ARGUABLY, LAST YEAR’S TOP SPIN 3 may have been the most realistic simulation of tennis to date. Unfortunately, the learning curve was too steep and it was deemed unplayable for most. It’s a problem that never plagued the Virtua Tennis franchise, however, with the latest release, Virtua Tennis 2009, offering the same accessible gameplay that made the series so popular in the first place.
All of the popular players from Virtua Tennis 3 are here, such as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Maria Sharapova. Eight new players have been added, including British number one Andy Murray and 2008 French Open Champion Ana Ivanovic. There are also a few legends left for the player to unlock.
The core gameplay has been left relatively unchanged, with the game still utilising only three face buttons for topspin, slices and lobs. Some changes have been made, however, to give veteran Virtua Tennis players more control and power, dictating points throughout the match. Serving is slightly harder, allowing the player to push the ball wide, and there is more emphasis on the positioning of the player on court so you can set up more winning shots. The comical diving for the ball, which was prevalent in the previous games, is now a thing of the past, so expect some more realistic rallies. Netplay has also improved for the few people who still play serve-and-volley tennis nowadays.
Multiplayer mini-game favourites are back, along with the World Tour mode, which sees you create a tennis player trying to climb the ranks with the ultimate goal of becoming number one. There are also the usual Arcade and Exhibition game modes that allow you to play against your friends with some four-player doubles action, or the chance to test your skills with players around the world via online play.
Virtua Tennis 2009 offers a few new elements over its predecessors for a slightly more realistic portrayal of the sport. Still, the heart of the game lies in its ease of access to casual gamers.