STAFF REVIEW of Top Spin Tennis (Xbox)

Friday, October 31, 2003.
by Tony Ingrassia

Top Spin Tennis Box art Top Spin is a well designed and deep gaming experience for tennis fans and gamers alike. Filled with an endless array of options in create-a-player, and locals across the world keep this game interesting and challenging. Start at the bottom of the tennis rankings and work your way to the top, traveling across the globe to increase your skills as well as your pocket book. Tight graphics, Tournaments, and ?mini? games keep Top Spin well balanced and appealing to a broader audience. As one of the new XSN titles Top Spin will surely deliver hours of excitement on Live, but fear not, Top Spin also includes a multi-player option to keep you and your friends busy until you go LIVE. So tighten up them laces, and work on that killer back hand, because Top Spin just raised the bar for all tennis games to come.

As I stated earlier, Top Spin has a great balance between matches and ?Other? features such as Pro Shops, Salons, Instructors, and even Jet setting across the globe to keep you going for a good long time. Top Spin starts with your game options?Exhibition, Custom Tournament, Career, Multi-Player and Tennis School. The meat of the game is in the Career Mode. When starting you actually get to design your character, now when I say design your character I mean every little detail, from the slope of your nose to how high your cheek bones are. It?s uncanny how elaborate this process is, but its fun and gives you a sense of individuality. You also choose your traits, or style of play along with some clothing options that can be changed as you progress along the tennis circuit. Hell, you can even show a little attitude during your matches by using the White & Black buttons.

You start ranked 100, bottom of the barrel. Start off by playing in Minor Pro-Am tournaments to climb the ranks and line your pockets, you move from tourney to tourney on a cool world map that features North and South America, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and the Middle East. Each local has its own Tournaments, Coaching Camps, Sport Shops, Air Ports, and Sponsors. During your early career you can also be sponsored by someone if you pass there tests and they feel you fit the image they are looking for. Big names such as Adidas, Prince, Wilson, Yonex, Oakley and K-Swiss are available for you to pursue. Once sponsored your new friends have all sorts of goodies for you as you perform well, but make the company look good in commercials and other extra curricular activities. All the extras in Top Spin play out as mini-games testing your accuracy and power in a wide array of challenges.

Top Spin also has plenty to un-lock ranging from new tournaments to new clothing and accessories. As you grow from an Amateur to ?Young Gun?, ?Star? and ?Legend? status more and more will be available to you. Building your characters skills is just as challenging. You are assigned 14 Career Stars to assign to your 4 Masteries?Serves, Forehand, Backhand, and Volley. This is much like building stats on an RPG. The Coaching Camps are also divided into 3 tiers, Bronze, Silver and Gold, adding to your strengths and Skills. With each hurdle you pass, a new item is unlocked, and so it goes. Top Spin also throws in some nice touches such as a Scrapbook where you can look over your trophies, your sport bag which has all your digs and gifts from your sponsors, along with the usual rankings, stats, earnings and such.

Custom Tournament allows you to set the parameters to your specifications. Men/Women, Singles/Doubles, Human Players, Games Per Set, Sets Per Match, Number of Rounds and the difficulty level. As in Custom Tournaments, Exhibition Mode lets you set some of the same parameters, and in both Modes you can choose from Grand Slam venues all the way to 20 playground courts. In these 2 modes you also get to choose from random players to some very familiar names such as our favorite darling of the tennis world Anna Kournikova. Lastly, Tennis school is a tutorial level to help you get the feel of the game, which to be honest with you isn?t hard to pick up and go with, but if you?re serious about hitting that Number 1 ranking you may want to practice, practice, practice.

Coming from someone who doesn?t follow tennis and never played except in gym class, I was surprised the game kept my interest and offered up a nice learning curve without making me feel like a true ?Rookie?. Top Spin offers plenty of game play and the XSN Sports package will only make this title more interesting. I just hope that the more ?Main Stream? sport titles don?t overshadow this well designed package.

Graphically Top Spin is drop dead gorgeous. Fantastic venues, beautiful textures, and nice lighting effects all lend to the ?Realism? of the game. The subtleties of the ball impacting the surface and kicking up a little dust are awesome. The physics are also a wonder to behold; you can ?Feel? the differences in court types, from clay to grass. Not to mention the range of movement of the players themselves. It?s nice to see the XBOX flex that graphic muscle on this one. The bluish colored ?Heat? blur effect on power shots is just too cool. Top Spin also delivers the best looking crowds I have ever seen in a sports game; just don?t look too close or you?ll see past the smoke and mirrors.

Now I know this is a tennis game and there really isn?t a lot going on in the sound dept. but, this game needed some commentators. I would have settled for unknowns just calling the action or at least having reactions to great plays. Don?t get me wrong, the ambient sound and crowd reaction is great, even the rocket serves that fly by you hit something off the screen and you hear it, but the silence between sets, matches, and serves is un-nerving. Now I realize Tennis purists may think I'm crazy, but it's just one mans opinion. The soundtrack is well done, and what little dialog there is fits the on screen happenings and luckily the Audio downfall, doesn't warrant dragging the overall performance of this game down.

Just what I stated earlier about some sort of commentary. Otherwise, Kudos.

Overall: 9.8 / 10
Gameplay: 9.8 / 10
Visuals: 10.0 / 10
Sound: 7.8 / 10


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