|Top Spin 2 (2006)
Publisher: 2K Games
Available for: Xbox 360
Tennis will never be as popular as conventional American sports like baseball, basketball, or football, but the game transfers over to the world of polygons and cheat codes with a lot more ease. Perhaps it’s because the sport is relatively simple, with only a limited number of button combinations on a fairly complex controller, but I’m willing to bet that it’s the sport’s similarity to the godfather of video games – “Pong” – that makes for such a smooth transition. This, of course, doesn’t make for a successful sales pitch. Who in their right mind is going to pay money for a game that replicates the same entertainment you can find on an original Atari? Complement this gameplay, however, with a decent Career Mode, amusing mini-games, access to the world’s greatest tennis stars, and a $39.99 bargain price tag, and you’re just beginning to see how respectable a title like “Top Spin 2” can really be to poor, unsatisfied 360 owners.
2K Games ain’t reinventing the wheel here, folks. They’re simply offering classic tennis action with a few, much needed tweaks. To start, the game’s Career Mode has been improved greatly, and it’s also where you’ll most likely spend a majority of your time. Building your character from the ground up (including sex, physical attributes and talent), you’ll start off as the 200th ranked player in the world, with only one goal in mind: become number one. Along the way, you’ll participate in training sessions with your coach, contend in various tournaments, and even lend a hand in charity tennis events. To be successful, you’ll have to use every trick in the bag, including the four standard strokes - the safe shot (A button), the forehand (B button), the slice (X button) and the lob (Y button) - as well as a series of Risk and Advanced Shots that can be pulled off by holding the right or left triggers and pressing one of the aforementioned buttons.
After getting a few wins under your belt, you’ll begin to climb the ranks, and eventually, will be able to participate in major and Grand Master tournaments that offer much bigger purses. You’ll need this money to be successful as well, because without it, you won’t be able to pay your trainer for weekly sessions or purchase new equipment like racquets, clothing and accessories. This can be quite annoying towards the beginning of your career, since you’re only allowed to participate in the minor tournaments and have to rely on attending training sessions to get better. Another minor issue with the Career Mode is the means in which you’re ranked, sometimes earning a higher world ranking just for attending practice sessions. This isn’t how it’s done in real life (you can only gain rank by way of performing well in tournaments), but I can understand why it’s been changed.
In fact, this is an especially minor nuisance considering the ridiculous amount of load time the game takes between menus. It’s almost (Now Loading…) as if (Now Loading…) the developer (Now Loading…) looks down upon (Now Loading…) building (Now Loading…) momentum in between (Now Loading…) matches. Everybody needs a quick bathroom break every now and again, and it’s always good to have a spare minute to run and grab a snack, but you spend almost as much time staring at load screens as you do on the court. “Top Spin 2” isn’t necessarily stunning graphics-wise, either. You won’t see any sweat beading down your player’s face, and the character builds are less-than-perfect, but if it’s good enough to pass as next-gen, then it’s good enough for me. Non-fans of tennis will hardly find anything to love about 2K Games’ sequel to the original Xbox smash-hit, but for gamers looking to bat around a virtual yellow ball for a few hours each day, “Top Spin 2” has everything you’ll need to get.