As the first Grand Slam of the year is on our doorstep, tennis aficionados start to dust off their classic tennis games to get their fill of the sport they love. Some may argue that the last great game was Virtua Tennis 2, others may side with Top Spin 4, however the one thing that fans can agree on is that as of late, tennis games have been awful.
With that in mind AO Tennis developers, Big Ant Studios, returns to the baseline ready to serve with their aptly named AO Tennis 2. Echoes of their poorly reviewed first outing haunts them as they prepare to deliver their sequel. Sweat slowly dips, the furry ball has been firmly caressed. Will this be another fault or an ace?
If you are looking for an arcadey tennis game where you can speed around the court and pull off ridiculous shots then this isn’t the game for you; however, if you are after a real simulator that authentically replicates the sport then I think you may have found it.
Like most tennis games, you use your face buttons to perform different shot types but the USP of this game is the addition of the timing and aiming feature. The gamer is required to hold the button and release it at the right time to perform the perfect shot. A circular meter next to the player gives you an indication when to release your shot. Getting the hang of this is key to succeeding as otherwise you will skew your shots and hit the ball out of the court.
On top of this, the gamer also needs to manually aim with a white reticule, making the player constantly think about where they want the ball to land and allow them to implement a game plan. At first this can be quite difficult to manage, however, after a few hours with the game, it all clicked. The rallies were thrilling as every shot relied on timing, positioning and aiming. I had to stratagise in order to beat my opponent, exploiting their weaknesses and leading with my strengths. At times the game can feel a little clunkly but there are a range of modifiers for the player to optimise their experience.
With a complex control scheme that encompasses the range of shots that we see in the real game, a deep tutorial needs to be included. Although there is one, it is quite basic and could have been developed a little further.
Speaking of modes the game includes the official Australian Open which includes the courts and television transitions to make the game feel authentic. On top of this, there is the exhibition, scenario, online and career modes. The career mode is robust and involves managing and developing your career from amateur to professional.
One of the biggest issues with the game and one that you will instantly notice is the lackluster roster. There are 25 licensed players and a whole bunch of made up players. I know…disappointing. But wait, don’t despair. In steps Academy mode. Here, the devoted and passionate fans can create all their favourite tennis players and share them with the world. As the game has a deep creative suite, uploaded creations tend to have a strong likeness which will allow you to play those dream matches of Becker vs Federer.
The licensed players look excellent and they are shown off through cut-aways in the match. The motion-captured animations add to the realism but some animations seem a little odd at times, especially when the player gives up on a shot that lands right next to them.
Each whack of the ball and grunt of the player adds to the realism of AO Tennis 2. The sound design has been implemented in a way to immerse the player in the game and the sport. It does lack commentary and I personally think that is the right decision as it could take away from the simulator feel that the game was striving for.
There a range of modes to keep tennis fans entertained but the aspect that will keep gamers coming back for more is the core gameplay, which is one the most authentic tennis experiences that I have played. With a range of difficulties, lengthy matches and a steep learning curve, this game will keep you enthralled for a long time.
In short, AO Tennis 2 isn’t for everyone. Some may complain about its difficulty, struggle with its mechanics and not enjoy the slower paced realistic approach to the sport. Others will love it. I fall in to the latter category and can firmly say that this is an ace! I award the game a Thumb Culture Gold Award!
Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.
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