NGT: US Open 2002
Windows - 2002
Description of NGT: US Open 2002
Tennis returns to PCs like Halley's Comet returns to Earth.Years stretch out between appearances, ensuring that each generation of computers gets to see but one new tennis game before packing it in for the CPU cemetery. These long intervals make every arrival an occasion for celebration, no matter what the quality of the tennis game in question.
So it's hard not to rejoice somewhat at the arrival of US Open 2002, Carapace's (developer of the Next Generation Tennis series, which includes both this game and its predecessor, Roland Garros Tennis) take on everyone's favorite fuzzy-ball sport. Thankfully, there is some merit to blowing a horn or two over the new game. Although it lacks both the infectious play of the Virtua Tennis series and the amenities that EA Sports has conditioned PC sports gamers to take for granted, this is a solid sim in most respects. It comes up a little short in many areas, though is so close so often that it's impossible not to appreciate the effort and enjoy what's been done right. This might not be the tennis game that enthusiasts have been demanding, although it is an admirable near miss.
Nowhere does US Open 2002 get closer to an ace than in gameplay. You can choose from singles, doubles, and mixed doubles options here, and all boast authentic action. Opponents are smart on all three difficulty settings, with the ability to take advantage of your position. Get out of sorts and the computer will take advantage of it. Wander a few feet into the court and you'll be greeted with a barrage of baseline shots pushing you into an awkward return position. Fail to hit a killer immediately after approaching the net and you'll get a lob on the back line. Your opposition always comes with its best game. Every point is a challenge and play, of course, gets very tense and exciting when you know that one mistake spells doom.
Yet that's also where things sort of fall apart. Computer opponents are simply too good, too tireless. Points constantly drag on, as your foe can get to almost every ball that you hit. Even the most devastating cross can be returned, because of the opposing player's unrealistic speed and apparently bionic legs. You can run him or her from one sideline to the other, over and over again, without fatigue registering. Furthermore, the computer never seems to hit the ball out of bounds, or even fault on a serve. No matter how out of position your opponent might be, returns will always make it over the net and land in bounds. This makes for some exciting moments at first, though this soon pales to boredom when you realize that your best shots are almost always being returned. The challenge becomes one of patience, not one of besting your adversary with good work on the gamepad.
Controls are also somewhat off-kilter. Hitting serves and return shots is easy, but moving into proper position can be nightmarish. You never seem to have complete control over your player, who appears to stumble in the cardinal compass points rather than stalk the court like a predator in rubber-soled shoes. It's a snap to approach the net, or move along the baseline, but you're never quite in the position that you desired. You might accidentally move a few feet ahead of the baseline and put yourself in a bad spot to return a long shot from your opponent, or end up a few feet behind the net when you wanted to set up almost on top of it. Of course, by the time you realize this, and make corrections, the point is over.
Other aspects continue with the "one step up and two steps back" theme. The interface menu screens are laid out well, but navigation has to be done with the gamepad as there is no mouse support. You can step into the shoes of a real pro, but the only pros included are no-names like Tim Henman and Chandra Rubin. A few court surfaces are included so you can re-enact Grand Slam tourneys like Wimbledon, the French Open, and of course the sponsoring US Open, but many more are similarly locked. There is a career mode, but none of the essential options that make long-term play enjoyable. It seems more like a series of individual tournaments strung together than anything with real cohesion.
Graphics are well done with lifelike animations and fairly accurate faces, but fine touches are absent and there are no frills. There are just two camera angles to choose from during play, for instance, and there are no establishing shots of the crowd or effects to mimic TV-style presentation. Audio is in the same boat, with nothing but the regular grunting of the players and the point summation of the chair umpire to remind you that it's there.
US Open 2002 is best characterized as a bit of a missed opportunity. While it is still worth playing, a large number of shortcomings make it a mixed blessing for tennis fans. Still, it arguably does more things right than any other recent tennis game. For that alone, it's worth checking out... although that may say more about the scarcity of games in this field than anything else.
Review By GamesDomain
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