The original Tennis World Tour had just about the worst launch a new franchise could ever expect. It was reportedly only 20% completed in the weeks leading up to its release, and lacked promised features such as online multiplayer. As expected of sending a game out in those conditions, it was not great. Just over a year and a half later, Tennis World Tour 2 is ready to take the stage. But can this second at-bat redeem the franchise? Well, no.
Tennis World Tour 2 is as bare-bones as a game can be without being labeled early access. Your standard modes are included, such as an exhibition mode featuring singles and doubles with your choice of 38 professional players. There is also the option to set up one-off tournaments and online multiplayer. Big names like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are the highlights, but the roster is missing some very notable players. Neither of the Williams sisters are included, nor is Naomi Osaka, one of the current top players in the world. It’s not a huge deal, however, as the pros included are more ghoulish facsimiles than accurate representations anyway. It seems like the game reached ”good enough” and called it a day.
Missing the layup
Tennis World Tour 2 does include a career mode that lets you climb the ranks by entering tournaments, playing exhibition games, or practicing. You can create a custom player, but a lot of the faces seem more at home in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion than in a 2020 release. Don’t expect any kind of narrative; you just go through the motions to advance. Click tournament, hit next, play a match, return to the menu, repeat ad nauseum. Playing will earn both coins, which can be used to purchase new equipment and cosmetics, and limited-use booster cards.
Booster cards can be used to give yourself a slight advantage, or a disadvantage for your opponent. The effects are usually pretty minor, such as reducing your stamina usage on specific types of shot by a few percentage points or increasing them for your challenger. They didn’t feel especially consequential, but the high prices and low rate of earning currency have me wondering if microtransactions are waiting in the wings for after the launch.
Lastly, there is a practice mode that will teach you the basics. Each lesson takes place in a training warehouse, with the same looping camera panning over the site. A text box with a silent silhouetted trainer gives you objectives. There isn’t much to say here other than how each mode provides the bare minimum to pass some theoretical sports game checklist.
The gameplay in Tennis World Tour 2 is stiff and at times unresponsive. There is a slight delay between moving the analog stick on the controller and the character beginning their movement animations. It seems like the developer wanted some semblance of momentum, but in practice, it can most charitably be called ‘poorly executed.’
The rest is your standard fare. Each face button is a different type of shot. Serving is handled with a two-press-and-a-hold system. You press once to start a small meter, then again once centered, and then hold until the ball is at the apex of your upward toss. It works well enough. Aiming is handled on the left analog stick, but there is no feedback on your aim, so it’s hard to tell what you did wrong when a shot goes astray. The AI seems to share this problem. In most matches, if my opponent was serving they would fault at least 50% of the time and in one case literally 75% of the time. It’s extremely frustrating to be prepared to play only to be iced out by your opponent’s terrible serve five times in a row.
What year is it?
If you’ve gathered from the aforementioned, Tennis World Tour 2 looks awful, and plays just as well. The faces are questionable at best, and everyone’s hair looks like plastic. The ponytail haircut for the women in particular has a texture that can best be described as ‘fecal.’ It has the look of an early Xbox 360 game. However, what is more unforgivable is the poor performance. The framerate will regularly stutter and dip, especially during the small cutscenes that show between sets. Character animations are slow, almost as if they are playing underwater. Other times they’ll simply fail to trigger. Your character may refuse to move or snap awkwardly into place.
After every match ends you can look forward to the exact same animations playing out. Both players walk up to the net, give a pat on the back, then move to the line judge and shake hands with him. And when I say the exact same, I’m not just talking about the sequence. There is literally only one set of animations and they just swap in whatever models that happen to be in the match.
Set Groans to Always
Sports games, from Madden to FIFA to NBA 2K, usually have soundtracks built from the latest popular hits. Tennis World Tour 2 opted to forgo that expense, using generic original instrumentals instead. For the first hour or so I thought the game only had a single track on loop. It wasn’t until I was later in that I realized that each track was so similar and forgettable, that I had simply mistaken them for a singular entity.
On top of that, there is little in the way of other audio. John McEnroe’s atrocious announcer track from the last entry has simply been removed, making each game feel sterile and lacking any drama. The one positive I will give the game is that when creating a character for the career mode, you can dictate how often they groan. It’s hilarious to me that this was a priority for customizing your otherwise silent, soulless doll of a character.
Tennis World Tour 2 is rife with glitches as well. That camera sweep in the training mode I mentioned earlier has the same texture break that happens no matter what lesson you load up. During multiple games the on-screen score counter refused to update, showing 0-0 despite the game and announcers keeping track of the actual score.
Worst of all was a repeatedly experienced glitch where, after my opponent had served, the game would automatically challenge it with the line judge. The challenge button is on the select or “View” button (if you’re using an Xbox One controller). This button was never pressed and honestly, I had to look up what button it could even be since challenging a call wasn’t introduced in the tutorials. This would happen every serve in affected games even when I set the controller down to ensure I wasn’t accidentally touching something. Restarting helped for a couple of games, but it came right back soon after.
Dropped the ball
Tennis World Tour 2 looks and plays like shovelware from 15 years ago. A year and a half later and this is basically the same game with a slight change to menus and with online multiplayer at launch. Reusing the same assets isn’t new in sports games. Hell, Madden has been using the same assets for years now, but Tennis World Tour 2 lacks the fundamentals. The worst sin the game commits is that it is just not fun. The glitches push it into the territory of being a frustrating mess. Tennis fans deserve better.
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