Virtua Tennis 4 review

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Virtua Tennis 4 review

Look both ways before crossing the street, right? Virtua Tennis 4 chooses to simply walk down the middle of the road instead of choosing one side over the other — and that can be dangerous. The latest iteration offers a slew of real-world players, a deep career mode, and accurate controls. Yet it also delivers slow-motion power shots, a Kinect mode, and the series’ trademark insane mini-games. In other words, this game has a lot under its hood. But, perhaps as a result, the end product isn’t the best sim it can be, nor is it a smashingly over-the-top arcade offering like the last game was.

In the nutty mini-games, we laughed at hitting a ticking time bomb across the net at our opponent, but grinned ear-to-ear and thought “WTF?” when we were leading hatched chicks around the court, dodging bird-splattering balls, and guiding the chicks to their mother hen to score points. What does this have to do with tennis? Who cares! You also get two mini-games for a Kinect-powered mode where your arm is the racket, but more notable is the new ability to unleash a slo-mo super shot by pressing B after you’ve built up your in-match meter by playing in certain styles. Happily, it can be countered. Also, you wouldn’t catch a true tennis sim pumping out arcade-y MIDI music throughout a match, but that’s exactly what happens here. We turned it off after two games.

On the other side of the coin, the players look better than ever, the gameplay has a slightly sim-mier feel to it (though nowhere near as much as Top Spin’s does), and the career mode offers the deepest gameplay the series has seen yet. We love the board-game approach: follow a path around the world from event to event, drawing cards to see how many spaces ahead you’ll advance. Avoid the bad spots that take away money, and play your cards right to land on stamina-refilling hotels, stat-boosting training spaces, or cash-earning publicity events. It’s a much more engaging way to build your custom pro than Top Spin 4’s dull menu-tastic interface.

Ultimately, Virtua Tennis 4 tries to please everyone by walking a fine line between sim and arcade, but regrettably, it never commits to either camp. It could’ve been a great simulation if it wanted to be, and we already know it’s capable of greatness on the arcade-y side. We’re left hoping we’ll get a commitment one way or the other for Virtua Tennis 5.

On Xbox 360

+ Pick-up-and-play tennis and goofy mini-games.

+ Unique, enjoyable board-game approach to career mode.

- Can’t decide if it wants to be a sim or an arcade game; goofy Japanese-English translations.

? Who thinks up these crazy mini-games? We love it!

7.5

 
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