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Top Spin Xbox Review

Top Spin
Microsoft Game Studios
Fall 2003
Xbox Live:

Top Spin 
Wednesday, December 01, 2004 

Imagine youíre out on the court; the crowd gathers around you, patiently waiting. You feel a slight twinge in your gut. Something that tells you, ďThis is it, Iím ready. I am a tiger, a tennis guru, omnipotent destroyer of fuzzy sphere-like objects. I am a champion, dammit." The ball rises, spinning from your hand (top spinning you might say) and the crowd goes silent as you smack the ball. The match begins.

Thatís when you realize you arenít on a glorious tennis court. Youíre in a cold basement with moldy pipes dripping on a half eaten pizza. You realize the matches are fake, your opponent is fake, and even your all-too-enthused fans are fakes. I never believed they were real anyway. Then you realize that youíve been hitting the same two buttons over and over for several hours, listening to that droning ďboinkĒ sound as that fuzzy ball moves from point A to point BÖ May I suggest you try pong?

Unless youíre quite lonely and like a guy/girl in short shorts, this XSN title ďservesĒ up nothing particularly special.

Save everything else, Iíll give XSN credit in the graphics department. These guys really have character customization down pat. Right away in Career mode you are taken to a kind of god-like control room where you can manipulate everything about your character's appearance from height, weight, and muscle mass all the way down to the exact eye color. XSN uses comprehensible menus to make your in-game character look as realistic as possible. Pop on a name and your home country and suddenly itís you in the game, a very comfortable feel. Once in the game, the graphics hold quite well. Thereís really nothing to complain about here. The courts are smooth and workable, the characters realistic, each and every one of the fans seems unique, as a real crowd would. XSN also understands that, despite how appealing realism may be, itís still important that we can tell exactly where the ball is at all times, and theyíve done a good job of making it stand out. I score the graphics well.

Gameplay is badÖ just bad. I suppose if youíre a tennis fan or you like games that donít change much, at all, you could take to liking this one. However, most avid gamers out there do not fit this demographic. The whole thing is just so repetitive. Serve the ball, move, hit, move, hit, move, hit, win or lose. Of course there are other things outside of your typical one on one match, such as challenges, training, sponsorship, and stores, none of which are in any way unique.
The character improvement based on in-game skill is used in many genres. Perhaps the best implementation is in the racing category, where challenge based self improvement has found a decent home. My point is, itís done all overÖ itís certainly a welcome break from straight one on one tennis, but itís a tennis game! Something about it having to hide behind an RPG environment should tell you a thing or two about the game youíre playing. THERE IS NOTHING TO IT.

Because of the airy gameplay, there is very little to the controls. They are easy and mastered quickly. In my first few matches I was getting owned by some guy with a bald head, but by my third or fourth I was flawlessly eliminating the competition while thinking about my article. You might be thinking, how can you play a game and think about work at the same time? Itís like this: Move, hit, move, hit, (hereís the toughie) think, move, hit, win. Why do I keep going back to this? Repetitive, you say? Well, XSN thought you'd enjoy it.

The sound was another big disappointment. I almost forgot to review it. While there is a little music in the menus and world map regions, itís dull and boring and doesnít make its way into the quiet game of tennis. What does make it in, between the roar of the crowd after you move and hit X a few times, are birds. Thatís right, among hundreds or thousands of fans, music would be completely ridiculous, but the sweet and solitary chirp of a bird? Well thatís not farfetched at all! Will someone please check my hearing?

Perhaps I was a bit harsh, but the fact remains; I hated this game. It was boring. I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone but an avid tennis fan, and even then, only as a rental. As far as tennis games go, itís good, but in my experience tennis games arenít fun. Don't go out of your way to get this title.

Overall Score

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