It can be hell being an early adopter ? you have to pay vast amounts of money for your new console and then, when you get it, there are precious few games of any merit to play on it. That, famously, is especially true of the PlayStation 3 ? with the added frustration caused by we Brits receiving the PS3 four months after the Americans and Japanese.
There is some consolation; at least we will get some PS3 launch games that neither the Americans nor the Japanese did. Virtua Tennis 3
, the latest incarnation of Sega?s iconic tennis game, is a case in point. And it is up there with MotorStorm
and Resistance: Fall of Man
in terms of mixing it with the very best of the first generation of PS3 titles.
If you were being cynical, you would point out that Virtua Tennis 3
is also coming out on the Xbox 360 and PC and, furthermore, that you can play the Xbox 360 version online, whereas you can?t play the PS3 version via the nascent PlayStation Network. True, but VT3
is so infectiously playable and well structured, and takes such good advantage of the number-crunching possibilities afforded by next-gen consoles that, online or not, it?s a must-buy for PS3 early adopters.
The venerable Virtua Tennis
franchise has always been lauded as head and shoulders above its competitors, and Virtua Tennis 3
preserves its most basic virtue: the ability to let even the most uncoordinated gamer play stunningly impressive tennis, from the moment that the game is booted up.
Its control system ? reassuringly familiar to devotees of previous versions of the game ? remains its biggest asset. It?s all about getting your player into the correct position on court, as early as possible, allowing them to hold down whatever button they choose ([X] and [O] provide top-spin shots, triangle lobs and square slice).
The longer you hold down your shot button, the more powerful your shot will be. While the button is depressed, you can guide the direction of the shot. If you don?t quite make it to the best returning spot, your player will dive, at which point it?s best to play a slice as that will give you slightly longer to recover. Serving involves pressing [X] to initiate a shot-meter, setting the direction while the ball is in the air, and then hitting [X] again to determine the power.
For a sports game, Virtua Tennis 3?s
Career mode is incredibly well structured and offers a satisfying experience. After fiddling around with a rather disappointing player generation program, you?re taken to your house, perched on a representation of the globe. From here, your best initial move is to sample the training exercises, which are somewhat reminiscent of the mini-games in that other much-loved Sega franchise, Super Monkey Ball
These involve things like knocking down ninepins with well-directed serves, volleying balls into the middle of targets, playing bingo with numbers that move across the screen above the net; and keeping encroaching Space Invaders away from the net by knocking them down with volleys and smashes. Work your way through the mini-games and your player?s attributes improve. There?s also a Tennis Academy for more normal training, which sets you some seriously tricky tasks.