Usually you have to wait for the holidays to see deals like this, but today only Amazon has a new PS3 in its Gold Box for $259.99. In addition, starting at 2:00 PM Eastern Time (11:00 AM Pacific), it appears that they’ll have the Move on sale as well.
Of all the sports that make sense for motion controls, tennis perhaps makes the most sense. After all, the way you grip a Wii remote or a PS3 Move controller is a lot like the way you grip a tennis racquet. And newer motion controls can detect everything from the angle you’re holding the controller to the amount of force you use to the intricate movements your wrists make during play.
I’ve been waiting for a tennis game that has the same “coolness” factor as Sports Champions Ping Pong, where you rotate your wrists and literally see your on-screen racquet rotate as well. Unfortunately, Grand Slam Tennis 2 isn’t quite there. But it’s a wholly enjoyable game that makes pretty good use of the Move controllers. I won’t say you’ll necessarily get a spectacular workout from it, but you’ll certainly burn more calories than you would sitting on the couch munching on potato chips.
The opening menu has quite a number of options. One thing I found right away was that navigating using the Move controller was extremely clunky. And don’t get me started on screens that require keyboard input. I strongly recommend using the Dualshock controller for navigating menus.
Here are the options:
Play Now: your options are Singles and Doubles
Game Modes: the options are Career, ESPN Grand Slam Classics, and Tournament
Training: the options are Tennis School and Practice Court
Online: options here are Online Play Now, Grand Slam Corner, Online Tournament, Leaderboards, and My Tennis Online
Creation Zone: options here are Create Player and Share a Pro
My Tennis: options include Settings, Save/Load/Delete, Profile Management, and EA Sports Extras
Play Now / Controller Selection
With Play Now you can just right into a singles or doubles match. If you plan on having two players, be sure at least two controllers (either Move or Dualshock) are turned on.
When you select Singles, you’ll be sent to a scrollable list of current tennis stars, from current players like Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams to old-time players like John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, and Chris Evert.
You assign a controller by dragging it to the player you want. You have a lot of options regarding which controllers to use. If you want to have the system do the running and volleying for you, all you have to do is drag just the Move controller alone to the player you want. I’d definitely recommend this when you’re just beginning.
If you want to control the running via the Dualshock or the Move Navigation controller, just drag the Move controller and one of those controllers to the player. One slightly odd thing is that once you drag a Move controller and a Navigation controller to the same player, the two are linked together from that point on, and the only way to “unlink” them is to shut one of the controllers off.
Gameplay with the Move Controls
I’ve got good things and bad things to say about the gameplay itself on the Move. On the good side, there are a a staggering number of different shots you can make based just on how you swing the controller and press the buttons. Most of them feel pretty close to the real thing. For example, the most basic shot, the flat shot, is done by starting and finishing the swing at the same height, swinging horizontally to the ground. You can theoretically aim your shots the way you time your shots, position your racquet, and twist your wrist as you make shots. You slice by moving the Move controller from high to low) and you do topspin by (which happens when you move the Move controller from low to high
There’s an excellent part of the game called “Tennis School” that has written instructions on how to make each shot, and runs you through drills to test how well you understand them.
The problem is, as you progress through the game the motion controls are way, way too finicky. It took me about two dozen tries to get out of the most basic “flat shot” class in “tennis school” because it kept interpreting my “flat shot” as either a slice or a topspin. This is presumably because I didn’t move my controller in an absolutely perfect 180 degree line. Worse, when I tried to aim shots, it really felt like it was hit or miss. I felt that most of my time during these tutorials was spent trying to learn how to compensate for the idiosyncrasies of the controls, rather than learning intuitive controls.
Ironically, as pickily precise as EA Sports made some of the Move controls, you really don’t feel like you have full control of your player throughout the game. Despite the game’s claims to the contrary, whether I swing with full force or tap the controller, the system seems to arbitrarily decide how strong my shot is. When my opponent approaches the net and I hit a lob, more often than not no matter where I try to aim it, it’ll end up in a place where she can smash it. And when I approach the net myself, if I try to tap the ball in front of the net, invariably the system will decide that I want to stroke the ball–usually ending up right in front of my opponent.
In many ways, Virtua Tennis 4‘s implementation of Move controls felt much, much more natural than Grand Slam Tennis 2′s . But sadly, use of the Move in Virtual Tennis is limited to a “demo” mode.
After changing the genre with Grand Slam Tennis for the Wii, I would have hoped EA Sports would have made Move controls which are truly intuitive, so much so that you don’t really need a “tutorial” (if you say it can’t be done, just look at Sports Champions table tennis again). But they seem to have fallen short.
As for the tennis simulation itself, that’s another story. I was absolutely blown away by the realism of the game. That EA has obtained licensing for all the top stars in tennis, as well as all the top venues, was a coup. This especially goes for Wimbledon, which is notoriously picky about licensing.
EA Sports did a decent job in capturing the individual players’ mannerisms, although one complaint is that no matter who the player is, they seem to like to serve and volley (and again, the fact that lobs don’t work the way they should makes this doubly aggravating). But if you can get past this, the sights and sounds of the venues are outstanding, from the red clay of Roland Garros to the green grass of Wimbledon to the hard courts of Queens and Australia.
One of the funnest ways to enjoy this game is to play with a friend. Here’s a match that Lisa and I played:
Notice that one rally went on for five minutes. This is because difficulty was set to “Beginner”, which essentially turned the game into a glorified game of Wii Sports Tennis, where all you had to do was hit the ball with the right timing. Switching the difficulty to Pro made the game a little shorter.
Career mode is an interesting simulation over 10 years where you start as the 100th ranked player in the world and work your way to #1 and trying to win a Grand Slam. Each “year” you’ll play two lead up event prior to each of the four Grand Slam Tournaments. During this time you’ll gain points for achieving various career objectives (for example, defeating Nadal at the French Open will get you 500 points, winning 5 Wimbledon titles will get you 500 points, and so on). You’ll also have objectives for each year (such as achieving 25 aces, winning a match at Australia Court 15, etc.)
For each tournament, you can choose short (1 set of 3 games), medium (3 sets of 3 games), or long (5 sets of 6 games). The tournaments start out easy and get progressively harder. Here’s my character competing in one of the easier tournaments in the purple courts of Dubai:
ESPN Grand Slam Classics
My absolute favorite feature in the game is ESPN Grand Slam Classics. This is a series of reenactments of the greatest tennis matches in history, and an intriguing series of scenarios called “fantasy”. In each of the matches, you start play in the pivotal set, and can play as either of the players.
You start with the 2000s, and unlock events as you work towards the all-time great and fantasy matches.
January 2003 Australian Open Final between Serena Williams and Venus Williams.
July 2004 Wimbledon Final between Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams
June 2007 French Open Final between Justine Henin and Ana Ivanovic
January 2008 Australian Open Final between Jo-Wilfred Tsonga and Novak Djovokic
September 2008 US Open Semi Final between Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal
July 1990 Wimbledon Final between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg
September 1990 US Open Semi Final between John McEnroe and Pete Sampras
July 1991 Wimbledon Final between Michael Stich and Boris Becker
September 1992 US Open Final between Stefan Edberg and Pete Sampras
July 1995 Wimbledon Final between Pete Sampras and Boris Becker
September 1980 US Open Final between John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg
June 1985 French Open Final between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova
January 1987 Australian Open between Pat Cash and Stefan Edberg
July 1989 Wimbledon Semi Final between Stefan Edberg and John McEnroe
July 1989 Wimbledon Final between Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg
July 1980 Wimbledon Final between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe
September 1984 US Open Final between Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert
July 2001 Wimbledon 4th Round Match between Roger Federer and Pete Sampras
July 2005 Wimbledon Final between Lindsay Davenport and Venus Williams
July 2008 Wimbledon Final between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer
Australian Open match between Chris Evert and Serena Williams
French Open match between Rafael Nadal and Bjorn Borg
Wimbledon match between Andy Roddick and Boris Becker
Wimbledon match between Venus Williams and Martina Navratilova
US Open match between John McEnroe and Roger Federer
Here’s me playing as Andy Murray against Rafael Nadal:
Online Account Setup
One sour part of the game was setting up online play. I had an existing EA Sports online account that I’d set up with the Wii. But when you start out the game, it forces you to sign into your PSN account. And there’s no way to link your PSN account and an old EA Sports account.
Making matters much worse, the language they use throughout the game is aggravatingly confusing. When I go Online > My Tennis Online > Online Settings > EA Account Management, it lists my “EA Account Email Address” as my PSN account address. Worse, when I try changing my email address to my existing EA Sports account, I get the message “Unable to update your account info at this time. Please try again later.” Problem is, I tried again for days but always got the same message. It’s at this point that I realized that this error message was deliberately misleading–they simply don’t allow you to update the address, no matter which one you enter.
Once it’s set up, you can play against other players around the world.
Overall, I’d rate this game 4 out of 5 stars. I was disappointed that after all these months, the Move controls on this game (or in fact, any game) still haven’t come close to the original promise shown with Sports Champions. On the other hand, the simulation and the nods to tennis history make this one of the best tennis games for any system. I’d say it’s worth buying if you’re a tennis fan; if not, it’s yet another one to wait to arrive on the discount rack.
With the introduction of 3D gaming and the Sony Move Wii-like motion controllers, 2010 looks to be the year that the Sony Playstation 3 takes video games to the next level. Stay tuned to this blog for the latest news and game reviews of the Sony Move and new games as they come out!