Top Spin 3 Preview (Xbox 360)

2k Sports is hoping to change the popular opinion of tennis video games with the release of Top Spin 3 for the 360, PS3 and Wii. Up until this point, most tennis video games usually have became a tedious game of back-and-forth. Once you master the title, it becomes a boring task of setting up the AI by hitting a shot toward one line, forcing the opponent to hit weakly back to you, and then lining a hard shot to the other side of the court. 15-Love. Rinse, repeat. If, ever, you found yourself losing a point it was mostly because you tried experimenting with something else and miscalculating a swing.

Most of the new features in Top Spin 3 are directly related to changing the simplicity of the game of tennis and highlighting the difficulty in playing the game. Some may not like that the title is no-longer "pick-up-and-play" but serious tennis players will enjoy the changes.

Following are the 5 Most Exciting New Features in Top Spin 3

1. New Swing System

This is it. This is the system that may forever change tennis gaming. The new swing system does away with the system that has been present since Pong. In previous titles, gamers could simply hold onto one of the four face buttons, run to the ball, and wait for their player to swing at the ball. It was far too simple.

This year, swinging has been revamped to come close to the real feel of playing tennis. Gamers will now be forced to hold onto one of the face buttons to pull back their racket and then release the face button to swing forward. The longer the gamer holds onto the face button, the more powerful the swing. The catch, however, is that your player will not be able to run at full speed toward a ball while the face button is being held down, as the player will instead be setting up for a shot.

This small change will forever change how gamers play tennis video games. There is no longer a definite guarantee that you'll always line up perfectly for a shot down the line. Now, instead of just running briskly to the line while holding onto a face button to shoot, you'll have to run quickly, set yourself up, hold the face button, and then release once the ball is close enough to be hit. Try doing all that while also deciding if you want to slice or lob a shot back at your opponent.

Previewers have stated that the change will create a few unforced errors early on but after a few miscues you'll pick up on the change quickly and it becomes both comfortable and natural. The change also highlights 2K's push for more realistic shot selection. Timing comes into play now and will undoubtedly play a role in how easily you play the lines. Plus because of the need to make quick decisions you'll be planning two+ shots ahead rather than simply setting up your opponent for a shot down the line. At least, that's the hope.

2. Right Analog Serves

It was bound to happen and it's about time. Unfortunately, this new feature does not find it's way to regular swings. Swinging is still defined by the face buttons and it'll likely stay that way until a developer can find a way to allow the gamer to choose shot-type while using the RAS.

But, Right Analog Serving is an option and like other titles using the RAS for swinging, pitching, or throwing, you may end up finding that it's not only realistic but fun. The design is simple. Gamers will pull back on the stick to bring their racket back and then push forward to push their racket forward while the ball is lobbed in the air.

Trailers and sample videos show that Aces may actually be possible this year. Gamers can rejoice as Aces have never been possible in tennis video games. There is no telling how effective this will become with the use of the Right Analog Stick but we'll assume that you'll have more control over shot placement and power.

3.    Signature Style and Animations

If you watch tennis then you know that Blake's serve is not identical to Federer's, that Nadal's forehand is quite different from Roddick's, or that Sharapova's backhand appears to require more energy than running up and down the court. All of that will now be present in Top Spin 3 with new signature styles and animations. 

The feature is mostly cosmetic but we already know how signature style has helped other 2K titles such as NBA 2K8 and MLB 2K8 enhance the experience. Signature Style will individualize players by their swing, apparel and equipment. Along with the addition of player sweat, improved player models, and visual fatigue queues, the title will help bring tennis to life on your gaming console.

There are no specifics on whether signature style will be any deeper but I'm sure tennis enthusiasts will be asking for more animations in Top Spin 4.

4.    Real-time Weather Affects

Like in any other sport, weather plays a huge role on performance and results. Some players seem to have an uncanny ability to perform in the rain while others just struggle. Of course, in tennis, games are not played in rain so while this feature is a great one, don't expect to be playing in heavy thunderstorms, splashing water with every footstep as your race toward a shot off the net.

Rather, the feature will likely take temperature into consideration. The new fatigue system that will drain a player's ability to hit a shot solidly probably will be affected by humidity. Confirmed is real-time dynamic lighting and shadow effects which depend on sun position. So games can begin on a bright afternoon and end in the evening.

Gamers will also be pleased to see that players will perform differently on clay versus grass. Changes in the grass and clay will be visible as players take hard steps to their left and right. Balls will leave marks and indentations on the surface and players will noticeably be affected by a hard fought game as hair will become undone and sweat will build up on clothing.

5.    Tennis Legends

For the first time in tennis video gaming, you'll be able to take the court with tennis greats Boris Becker, Monica Seles, and Bjorn Borg. The list is short but 2K has hinted at the possibility of having downloadable players throughout the year. While that seems unlikely, considering the challenges in locking up individual player licenses, the opportunity to play as one of those three is thrilling.

The list of tennis legends that many wish could have have their likeness replicated on their console is large. I started listing a few names and then realized that there was no way I could name three players without naming the next three. History has given us great names that have never had face-time in sports video gaming. It would be great to some day have the chance to play with every name you grew up watching but the reality is unlikely.

For now, we have Becker, Seles, and Borg and even having just those three is no disappointment. Without doubt each is one of the three greatest players to ever play the game of tennis. At least, you'll have the chance to pit Seles against Sharapova in a virtual match-up of top female competitors or find out who'd win in a clay match-up between Nadal and Borg.

Check back with Operation Sports as the release for Top Spin 3 tennis nears in late June!

Top Spin 3 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 Scott @ 05/21/08 08:59 PM
So excited for this game
# 2 catcatch22 @ 05/22/08 11:33 AM
Yeah I may actually cop this one
# 3 Valdarez @ 05/29/08 01:14 PM
I hate the use of the right analog stick for primary functions in sports games (fight night, kicking / football). It's not 'unfortunate' that it didn't find it's way into this title. If it did, odds are it would be a rental at best. I'm looking forward to see how the new hit system works though. And the Wii version. If they can interpret top spin / slice. Wow. I can't wait!
# 4 CMH @ 06/13/08 03:23 PM
RAS could make swinging more dynamic but it'd be difficult to pull off with the different shot types.

Even if it did make the cut, I'm sure you'd still have the option to return serves with the face buttons.

Though, you can serve with the RAS, you have the option to use the face buttons.

Options, options, options. Most important features for any game.

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