It’s been 11 years since Top Spin 4 and, arguably, no tennis game from a mid-sized developer has even come close. Sure, there are the excellent Tennis Elbow games made by a single person, but those aim for something quite different. Matchpoint – Tennis Championships has a title that doesn’t even try to be catchy or memorable, but it’s very clear what you’re getting here. It’s a tennis game where you create your own character and take them through their career. The game is releasing in early July, and we got to check it out a bit ahead of schedule.
As is common with games of this sort, Matchpoint – Tennis Championships doesn’t have a robust character creator. You can pick your character’s sex and nationality, with a few options for faces and hair styles. When you first start a game, you’re implored to go through the tutorial. It goes recommended, as the mechanics are deeper than I was expecting. As is typical of tennis games, each of the four face buttons has a type of shot associated with it. Holding the button down prior to contact leads to a stronger shot, with different shots doing better based on your opponent’s position and the like.
One thing that changes things up noticeably is that a small circle shows up on the court while you’re pressing a button, which tells you exactly where your shot will land. This is a bit awkward until you get used to it. But the amount of precision it allows makes for some really compelling back-and-forth action. The circle is black as long as you’re within bounds, but turns red if your shot will be out. It takes some quick reflexes to course correct. I will say, though, that Matchpoint – Tennis Championships is very reluctant to give you free control over your player’s positioning, as it’s almost always heavily guiding how much you’re able to move.
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Your newly created tennis pro starts off ranked at the bottom, of course. Each type of shot has a stat associated with it and these are leveled up via training exercises. Everything you do in career mode causes time to pass, so you’ll need to pick what you want to do. You can train, do exhibition matches, play official matches, or take part in tournaments. There really appears to be quite a lot of meat on the bone here.
On the default difficulty, NPC opponents in Matchpoint – Tennis Championships puts up quite a fight. Matches can really go on here, as the AI is more than capable of returning what you send out. I did have it temporarily go braindead for a minute, though. They opened by hitting the net, then proceeded to hit an out, followed by a double fault. Finally, they basically gave me the rest of the game by being unable to catch two shots they should have easily been able to. It was a little jarring. Especially so, since in the next game their serves were occasionally impossible to return.
Matchpoint – Tennis Championships also lets you play quick matches on the main menu using real players as opposed to player-created ones. Naturally, the game will launch with multiplayer options, so you’ll be able to compete with other players as well. Matchpoint looks like a pretty promising tennis game, so it’s well worth keeping an eye on for anyone wanting the genre to make a comeback.
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