Well, after playing a considerable amount of Grand Slam Tennis 2, there is one thing that is very clear… EA Sports want you to excel right off the bat.
What strikes me as odd is that the gameplay is so damn good and so much fun that they really didn’t need to make it so easy on you in the beginning to keep you interested.
What becomes so frustrating is how the difficulty goes from laughably easy to soul crushingly difficult in a few seasons, and that’s exactly the opposite way that you’ve seen sports games handle difficulty in the past. Usually, the game will be hard in the beginning, so hard that you almost want to quit, but you’ll stick with it and improve your player and find the difficulty start to level off. In Grand Slam Tennis 2, they went the other way and it’s clearly to the game’s detriment that they did so.
When you look at the game itself, as far as the game engine is concerned, it’s a fun game of tennis… as long as you’re not using the Playstation Move motion controls.
One of the first things that I jumped into was the ‘Tennis School.’ In that game mode, you are instructed by John McEnroe and are taught how to hit certain types of shots and how to direct them with your racquet, but with the Move controls it’s an exercise in extreme frustration. I consider myself a pretty savvy gamer who is able to pick up complex controls in a relatively quick time frame, but the Move controls are just not intuitive in any way. I found myself getting more and more annoyed as I attempted to use them, and after an hour or so, I just gave them up and went to the analog stick controls, and I was glad that I did.
The analog controls, on the other hand, are an absolute dream. It’s very easy to pick up the control system and find yourself placing your shots exactly where you want them to be. That is one thing that EA Sports really nailed with this game, as they are probably the best controls for a tennis game in recent memory.
Moving on to the presentation of the game, the commentary is fresh for about 5 minutes. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard McEnroe say, “The pro’s and con’s of hitting a shot deep….” Seriously, by the time the first tournament is done, you’ve probably heard everything they have to say at least 2 times already. It’s very repetitive and rarely covers what is actually happening on the court just because of the fact that the length of some of their canned comments go on for 2 or 3 points.
Along with the commentary, the audio for the game seems to have a hard time keeping up with what is going on during the game. There have been more than a few quickly played points where the crowd never reacts with applause when a winning shot is played and it just feels weird when that happens.
Considering the fact that one of the ball boys at the Australian Open made one of the most memorable moments of this years tournament, I was hoping to see some sort of movement out of them, but the only thing you will ever see any of the ball boys/girls do is to move their heads… they will never move from their positions. In fact, the judges never actually move their feet either, but will occasionally shift from one side to another, and while those are not things that really detract from the actual gameplay, they are a constant reminder that you are playing a game that wasn’t focused on the “total realism” of any particular tournament.
One of the last items that I want to talk about from the gameplay revolves around the replay system. As soon as a point is over, you’re allowed to see a replay of the last few shots of the most recent point… but there is no actual built in Instant Replay system that will allow you to move the camera around and actually watch any great point that takes place. In this day and age of next-gen sports games, this is a pretty big feature to be missing. I just can’t imagine a game being made without that feature anymore and when you see it is missing, it is quite disappointing.
Going back to one of my original points, part of what makes the game so frustrating is that you’ll see your player, who is rated in the 40’s beating players (both legends and current) who are ranked in the mid 70’s or higher in straight sets. Hell, not even straight sets…. I’ve beaten some of the best players in the world with my created player without letting them score a single point… and that just stinks. Add that to the fact that winning tournaments and championships don’t give you any of the ability points (that you can use to improve your player) as a bonus for winning any events and you can see how the gameplay balance will get so far out of whack over time.
The only places that the single player gameplay really balances out are in ESPN Grand Slam Classic events that you can choose to replay beginning with some of the classic matches of the 2000’s, 1990’s and 1980’s. But the thing that I found in those, along with the career mode was the fact that net play will rule the day. If you can get to the net and get a decent angle, it’s really hard to lose, especially when you have a player with a terrific amount of speed and hitting power. Also, there are a finite number of those events, so you can only really dive into them for a certain amount of time.
Overall, I found that Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a game with absolutely terrific controls, but made some bad decisions with the career mode that really takes away any long term fun you can have with the game when playing via single player, and that’s too bad… because the game does show potential, but it loses it’s long term playability far too quickly.