Top Spin 4 Review

Top Spin 4 could be one of the best sports games ever in its own simple way. It brilliantly blends the complex mechanics of tennis with streamlined progression and gameplay. This game is designed so that even if you have zero interest in real tennis, you should still be drawn to the development of your character(s). It's a blend of a role-playing games and Pong, if you will.

The game encourages you to start by either practicing or taking lessons, and regardless whether or not you have played a tennis video game, it would be wise to go to school. There are a lot of lessons and some repeat in an effort to drill the mechanics into your brain, but you are taught everything you need to know, even if you donít master it all. The lessons take place on a beautiful campus ground with music in the distance, birds chirping, and the wind breezing by. It looks so crisp and gorgeous that you feel as if you spent a summer at tennis school. The whole tutorial is much more effort in training a player than most sports games even attempt, and the help messages continue when you start a career.

Character creation is quick and painless, if a little light. You got the standard stuff as well as an advanced face editor where you move pins rather than sliders to subtle or horrific effect. Of course itís tennis, so you canít edit every awesome detail that you may want bigger and bigger and bigger, such as shoe size. You can even choose different choices of grunts and frequency of grunting, which is certainly a feature you wonít find anywhere else. Overall, the editor is quick, but also a bit on the sparse side. No face your create looks great, but thatís a given.

Once you have a created character you can start a career. The career mode is very simple compared to some sports games that pack a lot of filler. Your goal is to build your status and complete simple objectives, and each month you can play one prep event and one tournament. Tournaments and events unlock as you gain status. Along with status you also gain XP for everything you do with your created player - even in other modes - and you spend your XP at the evolution tab. Tennis in this game is broken down into 3 basic skill sets: serve and volley, baseline offense, baseline defense. You donít have the freedom to tinker with the underlying attributes for these skills, instead you just pick one set to spend XP on and the game will increase those attributes for you. You can further buff these attributes with specific objectives in training and picking a coach who specializes in those skills. Coaches provide key bonuses, so youíll want to meet their goals to unlock perks (including new moves).

Normal career rules make it the first to win 10 points wins, rather than play 60 or so games like real tennis. It would be nice to reduce loading times when you level up between matches, because if you want to spend your XP while in a tournament you have to hit a few loading screens to do so, but itís a small delay in the action. When playing in a tournament there are nice touches, such as walking out of the tunnel in a final match and the crowd responding accurately to the quality of the play. Overall, the career mode is way beyond a simple stat-building process, but at the same time not overly-complicated either. As is, the career mode is a streamlined experience with high replay value.