Between EA’s healthy serving of well developed sports games and Big Ant Studios’ less than desirable titles, there’s a decent selection of sports experiences to take to on console, spanning a wide range of categories. Tennis, however, is a sport that doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves and because of that, all eyes were on Tennis World Tour back when it was first announced. Since then, there’s been a steady promotional run up to launch. Now that it’s here, is this the tennis game we’ve all been waiting for? No. Not in the slightest.
Hell, even its very launch was that of a confused one. Tennis World Tour was initially delayed for a number of weeks for unspecified reasons, yet still somehow launched on its pre-delay launch date. I know, right? What was all that racket about? See what I did there? Moving on. The latest tennis game to arrive on Xbox One before Tennis World Tour was AO International Tennis, a game that lacked personality, refinement and energy. With that in mind, you would think Tennis World Tour would take advantage of the opening. Sadly, not.
Tennis World Tour doesn’t fall victim to the exact same issues as AO International Tennis, but there are similarities that highlight why this sport iteration in particular may be challenging to replicate. The end result is that of a game that clearly wasn’t ready to see a shop shelf. First impressions are imperative for any game, so you can imagine the displeasure when I found myself staring at some rather ugly menu/UI design. It’s not the end of the world, I know, but even so, some added polish would have been nice to witness.
I cant say that I was expecting much. You see, outside of the delay mix-up above, the developer’s post-launch handling of Tennis World Tour just hasn’t been clear nor honest enough. Take for example the lack of online functionality. What’s worse is that this function’s absence was not seemingly pointed out by the developer until the game had already launched. I wish that I could say that that’s the limit of Tennis World Tour’s flaws, but that would lying. The core systems that tie the game together are in place fairly well.
Players can adjust the power and height of a shot, allowing some added freedom to slam the ball where you want it to go. There’s also room to a small range of different outputs; flat shots, lobs and so on and so forth. The problem is, however, that the game often struggles to register your input commands. This typically amounts to performing the wrong shot off the back of the height and power that you have lined up for something else. It creates a sort of stiff outcome that doesn’t at all sit inline with the fluidity of the sport that it represents.
Instead, you’ll find yourselves constantly and inconsistently returning a ball using a form that you never intended to use. I also encountered a range of problems mid-game, mostly due to either poor design and development, or the AI itself. I lost count of how many times I would hit the ball yet be nowhere near close enough to hit it, or on the direct flip-side, miss the ball despite being well within its reach. When you group this with inputs being ignored or swapped out for another input entirely, it makes for a very frustrating take on the sport.
The physics hold up well for the most part but I would lying if I told you that I didn’t witness the ball flying off in directions it shouldn’t naturally head off in, following a relatively simple return. It just feels like a complete break of immersion throughout, which, alarmingly, puts it beneath AO International Tennis. The controls are mapped well which helps to maintain accessibility, but that means very little when the complex maneuvers, or at times, the most basic of maneuvers, usually work against you, rather than for you. It’s poor on most fronts.
Oddly enough these issues don’t appear to be exclusive to the human player, seeing as though the AI can often screw up too, which I assume is down to poor scripting. All in all, it’s a pretty messed up game that clearly should have stayed in development for a while longer to iron out its gameplay issues. I refuse to believe that this has been tested out-of-house, unless monkeys were involved. Had the mechanics and the functionalities of play been more refined, less laggy and better developed, Tennis World Tour may have been passable.
As it stands, it doesn’t matter how good you are at tennis games, you’re going to be at the mercy of the aforementioned faults for the most part. The career mode is a solid inclusion that has you working from no one to someone and at least sits on some well structured foundations. The aim of the game is to become the best of the best and to do that, you’ll need to not only play the game, but manage both your schedule and form. This is achieved though choice; play, rest and train, which will factor into your success one way or another.
Coaches, opportunities and new equipment will gradually open up to you as you make progress. These systems allow for a strategic edge and although it’s not quite as well rounded as those found in EAs titles, it’s nice to see some level of depth here. Moving to the visuals, there’s really not a lot to write home about. Character models are far from impressive and the court designs leave a lot to be desired. Don’t get me wrong, Tennis World Tour gets the job done on this front, but it’s nowhere near current-gen standards.
The same can be said about the audio too, in which crowds are as quiet as a tumbleweed crossing a desert. Maybe they’re aware that they’re stuck in a game that has little personality and so they try to match it? Hell if I know. This all collectively goes hand in hand to produce a fairly underwhelming experience. The developer states that many issues (and missing functions) will be present in upcoming patches, but this is ultimately on them for releasing a game in an unfinished state. Until it’s fixed, give this game a very wide berth.
I held hope that Tennis World Tour would at least be better than AO International Tennis, but in truth, this is equally as poorly developed, if not worse. The game houses more issues than content, hindered further by its bland visuals and shoddy audio. Tennis is a game of fluidity and precision, two things that Tennis World Tour, despite its decent career mode, fails miserably to realize.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.