previews\ Aug 7, 2003 at 8:00 pm

Top Spin - XB - Preview

 Tennis has long been known as the sport of kings, so it makes perfect sense that Microsoft is releasing Top Spin, Microsoft’s first tennis game, for the Xbox, the king of home consoles.  Tennis games have rarely enjoyed much success on home consoles, and few, aside from Nintendo’s Mario Tennis for the Nintendo 64 and Sega Sports Tennis for the PS2, have been worth playing.  From the early looks Gamezone got of Top Spin, Microsoft should buck this trend and keep the kings of the court content.


Top Spin is a tennis simulation, much like Sega Sports Tennis, but has a much deeper single-player mode and a smashing multi-player system thanks to its connection to XSN Sports.  In single-player mode, gamers can create a player and lead them to the number-one ranking through a career mode that brings them from local playgrounds all the way to center court at Wimbledon.  The multi-player mode has the typical different combinations of 4 players on one Xbox (Cooperative doubles, head-to-head singles, or 2 on 2 doubles), but the real treat comes online with the XSN Sports feature.  With XSN Sports, players can compete in tournaments against other Xbox Live users online with results and updated stats being automatically uploaded onto the XSN Sports Web site.  In addition to tournaments, standard friendly online matches and ladder rankings will be available to determine who is the best virtual tennis player in the world. 


The game features 16 real ATP players including Lleyton Hewitt, Pete Sampras, and model Anna Kournikova (Remember?  She used to play tennis…).  Several different courts emulating the familiar confines of grassy Wimbledon, clay-surfaced Roland Garros, and the hard courts of the Australian Open are in the game, as well as some fantasy courts for the smaller tournaments. 


The gameplay is built for players to immediately jump into, something all of Microsoft’s new sports games does very well.  Players can make it through the game simply by pressing the A button, which hits a standard shot, but will find much more success by incorporating lobs, top spin, and slice shots to keep opponents off balance.  Advanced players will want to use the R trigger to go for kill shots, but they’re not that easy to pull off with any sort of regularity.  Players who successfully execute a kill shot can go on streaks in Top Spin, getting them “in the zone” making kill shots easier and upping their performance.  Top Spin also has user-controlled ‘attitude’ features.  Don’t like the call the line judge made?  Pull a McEnroe and throw your racket will screaming indecencies about his mother.  Just smoke one down the line for a winner?  Let your opponent know about it by pumping your fists in the air and get the crowd on your side.


Top Spin looks better than any tennis game out there.  The courts, players, and animations are good enough to make passersby do a double take.  Outdoor courts are particularly splendid to look at with gorgeous skies, real-time shadows, and notable landmarks, such as the Sydney Opera House, in the background.  No complaints about the looks of the game here. 


Overall, Top Spin should rise to the top of the ladder among its tennis peers.  And with its XSN Sports affiliation, the competition will never cease. 


Top Spin hits store shelves this Fall, and is rated ‘E’ for Everyone.


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