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Virtua Tennis

Windows - 2002

Alt name Virtua Tennis: Sega Professional Tennis
Year 2002
Platform Windows
Released in United States
Genre Sports
Theme Tennis
Publisher Activision Value Publishing, Inc.
Developer Hitmaker
Perspectives Behind view, Bird's-eye view
5 / 5 - 1 vote

Description of Virtua Tennis

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One of the many, many gleaming gems in the Dreamcast's now tarnished crown, Virtua Tennis is unusual in that it has a special place both in the hearts of fans of sports sims and other, less sweat-obsessed gaming aficionados. Combining sublimely realistic simulated tennis with big-star names (although not certain stars thanks to the faces being far too important and expensive... cough-cough... Sampras!) and a great set of modes, Virtua Tennis was the pinnacle of tennis gaming. Although, let's face it, there's really not all that much competition - Mario Tennis on the N64 anyone?

Hastily superseded on the dying console by the sequel Sega Sports Tennis 2k2 (I ask you, what's wrong with Virtua Tennis 2?), it's now time for the PC geeks to get their turn as Virtua Tennis serves, volleys, and lobs its way onto our Geforce-enabled boxes. All the original visual goodness is entirely present and correct, although to be entirely fair, having seen the gloriously rendered figures present in the sequel, it's hard to admire the well-animated characters in quite the same way as we might have done in the year 2000. The courts haven't suffered from the conversion, and there's even slight improvements, with the availability of increased resolutions that comes as standard with a PC variation.

The strength of Virtua Tennis lies in its immensely simple control system, meshed with the huge range of control this gives you over your chosen tennis ace. It relies entirely on the player's ability to direct the player and his shots with directional keys, with a single button for normal hit, and a single button for lob. Unfortunately, being as this was an arcade and console title first, this is ideally suited to a small thumbstick or joystick for direction - arrow keys really don't cut the mustard when it comes to fine control. If you're up for a bit of PC tennis, we heartily recommend you use a PC analog joypad - it makes all the difference.

The best fun in Virtua Tennis can be had from the championship mode, where you can work your way through championships around the world along with various stages of practice courts. The training the practice challenges give you is well worth completing - they're a great way to discover the difference nuances of the controls, ranging from serving into bowling pins, knocking giant cubes off the court, to hitting targets and so on, all geared towards developing different sorts of shots. The matches vary in difficulty too, and with the prize money you earn, you can unlock different outfits for your players, new doubles partners, and tennis stars that will be available for use in the other single-player modes.

Complaints have been made about the short length of matches - the realism of the simulation only stretches as far as the gameplay dynamic, most matches last a paltry 3 games, although this does rise through the championship mode, and you can manually adjust it upwards in other modes. The maximum you can play is a single set, however, so pure tennis hardcore sim freaks will be disappointed. For anyone else, however, the set time seems fair, and matches the frantic pace of the action.

Sound seems to have been a small after-thought for the title, each player being accorded their own limited set of grunts, and crowd noise on a revolving turntable no matter what happens on court. Particularly the noise of feet on the surfaces could have used a little work - on the clay courts, it's particularly dire. It's nice that the umpires speak in the language and accent of the particular tournament's location, however the in-game music is grim to the n'th degree. Quite how 80s rock music fits with tennis is uncertain, and what's even more irritating is the fact that you end up enjoying its rocktastic guitar solos after half an hour of play. Now we can't bring ourselves to turn it off - deeply worrying.

There's another small addition for the PC version that should have you jumping for joy, and it's a LAN multiplayer mode. If only there had been enough cash floating around to implement an Internet mode, then you could be unfeasibly happy, however only those lucky enough to be connecting to a network can enjoy the multiplayer thrills for up to four players. You can also play multiplayer with two people on a single computer, however it's not something we recommend unless you have two joypads.

Oh, one small thing: if you're expecting the pert buttocks of the advertising, you'll also be sadly disappointed as the stars available only include males - it took the sequel to implement female tennis players. In fact, in terms of its already-released console extension, it's starting to look a little backward and certainly a bit limited.

Given the dearth of decent tennis titles on the PC, it's well worth forking out for this gem of a game, although bear in mind without the Internet multiplayer PC sports gamers have come to expect, nabbing a cheap Dreamcast could be a better alternative for some competitive action in front of the bigscreen TV. Whatever your platform preference, the gameplay is still absolutely spot-on, the graphics aren't yet dated enough to make a difference and you can rock-out to some lethal guitar while you're at it! What more could you ask? Well, Kournikova, I guess...

Review By GamesDomain

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