Grand Slam Tennis 2 Review
In many ways, Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a tennis fan's dream. A large roster populated by tennis greats past and present, all four Grand Slam events and the courts they're played on, and John McEnroe serving as both your in-game coach and part of the broadcast team for your matches. However, it's not really a videogame fan's dream, with rather bland presentation, a lackluster career mode, and a lack of challenge. It's not that it's a bad game; it's just a game that you'll play for a bit and then not really feel motivated to go back to it again.
There's nothing wrong with the game from a technical standpoint. The animations are realistic and fluid, and the controls are responsive and give you a good deal of control over your game. The game's total racquet control system uses the right stick to control your shot selection, direction, and speed. A straightforward flat shot is made by pushing the stick forward in the direction that you'd like to hit the ball with the speed that you move the stick translated into how hard you hit the ball. Move the stick down first and you add topspin to the ball. Shots can be further modified by the triggers, so you can easily turn a shot into a lob. The extensive shot control extends to serves as well, which are a two-step process. To start a serve you use the right stick to select the type of serve. A bell curve chart then appears on the court and a vertical line begins to sweep through it. The position of that line in the curve when you swing determines the power of your serve and if you swing too early or late you'll fault. The racquet control system works quite well. It's intuitive enough that you'll quickly get the hang of it and as you get more experienced with it you'll appreciate the degree of control that it gives you over your game.
The game's main mode is its career mode in which you create a new player and take him or her through an entire career on the pro circuit. The player creation system is pretty extensive and you can spend as much time as you'd care to getting the face to look just so. You'll also be able to select different shot and serve styles to give your player some additional character.
The career mode is divided into years that are further divided into quarters that each culminate in a Grand Slam event. In each of these quarters you'll have your choice of playing in an exhibition match, doing some training, or entering a tournament. After a couple of rounds of this, it will be time for a major tournament. The other events are opportunities to earn stat boosts or career points, the latter of which can be used to buy new gear which includes further stat boosts.
You'd think that with all of these opportunities to manage stats and such that the career mode would mirror an actual tennis career, a long process of improvement in an attempt to better your game enough to let you compete at the highest level and challenge the greats of the game. However, that's not the case here at all. The game instead starts out extremely easy and gradually raises the difficulty level in each subsequent year of your career. Even an average gamer should be able to win all four Grand Slam events in the first two years before things begin to get more challenging. This odd decision to make it harder for you to win the further you progress into your career makes the career and stat point system moot. Furthermore, part of the fun of a career mode is watching your progression from a nobody into one of the game's greats, but in this game it will be several game years before you even have to worry about losing a match. Making matters worse, there's no variety to the career mode. Once you've played through the first year you've seen it all and from there it just repeats the same things all over again.
The boredom that will eventually set in is exacerbated by the dull presentation. There's no atmosphere or excitement to the Grand Slam tournaments, and you'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart from the exhibition matches you also play in career mode. Lifeless crowds and game the game commentary repeats itself with such shocking regularity that you'll be constantly reminded that it's an artificial game construct rather than letting you imagine McEnroe is calling your event and is impressed with your mad tennis skills.
You can also play exhibition matches and tournaments outside of the career mode. There's also a mode that recreates famous matches from Grand Slam history, challenging you to either recreate or rewrite history. You'll have your choice of several events at any given time, as well as your choice of which of the two players you'll play as, and successfully completing challenges will make more available for play. All in all, I found this mode to be the most enjoyable in the game. The events were more challenging than other modes in the game and there was a feeling of excitement to them that was completely lacking from other parts of the game.
The game supports online play and you can even compete in online tournaments. You can bring your career mode player online, but most players select pros since their stats are buffed up the most. There are occasional lag hiccups, but for the most part play online is pretty smooth.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 has the makings of a great tennis game because the tennis simulation at its core is a good one. Everything else about it is rather bland, though, and the career mode that should be its showcase is poorly put together. I think that the potential for a great Grand Slam Tennis 3 is here, but 2 lands just outside the baseline.
Final Rating: 68%. A bland approach and a lack of challenge make for a double fault.