Tennis is a sport full of excitement, drama, and nuance. Capturing all of that in a tennis video game is difficult, as evidenced by the lack of great tennis games that are remembered from the past 10 years. It has now officially been over a decade since the release of Top Spin 4, a title that claimed best sports game of the year back in 2011 for many. Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is the next contender to try and enter the stadium, so let’s jump into the review.
Matchpoint: Tennis Championships Review
While developers have tried to replicate the work of 2K Czech, all have seemed to fail in one area or another. Enter Kalypso Media and Torus Games hoping to do what others have not: create a tennis game that feels and looks authentic while being fun and accessible.
What I Like
Creating a tennis game and capturing all the action that takes place is extremely difficult, but Torus Games does an admirable job in this department. I could feel the weight and movement of each player as I traversed the court in multiple ways, contorting my body in unnatural ways in hopes of completing my shot.
I rarely ever felt cheated by the lack of animations in the game, as the developer made a strong effort in terms of the on-court action and visual authenticity. The simple button-shot interface that is incorporated into MPTC is fundamental. Still, it works well and offered me a chance to modify different types of shots throughout my time on the court using the shoulder buttons.
The shot system works so well that I could utilize it quickly and without much thought while deciding on my next shot attempt.
The animation catalog is deep in MPTC and played well consistently throughout my time with the game. Reaching deep corner shots occasionally and realistically is a telling factor for tennis games and their movement system, and Torus did a fine job in that department. Not once did I fail to get into position for a shot that visually I felt I should have, and the ball’s reaction off the racket felt authentic both in terms of physics and response.
There were some minor gameplay issues that I encountered, mainly in terms of AI manipulation and AI warping. The warping and disjointed movement from the AI or my character happened little enough for it not to warrant complaints and frustration, but it did happen. In the end, Torus has created a solid foundation on the court both in terms of gameplay and tennis physics that makes me excited for what a second iteration could deliver.
Let me cut to the chase here with career mode. It’s not flashy, it becomes repetitive, and there isn’t a lot of depth in terms of off-court interaction. The career mode in MPTC is about as basic as possible, and while it’s understandable to a degree, more depth and presentation must be added for any future titles. That said, career mode still offers a lot of fun, and that’s precisely what I experienced.
In any given week, you can enter a tournament, play an exhibition, or complete training modules. All of the above-listed actions deliver set amounts of experience points that can be used to improve your player, unlock gear and new coaches, and have access to new equipment. Acquiring the new gear and equipment often improves your player’s abilities, and completing the before-mentioned training modules does the same thing.
However, be forewarned that the quest to improve your player is arduous, and the climb into the elites of the tennis rankings takes time with no quick path. Career mode in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships offers just enough out of the gate to be compelling and fun, but again, there needs to be a better presentation package and off-court activities in future titles to keep career mode on the list of things I like.
The online options for MPTC are about as basic as they come as well, but being basic doesn’t mean it is terrible. I had the option to play random opponents or invite a friend, and thankfully, Torus has made the game cross-platform so opponents from either console can play together.
Online also allows you to choose between how many sets you want to play and at what venues or surfaces you want to play on. In the future, I hope to see full tournaments and even online co-op careers as part of the offerings. For now, though, the online experience with MPTC is as smooth as offline and offers the same amount of fun against real opponents.
What I Don’t Like
For all the good MPTC has going for it on the court, its lack of presence and presentation for the sport of tennis hurts the first-year effort. Tennis is a sport full of passion, tradition, and pageantry, and none of that can be found in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships. It lacks basic player walk-outs, consistent player emotion, strong crowd reactions, and the commentary in the game is about as basic and repetitive as it can be.
The venues are well done, and the crowds look solid, but sadly it is a repetitive experience that feels all too familiar after just a few games.
There is no differential in the presentation package for exhibitions and full tournaments. Other than a change of venue, both in looks and scope, it all feels like one extensive exhibition. Again, it’s a first-year effort from a developer on a budget. Hence, the gameplay foundation is the focus, but let’s hope the presentation gets some much-needed love in future iterations.
As lackluster as the presentation aspect of MPTC is, the creation suite is no better. The game gives you an elementary set of options to create your player and the gear you appear in. The options being limited at the start is understandable, as many of the visual attire is locked away behind specific achievements. That doesn’t excuse the inability to manipulate the body or hairstyles, and the ones included are limited at best.
Aside from the player creation issues, MPTC also has no ability to create current and former players who are not licensed in the game, nor does it have the ability to create a venue. On top of what’s listed above, the game has no creation suite that allows you to create logos for venues or clothing, which is an easy way around licensing. Improvements or additions to the creative aspect of MPTC could and would dramatically add to the authenticity of the title and the overall depth, which is lacking.
Star Power And Real Venues
I get it, I genuinely do. Licensing some of the most prominent tennis players from the past and present is expensive, even for a AAA development company. While I can have empathy for the reason(s) why there are so few tennis stars and authentic venues in the games, it doesn’t mean I have to like it or gloss over the issue.
I mentioned circumventing the licensing issue by implementing a solid creation suite, which MPTC does not employ.
So, know that if you’re hoping to find Medvedev, Djokovic, Nadal, Williams, Halep, or Muguruza in the game, forget it. Look elsewhere if you are hoping to play in an authentic grand slam venue. I understand and have empathy, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling somewhat cheated.
The developers have done a fine job creating a basic tennis game and a foundation to build upon. That is a solid start, and it’s better than other attempts at tennis as of late, but that doesn’t mean that the lack of depth in the title as a whole can’t be mentioned because it is accurate and could be an issue for some.
The gameplay is fun and often engaging on the court, but that is where it ends in terms of what MPTC has to offer at this stage. The lack of overall depth isn’t what I would consider a game killer, especially for a first attempt, but it is there and needs to be mentioned.
As I’ve mentioned before, Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is a first attempt at the sport of tennis. While I wasn’t expecting miracles, I was hoping for more depth in many areas of the game. That said, there is some fun to be had once on the court, and online against friends and random opponents has proven to be both enjoyable and an extremely smooth experience.
The ultimate issue with MPTC is that it becomes repetitive with very little to do once career mode and online become stale. Hopefully, the developers get a second shot and can add created and shareable stadiums, logos, and players that can be used online and offline in career mode. If you’re itching for a console tennis game that plays well, give Matchpoint: Tennis Championships a go, but understand it’s a first-year effort, and there are some mechanical issues and a lack of depth.