When EA’s Grand Slam Tennis was released for Wii in 2009, my prayers were answered. Finally a fully featured, licenced, motion controlled tennis experience that bettered Wii Sports Tennis in every single way. Using Wii’s newly released MotionPlus accessory, GST was the best video game tennis experience available. Now after nearly three years of waiting, EA has finally released a sequel for PS3 and 360, Grand Slam Tennis 2.
I decided to review Grand Slam Tennis 2 based on the PS Move controls only. Because I was such a fan of the Wii original, I believed this was the only real way to play the game- after all, how could I go back to a regular controller set up after the depth of experience using Wii MotionPlus? I couldn’t. How could GST2 really feel like a true sequel if I couldn’t swing my arms about like a maniac trying to land that perfect drop shot? It couldn’t.
While I know it could seem unfair to simply compare the first game to the second, I realised while playing GST2 with PS Move that such comparisons are inevitable. It is essentially the same game, with a more robust career mode, better graphics and a few more options here and there.
I could go on about how the PS Move tech works compared to MotionPlus, but the fact is while playing the game, it doesn’t matter that the tech works in a different way- what matters is how it is applied to the gameplay. After spending a fair amount of time with the new game, no one can tell me that the PS Move works better than MotionPlus. It simply does not. I’ll explain:
The overall power of your stroke is not as accurate using Move. Hit it hard or soft, there seems to be little difference to the power of your shot. The key to landing the perfect shot in GST was visualising where the ball would go while taking your swing. I would give MotionPlus a 90 per cent accuracy rating for translating your movement to the shot your player made in the game. On the other hand, I would give PS Move about a 70 per cent accuracy rating, taking into account both power and court placement. I know there are some adjustments to be made by the player, because the control schemes- while similar- are different, and therefore require a different approach.
That said, holding the Wii remote as a tennis racquet in GST just feels more natural that holding the Move controller. But why? The Move Controller is rounder, surely it should feel more like a racquet than the more square Wii remote? Well it does, but the problem lies in the way GST2 forces you to hold the Move. If you want to move your player up and down the court with triangle or X, perform a lob shot by pressing T, or add power to your drop shot using the Move button- you need to have your grip further up the controller so your thumb can reach all the buttons. This simply is not the ideal way to hold the thing while trying to pull off an accurate shot.
At least with the Wii remote, both the d-pad and A and B were effortlessly accessible while you still had optimum grip and control over your shot. So what could EA have done with Move to counteract these shortcomings? The answer is nothing. At the end of the day, this was the best and most logical way the controls could have been mapped given the Move’s physical configuration.
But MotionPlus doesn’t trump Move in every way. Slices using motion only are more convincing on Move- you can press the “Move” button to add more power or emphasis- but the button isn’t relied upon like pressing B was in the Wii version. Throw your wrist up while swinging and the ball will also get more height using Move, similarly a smash during a rally feels more like your actual swing than when using MotionPlus.
That brings me to the serve. When serving, court placement with Move seems more accurate- but again the power of your serve is not. This really frustrated my friends and I- even when you follow GST2’s instructions from the loading screens- throw the ball up using a motion and smash the ball down at its apex for maximum power- the game just does not translate it accurately enough of the time. Is this because my sphere is out of the camera’s view? Maybe, but on Wii this was never a problem. And as a player- it’s not my problem. I play in a 5000 x 5000 room and I’m always in the periphery when the camera asks me to be. What else should I do?
Have you experienced inaccurate serves? How do you compensate? Let us know by leaving a comment!
Here’s my next issue. Vibration. On Wii the controller vibrates when you hit the ball, accompanied by a thwack sound from the Wii remote’s built in speaker. On the other hand, Move seems to be vibrating all the time. It’s vibrating when you hit the ball, and it’s vibrating when your opponent hits the ball high. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s annoying to say the least. Five minutes into his first play session a friend said to me “Why is it vibrating all the time? Turn it off?” in a tone that suggested it could simply be done in the options menu. And it should be. But it can’t. It’s a shame because it is distracting and confusing. Nit picky I know, but it’s still an issue.
Okay, two more things. The light show. That sphere on the end of the Move controller aides tracking of the device by the Playstation Eye, but in GST2 it is quite distracting. Each player’s sphere is assigned a colour- player one gets pink and player 2 gets aqua- but as you swing and land shots the light pulsates to white, flashes back to green or red, then back to pink or aqua. It’s annoying, and in a dark room it’s really bad. The reflections on my LED TV were terrible, and I can’t help but wish there was a way dim the lights in the sphere.
Lastly, I will say with Move there is no calibration issues. Occasionally MotionPlus became unstable or off centre. This was remedied with a quick press of the down arrow on the d-pad, or in other cases a press of the Home button and then putting the controllers down for a few seconds of recalibration. This never happens with Move- but occasionally the sphere goes out of the PS Eye’s view. Simply moving the sphere back into the eye’s view rectifies this. No interruption at all.
As you’d expect, the graphics on the whole in GST2 are greatly improved upon its Wii predecessor. Going this time for an ultra realistic approach, the player models and environments look fantastic- although I was expecting a bit more improvement in terms of player animations. Sure the models look great but there’s little in the way of those real life personality traits that differentiate one player from the other. No doubt there’s less frame rate drops (although they’re still evident) and the way the players simply “jumped” into position to make the shot has been more or less fixed.
Not only have the graphics improved, so too has the overall presentation. The replays look great, this time they’re optional and brought to you by ESPN- simply tap square if you want to see your winning shot again. Adding the ESPN swoosh between replays really adds to the television broadcast feel- but unfortunately there’s no camera options- and where the hell is Hawk-Eye??? They could have programmed the linesmen to get maybe 5 per cent of close calls wrong, and let the player challenge. Imagine the feeling of challenging a call and having it over ruled by Hawk-Eye! That would have been awesome and really added to the telecast feel. Still, there’s stats up on screen, a constant score super in the corner, and this time Pat Cash is joined in the commentary box by John McEnroe.
Which brings me to the sound. Sound effects like squeaking of shoes, ball bounces and such are all fine- although the sound of the thwack from the Wii remote as the racquet hits the ball is sorely missed. Crowd noises are also standard but serviceable- the crowd gasps as a tricky shot is pulled off and builds up to a roar the longer a rally goes on.
Where the sound is let down though is the commentary. Yes John McEnroe is a welcome addition, but he and Pat Cash seem to repeat the same thing over and over- and it gets old very, very quickly. I was expecting much more variety in the commentary, and would have appreciated shorter, sharper bursts relevant to the action- instead of minute-long rants about the pros and cons of hitting the ball deep.
Now, with all that out of the way, let me talk about the features on the GST2 disc. There’s a robust career mode that includes all four Grand Slam Tournaments, side tournaments and training exercises to develop your skills and improve your stats. There’s a fairly detailed create a character option for career mode that you could spend hours with, as well as a feature that allows you to download a picture of your face and slap it on your avatar (although why you can’t just take a pic of your face with the Playstation Eye and use it right there and then is a mystery). There’s also the option to buy and use new racquets, clothes and sunnies, shoes etc. using points accumulated in career mode, all using real world brands.
It’s fun- and it’s a true career mode, but it’s very easy. I won the Australian Open in my first tournament after creating my guy. I went through no training and looking at the match up of player stats I thought I was going to get slaughtered- but not so. I cruised to victory, beating Nadal, and I was on my way to the French Open. Which I won. Easily. It’s a shame, and although I’m not all the way through it really doesn’t seem to be getting any harder.
On top of this there’s the online component, you need to sign in through EA’s Online Pass Service- something I couldn’t try out due to an ongoing problem with my PSN account.
There’s also the My Tennis section, that allows you to customise a whole heap of options (including difficulty), trade players online, view an electronic game manual (there isn’t one in the box) and a few other bits and pieces.
Unfortunately there’s no 3D support- I really hope EA brings out a patch in the future like NAMCO did with Enslaved, so those of us lucky enough to have a 3D TV can look even more ridiculous- swinging our arms around holding a stick with a glowing ball on the end, all while wearing dorky 3D glasses. Make it happen, EA.
Incidentally, I did have a quick play around with Total Racquet Control- EA’s new control scheme that uses the right stick for both type and direction of shots, and it works well. It really does. But this is not the Grand Slam Tennis experience I know, and I simply wasn’t interested in playing that way.
If I had never played the original Grand Slam Tennis and loved it so much- I probably would have been pretty satisfied with the overall package of GST2. It features a robust career mode, quality graphics and pretty accurate motion controls. And as a tennis fan and gamer I probably would have been pretty happy playing GST2 using a standard controller thanks to Total Racquet Control. I would have happily paid my 60 or so dollars and enjoyed the heck out of it, and I’m sure Move owners who never played the original will find the controls accurate, satisfying, and most of all- a whole lot of fun. Buy it.
Pics come from EA’s official website.
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