One of the most renowned tennis games out there, Virtua Tennis 4 finds its way to PC, under the umbrella of the giant Sega.
It promises groundbreaking graphics, a revamped and improved career mode, lots of top players brought in digital form and, of course, multiplayer gameplay.
The world’s top tennis stars are ready to accept your challenge and play in various tournaments around the globe. Among them, we can count Federer, Nadal, Serena Williams, Maria Sharapova and others. Can you take them all and become number one?
The game doesn't have a storyline. In World Tour, the player starts out as a novice and has to work his/her way up the ranks while traveling through a board-like world and taking part in four massive tournaments. Gameplay
The game handles rather well, the controls are intuitive and the opponents are up to the tasks, progressively getting stronger. As a caveat, later in the game, matches can last a bit too long and the game becomes somewhat boring (especially during master tournaments).
As far as controls are concerned, there are four different ways (keys) to hit a ball and you may use the arrow keys to move the player on the field, so I'd say that this is a game even a child can master.
There are three basic shots to choose from: the medium topspin (regularly used), the low slice (when you need time to recover), the high lob (the ball goes over your opponent) and then, there’s an additional super shot, available when you accumulate enough match momentum.
Creating a character in World Tour is more enjoyable than you might think. After choosing the difficulty level (casual, experienced or professional), I was faced with having to choose the race of my character. The fun starts when you customize the specifics, like the dominant hand, the return position and even the shout sound.
Moving on to the World Tour, the first thing that crossed my mind when I first set my eyes on the map was: isn't this Game of Life? Well, I wasn't far from the truth, but instead of rolling a dice, you'll receive random movement cards to travel on the map.
There are blank spaces where you do nothing, Sega small tournaments where you can earn stars and money, VS Training cells allow you to play mini-games and improve tennis skills, charity events and others.
The option to scout the map ahead is very useful, as I found out on my own. For instance, when landing on a random “minor accident” cell, I discovered that my wallet had been lost along with the sum of 1000 virtual money. Therefore, in order to avoid unpleasant incidents like this one or even miss important tournaments, you must plan ahead.
The mini-games are quite diverse and even fun at first, but after playing them for a while (at least ten times each) they tend to get boring. You'll be able to shoot clay targets, score soccer goals, collect eggs, flip cards for poker hands, play in heavy wind, explode bombs, place walls, and collect coins.
One of the things that bring a drop of realism is the condition bar. After a game, a charity event, a publicity work or a practice, the ball will drop and you'll have to use rest stops or rest tickets to recover from fatigue, which would negatively impact in-game performance.
You'll also have access to a club and its shop (Kit Catalogue), where you can buy different player outfits, change accessories and rackets. From here, one can also change the partners for the double games.
The third and most important aspect in the club is the play lesson option from where players can select the most appropriate style for their character.
I found the World Tour mode to have adequate rising difficulty that is well paced, though there is little reason to play it again, as the game progresses in the same manner (except for the fact that you can participate on other, different events the next time around).
In Arcade mode, you'll have to work your way through the various famous current tennis stars and, if you’re lucky, you will get to play either King or Duke in the last round. The Arcade and the Exhibition modes are basically the same; the only difference standing between them is that in the latter you can choose who to play against.
The computer-controlled opponents perform well at each difficulty level. In the first games, opponents will flub on shots and will give various powerful return opportunities, while later in the game, AI characters will often land shots in hard to reach spots. Audio and Video
Unfortunately, the sounds in the game do not match its value. Although the crowd is very responsive to the actions performed and you can customize even the way the player shouts when hitting the ball, they're just not believable.
The music is even worse than the sounds. I bet that, after exiting the game, you will remember what you have been listening to. Besides being annoying, it's also repetitive.
The game looks quite good; characters are well defined, with lots of realistic traits. The movement is fluid most of the time, but it somehow gets worse as the camera zooms in on players (slow-motion scenes). Multiplayer
The multiplayer is a nice and necessary addition to the game. Choose to play against three other friends on local multiplayer or choose the online option, if you manage to find opponents.
The multiplayer is done through Games for Windows Live that will offer both ranked and custom matches against human opponents. While you are waiting for the system to find you a suitable opponent, you can try the arcade mode: a nice feature that takes out some of the boredom of waiting for others.
In multiplayer, you can choose to play with one of the stars available in Arcade or Exhibition. If you haven't unlocked one that is to your liking, then feel free to play with one of the custom-made characters from World Tour, like I did.
Mini-games are a nice and fun addition to the local multiplayer, but they are not available in online games.
In some online matches, the lag made the game unplayable, while in others, a sudden disconnection ruined a perfectly fun game. Conclusion
Bottom line, this is a new tennis game where you'll meet some of the most famous active or retired tennis stars, a game that can be a lot of fun, with above-average graphics and exciting gameplay. The sounds could have used a little more work, and so could the animations.
Upon buying this game, one must know that this tennis game has an arcade approach, unlike its main rival Top Spin 4, so don't expect over-the-top realistic gameplay.
Opposed to real life, where talent combined with lots of hard work creates successful tennis players, in the Virtual World, perseverance and practice are the ingredients to a fantastic career. In other words, practice makes perfect, so... get your copy of Virtua Tennis 4 and start practicing today!