tennis players – thought has clearly gone into the visual splendour of the menus that it will make you wonder where the effort to the rest of the game went by comparison. The usual suite of modes and options of tennis videogame-101 are available here such as exhibition, career, online, and a tennis school to supposedly acclimate you to the gameplay nuances of Tennis World Tour – but none of it feels exciting or energetic, a sense that transfers directly into the experiences you will have in each and every one of those modes.
Bare bones might be an apt description for what’s on offer here. Dive into exhibition and sure, there is a passable roster of players to choose from, such as the well known like Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal, to the harder-to-pronounce names such as Stanislas Warwrinka, to the names that are fun to pronounce like Fabio Fognin. There are enough players but many of them won’t be known to those who have only a passing interest in tennis, so the roster is far from star-studded. From picking your player you can adjust the variables such as time of day, court surface, the amount of sets in each game and so on – which again seems par for the course in tennis games and won’t wow anybody except those who think that playing tennis on a wooden court reminds them of the NBA.
On-court Tennis World Tour 2 is an odd experience and not necessarily for the better. The big selling point of this sequel appears to be teaching the game players how to be accurate with every shot and how accuracy can dictate the success or lack thereof in a game. Every time you hit the ball you get direct visual feedback in the form of notifications telling you if you hit the ball perfectly or whether you were too soon or too late. Timing is key and you will get the hang of it with practice, but the game doesn’t do enough to teach you how to time shots perfectly besides informing you of your accuracy. Tennis School should help you learn the basics but all you get is the machine that shoots balls at you and a coach that commends you for passing tutorials – you get no proper support on how to hit the ball. This problem segues into one of the most startling and bewildering problems TW2 has; the fluctuating difficulty.
In Tennis World Tour 2 you can go from being absolutely terrible on the easiest difficulty to being a right ace on expert difficulty – if that isn’t a severe example of how unfinished the game is then this reviewer is too harsh. On the easiest setting (especially in career) you can sure win a few games but the AI often has advantages and will deal out shots that are very hard to hit because the game’s dogged determination to be realistic compromises its ability to be accessible and playable to those who aren’t fully in-tune with the mechanics or who just want to pick up and play tennis for some arcade-like fun. On the flip-side when you put the game to expert you may find that your opponents are really easy to beat as they double-fault and they hit the ball out of bounds leading you to an easy victory. It’s very difficult to know whether you’re playing Tennis World Tour 2 or it’s playing you, because often it feels like the game is dictating your success rather than you dictating your own success – a jarring phenomenon that baffles and befuddles, but if you like an unpredictable game of tennis then maybe Tennis World Tour 2 has your number.
An interesting addition to the gameplay is the card system where you can place a booster card during a match that may give you an edge. You can purchase these cards in packs from a store and select a set to take into a game with you. The addition of cards is passé and promotes all that unfettered triple-A greed we’ve been used to the past few years – though thankfully these cards aren’t infused with micropayment shenanigans – but it’s so unoriginal to have ability cards that Tennis World Tour 2 further promotes how out of touch it is.
Career mode is dull, plodding and lifeless. You make a character, like someone called Terrence Tiddle, then progress through the ranks by playing exhibition matches and participating in tournaments to rank up and try to be the number 1 player in the world (as though you transferred over from the Pokemon school of thought that you have to be the very best, like no one ever was). You can rest and recover from matches but there are no storyline cutscenes or a feeling that you’re participating in a caree. It’s all a matter of grinding busywork that does nothing but make you feel like a soulless conformist. Of course if you want a straight up career and don’t want a narrative this is serviceable but don’t expect anything but the bare minimum here.
Tennis World Tour 2 doesn’t do anything visually to impress, these character models look like they’ve been taken from a poorly rendered PS3 game, it’s an ugly and unsatisfying mess that doesn’t do anything to wow or stand out. Crowds and courts don’t look outstanding and nothing about the game as a whole speaks out in a way that entices players to indulge in it. Same goes for the soundtrack and the grunts and groans of the tennis players, it’s all so minimalist and unremarkable that it’s barely worth mentioning.
With all this negativity going on is there anything nice to say about Tennis World Tour 2? Yes of course, if you like Tennis and you want a challenging gameplay experience then this will be a fine game if you don’t stumble upon difficulty-based weirdness, but there is too much here that’s off-putting to anyone but the most ardent of tennis fans. Tennis World Tour 2 has a bland career mode, dull presentation aspects, unfair matches thanks to difficulty inconsistencies and it’s largely just a safe but lifeless experience. Big Ant Studios served up better aces with their A.O titles, go and play them and forget about this one.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by the publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.