Previews// Top Spin 4

Posted 20 Jan 2011 17:01 by
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Games: Top Spin 4
"You CANNOT be serious!" I thought my editor?s John McEnroe impression was his best yet. But he wasn?t engaging in the usual entertainment routine this time around. He was a bit annoyed, actually.

"How could you forget about the original Top Spin? That?s one of the best tennis games in the world.? To be fair, Top Spin was one of the only tennis games in the world, and I still had trouble remembering it - despite how finely tuned and well-executed the last one was.

It might have had something to do with its demanding simulation gameplay - a point that 2K Czech president Stephane Dupas has heard from his own fans.

?We were a bit frustrated when Top Spin 3 was released - we were absolutely convinced that it was a nice evolution for the franchise,? he told me. ?We introduced timing, we changed the game engine? so we really thought this was going in the right direction. Then the feedback we got was ?This is super-difficult!? But that?s not exactly how we felt.?

For anyone used to playing Virtua Tennis, the mechanics of Top Spin is understandably a steep learning curve. While the former has taken the arcade world by storm, 2K?s offering has always been focused on providing the best simulation possible - technique, balance and tactical play all work together to provide a definitive experience.

It is this experience that 2K Czech does not want to compromise in Top Spin 4, despite conceding that the game could do with being a little more user-friendly. Its two-part solution is to use the franchise as a means to teach players more about the rules and techniques of the sport, and to use graphical aids that aim to help newbies line up their shots.

Such graphical aids can be accessed at any time in the pause menu, and can assist players in three different kinds of gameplay. The ?Timing Display? will tell you how good you are at smacking back the balls being sent your way, detailed by a ranking of either ?Good?, ?Perfect?, ?Too Soon? or ?Too Late? above the character?s head.

It takes some getting used to - probably because in my case I was playing as Boris ?Chuck Norris? Becker and was simply stunned by his beauty - but for the best results you need to press and let go of your chosen shot button just before your character goes to hit the ball.

Timing is a more complicated story when you consider that each shot button has two levels of power that you can apply to it, which is where the ?Shot Helper? comes into play. This teaches you to know how to effectively perform a quick shot (by simply tapping the button) and a more powerful, less accurate return (holding the button down). This is all represented by a circular meter just next to your character telling you what kind of shot you?re making.

Finally, there?s the ?First Bounce Helper,? and you can guess what this one does. If you?re worried about over-powering your returns - or you keep getting baffled as to where your opponent?s ball is going to land on your side of the court - activating this displays a little target on the ground that signifies where the ball is going on first bounce. You can argue whether it was ?in? or ?out? afterwards too, making for interesting conversation.
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