I’m not really sure what’s happened with Tennis World Tour 2.
After the first title in the series failed to impress, it seemed as though Nacon was doing all it could to make up for it. At least on paper, anyway. Big Ant Studios was brought in to develop this sequel, and its last title, AO Tennis 2, actually impressed us a fair bit. Tennis World Tour 2, however, seems like a step back for the studio. It’s an improvement over the first game, sure, but it still falls short of being a good tennis game.
So, what’s new? How about a new game engine that allows for improved animations and physics? That’s certainly welcome. Doubles is in, too, which many players will appreciate. You can even play in doubles online. And court surfaces now have an effect on play, adding another layer of challenge and/or strategy to each and every match. There are so many improvements in Tennis World Tour 2, big and small, that make sense, and that make it a clear step up from its predecessor. But they’re all nullified by two major changes that do the game no favours at all.
The first is a new timing-based shot system. You can tap one of the various shot buttons to perform a precision shot, or hold one to charge a shot up for more power, but get the timing wrong, and chances are the ball won’t go where you wanted it to. It’s meant to make play more skilful, but the system’s so hard to gauge that it effectively ruins the game. AO Tennis 2 has a similar system, but it also has a useful indicator to help you along. Tennis World Tour 2 doesn’t, and the timing of shots feels horribly inconsistent.
The place where the new timing-based shot system really makes its mark is in career mode. Take a professional such as Roger Federer for a spin in an exhibition match, and you might find yourself actually having a decent time thanks to his high stats. Even if your timing isn’t perfect, there’s a good chance your shot will still be good. Create your own character in career mode, however, and their pitiful starting stats will mean that unless you get good or better timing on a shot, chances are it will go out or hit the net. And getting good or better shots is made all the harder because of their poor starting stats. It’s just not fun.
The second of Tennis World Tour 2‘s major mistakes is a revamp of its cards system. Where cards could be equipped to players in the first game to boost their abilities in the long-term, here, they mostly provide boosts that last as little as one hit and as long as one match when activated during gameplay. Some of them even reduce your opponent’s abilities. You can reduce your opponent’s serving strength for, example, increase the precision of a slice shot, or restore a portion of your stamina. The trouble is, it feels largely ineffectual and superfluous.
Cards are purchased in packs from a store on the game’s main menu – currently, only in-game money can be used. You can then assign five of your cards to a deck, one of which providing a passive ability, and the other four active abilities that you activate during play by double-tapping a direction on the d-pad. After so many uses, a card expires and disappears from your deck. With effects being so precise and a game of tennis being so dynamic, however, using them effectively is a hit-and-miss affair. It’s also at odds with the game’s serious tone – it’s a very arcade-like feature in conception.
There are other issues with Tennis World Tour 2 as well. You’ll find the AI of your computer-controlled opponents to be a bit all over the place. Sometimes they’re magnificently dumb, other times they run rings around you. And while the game’s animations are improved, there are still times where they’re not particularly impressive. Finally, you’ll find the game’s character creator to be a let-down too; in career mode, be prepared to play as, and against, lots of unfortunate-looking souls.
Ultimately, Tennis World Tour 2‘s new timing-based shot system ruins what could have been a decent or even good tennis game. It makes gameplay so unpredictable, and not in a good way. If you plan on buying Tennis World Tour 2 just to play exhibition matches as your favourite professional players, you might get some fun out of it thanks to their boosted stats making things more lenient. But career mode will be unbearable for most, requiring either an obscene amount of skill or an inhuman amount of patience. AO Tennis 2 remains the best tennis game available right now, so just stick to that.