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Xbox Review - 'Tennis Masters Series 2003'

by Jordan Van Nest on Aug. 29, 2003 @ 12:46 a.m. PDT

Take on the world's best players as you participate in the ATP's most prestigious tournaments: the Tennis Masters Series. Tour the globe and play on the 9 faithfully reproduced Masters Series tournaments. Travel to the hard courts of Indian Wells, Miami, Toronto and Cincinnati. Visit the luxurious clay courts of Monte Carlo, Rome and Hamburg. Compete on the indoor courts of Madrid and Paris. Try to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai and become the world's best player!

Genre: Sports
Developer: Microids
Publisher: HIP Interactive
Release Date: August 6, 2003


Silence. The crowd becomes motionless. You keep your focus straight ahead as you feel the pressure of hundreds of eyes watching you. You feel a slight breeze slowly glide past you as a drop of sweat rolls off your forehead. Time seems to stand still. You try to quiet the thoughts that are racing through your mind, but you just can’t. The pressure is like a ton block resting on your shoulders. Your legs feel weak, and your arms begin to shake, as your racquet sinks lower to the ground. Everything is still. Everything is silent. And then it hits you. This is what it is all about. Welcome to the battleground of champions.

Tennis Masters Series 2003 is a very unique game. The development team at Microids had one main goal for this project- a goal which many sports games try to achieve. In this case, the goal was to create the most realistic tennis game ever to be made. Well, have they succeeded? In my opinion, yes they have. This is one of the most realistic tennis games I have ever played for any console. Not only did the designers pay tremendous attention to detail, but all of the physics, rules, and overall feel of the sport have somehow been incorporated into the game. While this all appears to speak very well for the game, there is one question that still remains, a question that perhaps even eluded the development team. Will a game so realistic as this appeal to the casual gamer?

I thought I was the perfect one to find out the answer. Being a casual gamer myself, and not too crazy about tennis either, I knew that if I enjoyed this game that even non-tennis fans could appreciate it. The first thing that amazed me was how much detail was put into this game. Take for instance, the serve. Where other tennis games might have one or perhaps two different types of serves, this game has four!(in addition to controlling the direction as well) After the serve, there are various ways to hit the ball back at your opponent such as a power topspin, a topspin, a slice, or a lob. These are all different techniques used by actual professionals that play the sport. Not only can you control how you hit the ball, but you can control where you hit the ball as well. This really adds to the realism of the game. It allows you to begin to form strategies and helps you decide what to do in certain situations to give you an edge. For instance, if you lob the ball when you should have sliced it, your opponent may have an easy score. Also, if you slice the ball when you should have lobbed it, again you are giving your opponent an advantage. And this is what the sport is all about. It’s not just about hitting the ball back and forth to each other the same way every time. It’s about reading your opponent’s mistakes and taking advantage of them- I think this game does a very good job of showing this.

Once you start the game, there are two different types of play for you to choose from. They are “Masters Series”, and “Exhibition”. Exhibition mode will allow you to play one match. You can choose singles or doubles, who plays, and where it is played. This is a great way to become used to the controls if you are a beginner, but can also be used by an expert to perfect his/her skills. Selecting the Masters Series option will put you in the role of a character of your choosing as you play through the nine Masters Series Tournaments and attempt to qualify for the Tennis Masters Cup. This journey is no easy one however, and will take much practice if you intend to become the world champion.

As I said before, this game is extremely detailed. There are 67 different players you can choose from, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. They are even separated into different categories, based on their style of play. In addition, each player has certain abilities they excel at and certain abilities which they do not. These abilities include speed, stamina, strength, forehand, backhand, volley, and serve. You can even modify the appearance of your player! This makes for a very realistic experience, as some players will be better at certain things. There are 10 different courts available to you- Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Roma, Hamburg, Toronto, Cincinnati, Madrid and Paris. And of course, Shanghai, where the Tennis Masters Cup will be held. These courts are all very different and extremely realistic! Among these different courts, there are three different court surfaces. They are Hard, Clay, and Indoor Carpet. Each different surface will make the ball react differently, so knowing exactly how each surface is different will give you a huge advantage over your opponents.

But there was one problem. And unfortunately it was a fairly large one. The problem is this. A non-tennis fan is going to have a hard time enjoying this game. Why? Well, because the focus was on making the game realistic, not on making it fun. And in the end, the game just becomes too repetitive for the casual gamer. The development team succeeded in making this game almost as realistic as real tennis, but unfortunately failed to make it enjoyable for everyone.

I enjoyed the graphics. The stadiums are all well constructed and the animations are very smooth. In addition, I enjoyed the fact that there are 67 different faces- one for each player. I thought this showed the amount of work that went into this game. The ball animations are excellent as well, it was never hard to see where the ball was. I thought the graphics really added to the overall feel of the game and helped it to feel a lot more like an actual tennis match.

The sound was excellent. If I had heard just the sound I might have thought it was an actual tennis match being broadcast on TV. Every sound has a purpose, and helps to further add to the realism of the game. Everything from the ball bouncing to the cheer of the crowd. I also enjoyed the fact that the crowd only cheered after a point was scored. This fact made it seem even more real. I was also very happy that they didn’t try to put music in the background during a match. They understood how important silence and concentration is to the game of tennis- even if it’s just in a game!

The multiplayer feature of this game is great. Up to four players can play at one time, so you can showcase all of your skills with your buddies. You can also add in computers if for instance you want to play doubles but only have two people. The multiplayer feature may be just the reason to rent this for the next party you’re having.

Tennis Masters Series 2003 was definitely a game with many hours of work behind it. I appreciate all of the little details that were put into this game, and how amazingly similar it is to actual tennis. However, this game just does not have much replayability. For the non-tennis fan, I would say rent this if you must, but you will probably be happier just skipping it. However, if you are a big tennis fan, this may be just the game for you. I would definitely recommend renting it in that case- you may be surprised at how realistic it is.

Score: 7.0/10

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