Top Spin was the definitive tennis title for Xbox Live on the original Xbox. Now, Top Spin 2 is here to take its place as the best Live tennis title, while adding to the formula that made the original a success, with more of practically everything.
Top Spin 2 sports a simple ‘Virtua Tennis’-style control scheme, using one button for a strong swing and one for a weak swing. Using a hard swing, however, can cause you to miss the ball while charging up, but it is - if successful - good for making your opponent miss. The light swing, meanwhile, is good if you don’t have the time to charge up.
Unfortunately, simple controls don’t make for an easy to pick up game - the difficulty here is high to begin with and there is no choice in the matter, so you’re forced to practice until you’re good enough to progress through the various modes available. It can be frustrating, but stick with it and you will find a great tennis title in there.
The standard modes - Career, Tournament and Exhibition - are all here as well as the Party games, which feature a selection of multiplayer games. Although they are only available to multiplayer battles and won’t work with just one controller, they are a nice feature for a multiplayer rumble with a few friends.
Single player modes are hindered by the camera positioning. You have two choices of camera type: the zoom - which parks the camera behind your player and can make it unnecessarily hard to control your player; or the far camera - which is initially good, but once on the other side of the court can also make movement difficult.
When you start a new career mode you can create a custom player - and although not as realistic as expected from this generation, the models look amazing, and character animation is fluid. However, don’t expect any over-the-top ball trails; this game is all about realism! The courts are packed with crowds and players are reflected in shiny floors. This is the best looking tennis game so far.
Top Spin 2 has set the bar high for all tennis games to come on the next generation systems, and with Sega recently announcing Virtua Tennis 3 – sequel to Virtua Tennis 2 on PS2 – for PS3 and Xbox 360, it’s going to be a big year for Tennis fans.