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Top Spin 2, Xbox 360, Sports

Product: Top Spin 2
Company: 2k Games
Website: Official Game Site
Estimated Street Price: $59.99/49.99
Review By: Byron Hinson

The Features

I was quite surprised this week when a debug preview copy of Top Spin 2 arrived in the post. Top Spin was an excellent tennis title when it was released a few years ago on the original Xbox and so far no other Tennis games on any console have come close to it since it's release. So what can we expect from Top Spin 2? Well defiantly much improved graphics, more professionals added and yet again a lot of detail when creating your player. I have high hopes for Top Spin 2, despite it being passed over from Microsoft to 2k Games...a company that has proved over the past few months just how excellent their sports titles can be.

One of the top Xbox sports games, in both sales and popularity returns for another victory on Xbox 360. Everything you loved about Top Spin is back and made even better. The peerless player-creator is reborn with the powerful Digital Identity that truly puts you in the game. Experience Grand Slam events in venues that are alive and dynamic with environmental elements that react to your play. Characters are even more stunning with the addition of HD technology and the inclusion of the top players in the world like Maria Sharapova, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Lleyton Hewitt and Roger Federer. Put it all online and you once again have the greatest tennis game ever created.

  • Digital Identity- Create realistic player models and customize them with the highest level of details. Hairstyles, sweatbands, shirts, shorts, shoes, etc. allow you to create a player with your look and your style. Coupled with the ability to taunt your opponents with in-game smack talk, argue line calls, or raise your hands in celebration, Top Spin 2 puts you in the game.
  • Breathtaking Visuals- Silky smooth animations, vibrant colors, and shockingly high resolutions delivers illustrious depictions of players, stadiums, crowds, and tracksides bringing tennis to life on the Xbox 360.
  • Best of the Best- Take on, play as, or team up with 24 of the world's top ranked professionals, featuring tennis stars: Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, Carlos Moya, Tommy Haas, James Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, Guillermo Coria, Tim Henman, Max Mirnyi, Alex Kuznetsov, Brendan Evans, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Ai Sugiyama, Lindsay Davenport, Anastasia Myskina, Daniela Hantuchova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Amelie Mauresmo, Alicia Molik, Angela Haynes, Jamea Jackson, and Corina Morariu.
  • Innovative Gameplay- Top Spin 2 lets you play your style of tennis by providing a variety of shots including slices, drops, chops, lobs, and drives. In addition to these fundamental shot types, Top Spin 2 adds depth with a number of risk shots and advanced controls - giving you the ability to pick apart your opponent piece by piece.
  • The Online Experience- 2K Sports continues to lead the online gaming revolution as Top Spin 2 features seamless online play and the most comprehensive online features anywhere.

Gameplay

There was not a lot wrong with the original Top Spin game in the first place, so the question here is how can 2K Games improve the gameplay rather than just the move over to high definition. First news is that the game comes with many real-life stadiums and courts, Wimbledon, Australian Open and the US Open have all been created in the game, they look great too. There are not the only courts though, there are 18 proper ones and many other basic clay and grass courts for you to hone your skills.

Rankings are out of 200 - I'm not that good so far so haven't risen too much. To give an example I played in one tournament against a player ranked around 173 in the world, I got well and truly stuffed! He wasn't that good a player, but because I hadn't trained enough, my player tired easily, was slower at reaching shots, didn't have the power to compete etc. This means you have to train to get better, just like you would in tennis. The good thing here is that the training games are actually fun to take part in, they range from knocking down bowling pins, breaking down blocks in an arcanoid style, hitting shots in the correct places etc.

When you complete the various training schedules, you get to spend your star points on things like speed, power, agility. There are more options here this time than Top Spin 2 had, another good step up from the last game where you only really had serve, forehand, backhand and volley as skills. You get a total 60 star points to spend on your skill as the game goes on. As you progress through the game, your coach will give you various tests, these range from learning to use the moves such as volleys, flat and drop shots by returning the shots to him in the correct way. For once this actually felt that you were learning something from a coach! Another point here is that you can change your coach during the game, if you feel you want to make your game more aggressive for example, you can go with a coach who would help you with that. This was a side to the game that worked well as the coaches you go with can only let you reach a certain amount of stars for certain skills before you would have to move onto another one. If you want to "complete" the game you will have to learn to develop your player both in single player and in online games. Skills can be used and raised in the career mode over 5 seasons as well as online.

Risk shots have thankfully changed for the better...what happens is there is a bar (Advance shot meter) that fills up at the top left or right of the screen, as you score points the bar goes up, lose a point and it goes down. Above the bar are X,Y,A,B symbols, these light up as you can use a risk shot, when you use it, the bar drops back down a bit so you don't get to use it all the time, and they are not impossible to stop now for players who show an actual talent. The four risk shots are Top Spin, Drop Shot, Flat and Super Lob and as mentioned, you can only use this once before you have to renew your advance shot meter.

There are 11 achievements overall for players to get. These range from completing tournaments, beating seeded higher players, completed ranks with both male and female players etc. They won't be as easy to get as most of the EA range of games, which is a good thing. Finally good news for those who got annoyed at being unable to save the game during tournaments. In Top Spin 2 you can save after each match has finished, you can then return to the same place you left it at the next time you load the game at. Live! play has been hard to judge in this debug build of the game as there was no one else online whenever I tried to play others so I can give no comment here until I am sent the final game in a few weeks time.

Graphics & Sound

Great presentation with excellent menus and a lot to do and change...load times are dire currently, but remember this is a debug title with a debug machine, load times change on the final retail versions. Generally the graphics and sound have improved over the previous game, there are a few problems in the debug version that will get fixed before it comes out like shadows, but it looks good. character setup is superb and you can almost certainly make someone who looks like you. Character models are fantastic - you really can make your player look like you, there is so much to change, noses, nose shadow, colours, staines on the face, riddles on the face, lips, lip shadows,...you can even add vains! Sound on the other hand - well this is the only let down for me, there is no commentary, which is expected...but generally the crowd sounds are not that great. Also there seems to be NO replays what so ever.

The game has some excellent music tracks, not much of a surprise to me considering Indie Games were involved, the crowd effects are also good. There is no commentary which was expected to be the case and the only speech comes from someone telling you the score and from coaches in the menu who send you messages.

 

Final Comments


Byron's Gamertag

Top Spin 2 is certainly another step up for the series and from the preview build we got sent I can only say good things about it. Graphically its a step up from the last game, but with high definition that was fully expected, sound isn't quite as good as I hoped it would be, but there is time to correct that, live play was impossible to judge too. The only points of worry for me right now are the massive load times the game has shown, but with this being a debug title, thats likely to be improved a lot, the other is that sometimes the main default view in the tennis games feels too far out (especially when you first play the game) and the zoom view is too close, but its something you can get used to quite quickly. All in all, it's looking good for tennis in April on the 360.

Specs & Package
Version Previewed Top Spin 2 (PAL)
Release Date April 2006
In The Box? 1 Topspin 2 Debug DVD-ROM
Xbox Live! Online Play Enabled? Yes
Widescreen Support Yes
PAL 60 Support (Europe) Yes (PAL 60 Only)
HD Resolutions 480p
720p
1080i


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