It’s nearly summer time and that means that strawberry’s are almost in season. It’s time to dig out the shorts from the bottom of your wardrobe and if your feeling inclined, go out and play a spot of tennis. Or better still, pick up a copy of EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis 2.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 has an impressive roster of tennis stars from John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg right up to modern day stars like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and the Williams sisters. All of which move and play the game like their real life counterparts, in fact the animation is – as you would expect in an EA Sports title – very good. The controls are also very good in GST2, if you’ve played any EA Sports title’s recently you’ve probably noticed that they seem to be moving the controls to the right stick rather than the more traditional face buttons, and although in some cases it doesn’t work very well, in this case, it really does work well and feels very intuitive, basically different types of shots are mapped to a certain direction on the right analog stick, up for a flat shot, down for a backspin shot etc. You can also press the left or right triggers for a drop shot or a lob shot. Serving is also handled with the right stick, with most tennis games when your serving you have to keep an eye on the height of the ball and press the relevant button at the right time to get the most power on the serve. EA however do this differently, opting instead for a power meter. Just hold the stick in the desired direction depending on what sort of shot you want, and a power meter appears, you then have to stop the meter at the top of the arc to get maximum power and maximise your chance’s of getting an ace. You can of course choose to use the more traditional controls with the 4 face buttons but I feel that you would be missing out on better, more fluid controls.
One of the highlights of all tennis games is the career mode and rightly so, as it’s where your likely spend most of your time. The career mode in GST2 takes place over 10 years, you start by creating your player by either using one of the default head shapes or you can download a picture of your head from the EA Sports website and put yourself in the game, which only takes about 10 minutes and it does a pretty good job of putting your face in the game. So before you know it you’ll be playing your career at all 4 major grand slam tournaments including (for the first time in a tennis game) Wimbledon. All the stadiums and locations have been faithfully recreated and the sound effect’s really add a depth of realism as you’ll hear that satisfying whack of the racquet on the ball and the crowd as they ooh and aah at some of the more spectacular shots in your repertoire. You’ll also occasionally hear sirens and traffic as it drives past the outside courts that your playing on in the early rounds of tournaments.
Before you tackle one of the tournaments, you have the option of doing 2 other events, you can play an exhibition match or take on a tutorial hosted by the tennis legend John McEnroe both of which give you points you can use to level up your player and improve your attributes such as speed, power etc. Like I mentioned, the career mode takes place over a 10 year period so it’s fairly lengthy. However, you have no control over the difficulty, EA have instead opted to change the difficulty as you progress through the years. The first year is played on rookie, the 2nd on pro and the 3rd and subsequent years are played on legend difficulty. The trouble with that system is you can win all the tournaments quite easily in your first year as a pro, which leaves very little to play for after the first year except bragging rights. It somehow doesn’t seem right that a 1st year pro player can beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon without dropping a game. But all this seems pretty normal to the commentators.
Commentary is handled pretty well with Pat Cash and John McEnroe bringing their knowledge to the game but they have a habit of constantly saying the same thing over and over again. But thankfully if you get too annoyed at it, you can turn the commentary off. If I ever hear John McEnroe telling me about the pros and cons of hitting the ball deep or Pat cash telling me about cutting off the angles from the baseline again it will be too soon.
If you get bored of the career mode you can take on the role of classic players from the game in some classic matches and try and change the outcome. Matches like the classic Borg v McEnroe epic from Wimbledon back in 1981 and the women’s Australian Open final in 2003 between Serena and Venus Williams all of which have their own unique challenges and award you bonuses to use on your player in career mode.
If you get bored of playing the CPU, you can take the challenge online and compete against friends or enemies in ranked head to head matches, or you can play in doubles matches with your friends. You can also take part in online tournaments or simply try and get to the top of the leader-boards so you can say that you are the best player in the world.
So all in all EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a well rounded and enjoyable tennis game. And with only a few minor faults such as a career mode with no real incentive to carry on after the first year and the occasional audio glitch, it’s a game that should keep you entertained well after the crowd on Henman Hill (or Murray Mound) have packed up and gone home.