Tennis World Tour

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: NACON (EU), Maximum Games (US)
Developer: Breakpoint
Release Date: May 22, 2018

About Joseph Doyle

Joe has been known to have two hands with which to both play games and write reviews. When his hands are not doing those, he will put books, musical instruments, and other fun things in them.


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PS4 Review - 'Tennis World Tour'

by Joseph Doyle on March 14, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Tennis World Tour will let players experience the career of a professional with more than 30 playable tennis stars including Roger Federer, Gaël Monfils, Angelique Kerber and Garbiñe Muguruza.

When I was teaching middle schoolers a few years back, I'd frequently ask them what they did the prior night. This would breed a host of responses, including watching their siblings to hanging out with friends. The most notable (and pertinent) would be, "playing the game." This flummoxed me when I first heard it. How could someone, even a child, be so vague while still using a direct article? After further inquiry, I figured out this could mean a few things: They were either playing a Call of Duty title, Madden or NBA 2K. One way or the other, sports games are action-packed, glitzy and prolific enough to be two out of the only three games the kids played. Tennis, on the other hand, doesn't get this same attention, and it's perhaps usually recognized in video game form through the Mario games or in Wii Sports. With no solid foundation (other than perhaps the Top Spin series), Breakpoint Studios sought to make a more realistic modern tennis game. While the attempt was a noble one, almost everything about Tennis World Tour falls flat, from clunky controls to uninspiring gameplay and lackluster audio and visuals.

The controls in Tennis World Tour are a challenge, to put it lightly. The tutorials explain the different hits and how to move around with relative clarity, but using the analog stick and face buttons is not necessarily a challenge to do or describe. Where the waters become murky is when you expect to use both at the same time. The game (through the voice of an anonymous coach, which is distressing in its own right, but I digress) shows you that you can affect where the ball lands by using the left analog stick while pressing whichever type of hit you'd like to use (drop shot, lob, normal, slice). This is straightforward enough in description, but it works poorly. During one of the trainings, you were expected to hit five balls into various parts of the court, which should be simple enough, but took over 10 minutes to complete.

The level of accuracy expected from the player in this scenario is ludicrous and incredibly frustrating. Because you're using the left analog stick to both run and direct the ball, you can miss very easily. Want to run one way and hit the ball another? Sorry, your player just stopped going for the ball altogether, and you lost a point, despite having pressed the face button close enough to return (a finicky distance). On top of this, your motion feels incredibly stilted, and your player jerks around from side to side like a Game & Watch character as you switch directions. You're also supposed to charge your shot (holding the face button) if you want it to be more powerful, which seemed to have no actual bearing on whether or not the opponent hit it. Overall, the controls in Tennis World Tour are poor and detract from the experience, even when you master their jankiness.

When you master the jankiness of the controls, it's interesting to see how the AI reacts. The AI players in Tennis World Tour are truly an annoying sort who feel like an anthropomorphic wall at times. They will return almost every single shot you throw at them, resulting in many points that end up with 30 shots between the both of you or getting as high as 80, like I did during one unfortunate bout. (The game then gave me an Achievement, rather than apologizing for being janky.) I appreciate the developer forgoing realism for more fun, continual gameplay, but this is ridiculous, especially when the majority of points in a typical tennis match are settled between 0 and 4 hits between the players. The answer for an effective and fun bout lies somewhere between 4 and 30 (God forbid you do 80 yourself) hits, which is long enough to feel fulfilling.

When you finally master the controls and learn about the AI's proclivities to hit the ball at all costs, you can trick it into giving you all the points with two strategies: a short hit followed by a lob, which sends the ball to a spot in the back where the AI will never hit it; or hitting the ball into opposing sides until the AI overextends and misses the next hit. Tennis World Tour's AI goes from frustrating to laughable in a second, and that makes the game both aggravating and boring.

All of these issues compound the strange gameplay mechanics in Tennis World Tour. One of the more interesting and intriguing choices the developer made was including light RPG mechanics in the career mode. For example, you gain points that you can spend on attack, defense, or serving when you level up your character. You can likewise unlock different coaches who will boost these skills in different ways as you level up with them. Furthermore, as you play and progress, you unlock cards that give you perks in different scenarios, such as gaining accuracy when you have low stamina, or having a +10 stamina boost during decisive points, etc. While these are really cool and interesting ways to keep a relatively repetitive game like tennis fresh, this aspect of the title doesn't shine due to the AI and control woes. You lose the ability to detect a boost to accuracy when the whole system of aiming is difficult to master. Likewise, stamina boosts are lost when you have long point rallies that result in both you and your opponent losing all stamina due to sprinting and power-hitting for 80 straight hits. The interesting gameplay mechanics lose out to the title's larger issues.

There is very little to say about the visuals and audio of Tennis World Tour. The graphics are passable; they're nothing to write home about but nothing egregious, either. The character designer is fun but lackluster. It reminds me of the one found in Oblivion, a game that came out over 10 years ago. The grunts of the players and smacks of the racket against a racing ball are also fine, and they help create more realism in the game, which is appreciated. The music, on the other hand, feels outdated and boring. The light electronic house music is reminiscent of the intros to the original Jason Bourne movie trilogy — a little slow and mundane for a sports game. Overall, the audio and visuals are innocuous in that they don't detract from the experience but don't improve it, either.

Tennis World Tour simply doesn't deliver on the experience it wants to give us. While it offers some interesting and innovative gameplay aspects, it's either irksome or overly simple. The most redeeming quality of the game is that it shows potential for future releases if Breakpoint has the opportunity. With some fine-tuning, Tennis World Tour could easily work its way up to passable — and perhaps even more. According to BigBen Interactive, the game's publisher,  the game was shipped only being "20% finished." While this choice is not too alien to those of us steeped in the gaming world, this detail is evident in every aspect of the game. Maybe one day the developer will have the opportunity to show us a completed idea, but based on the current build, Tennis World Tour is disappointing.

Score: 3.5/10

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