Top Spin offers up same old serve

Video Game Review

Destination Mind Games

February 07, 2006|By MATT FRAGER | MATT FRAGER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The Australian Open finished about a week ago. But you're still hyped up for tennis. So, you could suit up, find a friend, a court and play a couple of sets. Or you could just play a tennis video game in the comfort of your home.

If you decide to do the latter, do yourself a favor and make sure the tennis game you pick up isn't Top Spin for Sony's PlayStation 2. This game suffers from so many problems that it's as frustrating as double-faulting on match point.

When you boot up Top Spin, the game seems promising enough. It treats you to some real tennis video footage mixed with game play highlights, set to the Vines' "Get Free." Soon enough, though, you'll want to be free of this game - or at least of the interminable loading boxes.

Top Spin offers a few different game play modes - exhibition (quick play), tournament, career, online play and tennis school. Exhibition allows you to play as several tennis stars you've come to know and love (including Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova). Tournament mode enables you to set up, you guessed it, tournaments. Online play connects you with all of the other people who are stuck with Top Spin for their PS2s. Tennis school is supposed to be a tutorial, but it fails to let you interact with the "lessons," so you end up learning relatively nothing. As for career mode, that has its own set of issues.

So what is the problem? Simply put, it's the tennis. Top Spin lets you pick from a variety of shots, but they all end up feeling the same. Flat shots, topspin, slice, lob - they all seem to behave similarly.

During play, the game offers almost no background sounds, such as fans cheering - they discreetly clap after points - or music. (However, Top Spin at least includes the familiar grunting from Sharapova.) Top Spin gets very boring when the only things you hear are the sound of the ball hitting the racket and of your teeth grinding in annoyance at this game. And on top of that, the game's graphics are not what you would expect from such a late generation title.

If it weren't so boring to play matches, the career mode might have been enjoyable. It allows you to make a tennis player and travel around the world while improving your game and becoming more and more famous. But here, the load times are perhaps the most frustrating. Each little change you make while customizing your player - down to his choice in sneakers - seems to take forever.

And Top Spin isn't a game you want to spend much time with.

Overall score: D

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