Now that the so-called "next generation" of gaming has arrived on our shores with the Xbox 360, gamers are settling down into what looks to be a fairly promising future for the console. The hardware is certainly impressive, as are a few of the games, but it only takes one title to knock you back down to earth and highlight just how little games have really progressed. The future may look bright for Microsoft's new console, but if we have to put up with games like Top Spin 2 in the meantime, you might want to consider packing your new 360 away for a couple of months.
Top Spin 2 isn't a terrible game by any means. However, it's so painfully average that you come away from it feeling let down. It may be a next generation title, but it feels devoid of any real thrill or excitement - factors that competitors such as Virtua Tennis deliver in abundance. 2K Sports, despite their best efforts, have failed to make the game anywhere near as accessible as SEGA's acclaimed series. The Career mode, in which you create your own custom player and lead him through various tournaments to make him the world tennis champion, is particularly difficult to truly sink your teeth into. A combination of confusing menus and very slow progress make for a game that almost feels like it doesn't want you to play it. Although there is a wealth of customisation options when creating your player, which does hold your interest for a short while, the training matches are tedious, and building up your player's skills feels more like an exercise in your patience than a form of entertainment.
This is coupled with graphics that don't look half as good as they should do, given the Xbox 360's capabilities. As your tennis match begins and your players begin to walk onto the court, you begin to wonder if this isn't a half-arsed attempt by the developers to earn some extra cash off the back of the hype surrounding a new console. Although the game's tennis stars do resemble their real-life counterparts to some extent, there's barely enough detail in the environments or the players to warrant a "next-gen" label. With visuals this poor, you also question why the extensive loading times present in the game are truly neccessary. With a game that's hardly pushing the 360 to its limits, such intrusive interruptions in the flow of the game and its menus are unforgiveable.
|" ..Top Spin 2 may be a tennis game, but it simply doesn't have any balls.."
The graphics aren't the only major letdown though, as the game's presentation on the whole is extremely poor. Aside from the awkward menus and loading times, the music is uninspiring and fails to start the adrenaline pumping, like any sports game should. It's here that the 360's custom soundtracks feature really comes into its own, allowing you to add a little much needed spice to your matches.
When it comes down to the match itself, despite the realistic game physics that are Top Spin 2's only saving grace, the whole affair feels like your average, by-the-numbers tennis game that provides no real edge over its competitors on less powerful consoles. The only time the game kicks things up a few notches is in multiplayer, which pleasingly (unlike the game's predeccessor) has no lag when played online.
If you can fight your way through the awful presentation, ignore the disappointing visuals and force yourself to persevere through the Career mode, this game does have some value. However, it's more advisable that budding tennis champions wait for Rockstar's upcoming Table Tennis rather than force their way through this. Top Spin 2 may be a tennis game, but it simply doesn't have any balls.