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Tuesday | October 16, 2018
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Top Spin 3 (PS3 & X360)

Top Spin 3 (PS3 & X360)

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The Top Spin series has been incredibly popular since its inception and with the latest release on the next generation consoles the success is sure to continue. 2K games with developer PAM have rather surprisingly totally overhauled the gameplay mechanic and while it is for the better, does it actually work?

While the introduction sounds dramatic just for the hell of a good lead-in, this is not the case, I have tested every tennis game released in the last two years and Top Spin 3 was virtually unplayable for me in the first hour. If you are a person who loves to be rewarded for long term practice then this might very well be right up your street because the short term rewards are hair loss and much swearing at the screen.

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The gameplay this time around is entirely focused around timing, positioning and skill. The better you are positioned and the more accurately you time your shot the more power and angle you can put on the ball. Equally so if you are off position or miss time the shot you will more than likely hit the ball out or into the net. The whole mechanic revolves around a hold and release system, you hold the button down and move into the correct position as the ball comes towards you, then you release just as the ball hits the ground and rises, this will ensure a perfect stroke. The longer you hold the button down before the impact the more power you place on the stroke. As unusual as this sounds, once you master the technique, the rewards are immense.

Unfortunately there is a downside to this – initially you will tearing your hair out with frustration as the player either misses the ball if you are out of position or he hits it into the net if you strike a weak shot. All in all however the rewards for perseverance and ability pay off in the end and you really do feel like you are a part of the match rather than a spectator blindly mashing buttons.

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This advanced system continues throughout the game, right into the serving algorithms. To time the serve you need to release the button as the ball reaches the top of its path, additionally you can even use the right stick for the serving, pull it back to toss the ball, then quickly push forward to serve. Slicing a serve is also an option, by rotating clockwise upwards on the upstroke. Top spin is achieved by a counter-clockwise movement. Directing a ball during a serve has also changed from merely holding the stick during the serve to now moving when being in the motion of hitting the ball. The longer the direction is held the further the ball goes. To be honest it is a little tricky and will take considerable time to master, I can already forsee that a percentage of the audience will already hate the game for the rather in-depth and unique control system.

So far we have learned that the basic game requires a lot of skill to master however we have yet to discuss the risk, power and shot system. This is not a new aspect of the game. however this time around it has been tweaked. The basic principle is that you use the face buttons for most of the gameplay, but when you wish to add extra power you hold the R trigger. L trigger lets the ball land nearer to the line with one of the face buttons. This is a fine idea in theory and I applaud it, however in practice the timing is so finite that many people will just omit them, even those who like taking risks. Certainly when they are pulled off correctly they look wonderful, but they are so hard to achieve that very often most people will just stay away.

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To be fair to the mechanics, even shots that seem impossible initially become achievable with some time and a lot of practice, especially if you manage to be successful in career mode and your stats increase. Frequently I wanted to hit a winning power shot down the line when the opponent was caught off guard but quite often it ended up out of bounds.  While I appreciate the need for these to be realistic, I still feel the difficulty level of these risk shots needs to be slightly lower. Obviously some of you guys reading this are masters with the system already and my lameness is apparent.

I mentioned briefly the career mode and this is a fantastic section of the game, particularly as the player stats increase over time with experience. Early in the game the timing of specific shots proves to be much harder, the player will move slower and have less strength with the shots, even playing against a higher rated player will result in a plethora of unforced errors. As you play you will notice the improvements to your character and this is the icing on an already rather detailed career mode.

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The computer AI is another game strong point, I was unable to find a specific move to simply defeat every player, you really do have to fight for every ball and every point to win games. Certain characters will play to their strengths, such as net or baseline, forehand, backhand, you name it. It really is as varied a tennis game as you will ever play.

Graphically the game is superb, the animations are first class and the movement is exceptional with no frame rate glitches on either Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. So much so that in fact I felt I was observing a television broadcast from time to time. Watching the replays just shows the development time taken to create the most accurate and stunningly realistic tennis game ever seen on a console system. Subjectively I rate the Playstation 3 version slightly higher, because not only do the graphics look slightly sharper but the Xbox 360 version is missing the World Number 2 seed, Raphael Nadal ! Although the reason is not yet official, the word behind closed doors is that Nadal’s management team struck a deal with Sony to only appear on their console. As he is my favourite player this is a huge omission for the Microsoft’s version.

As if the Xbox 360 missing Nadal isn’t bad enough when we get to online play we find out that the World Tour Mode is missing from the PS3 version! Apparently this was an oversight and will be patched shortly online. The rest of online play is run of the mill entertaining stuff but nothing groundbreaking or new.

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I am a huge tennis fan and have been looking for a game like this for a long time, a game which doesn’t simply rely on mashing the X button or finding a single weakness for every computer player. The learning curve is tough, however it rewards the patient and giving people who spend time mastering the controls. This in itself is a huge step up from the usual run of the mill Tennis drivel  we are subjected to every year. The only negative aspect I could name would be the extremely difficult risk/power shots which will only work for the most delicate of fingers. Whether this game will appeal to you will be easy to ascertain – do you like to pick up a tennis game to play a quick match or do you want something massively rewarding which will grow with you as your skillset increases?

I side firmly with the latter and I can recommend this game totally if you are a tennis fanatic like myself. This is my favourite sportsgame in a long time. Just remember if you are lucky enough to own both consoles, then make sure you purchase the Playstation 3 version, it looks slightly better and has Nadal, the world Number 2 seed.

Massively rewarding if you stick with it. Addictive.
As good as I have seen in a tennis game, Playstation 3 version looks slightly sharper and the player animations and model detail are superlative.
Nothing memorable but perfectly acceptable.
If you like indepth sports games and like to be awarded with practice, look no further.
(Not an Average)
“For a tennis game!?” I hear you cry. Yes, but this isn’t just another tennis game, it has a ground breaking control system.

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About Author

Stuart Davidson

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