The Wii's phenomenal success with its intuitive control system has given traditional game developers a brand new avenue of gaming to explore. With gamer movement and interaction required in earnest, as opposed to a few button prods, a much wider variety of potential experiences have been conjured up. Even in traditionally rigidly structured genres.
EA's Grand Slam Tennis takes the basis of Wii Sports Tennis and takes things up a few levels. Combined with the freshly released Wii Motion Plus peripheral, which promises to offer much more accurate representations of your Wii Remote swings and thrusts, it aims to pave the way forward for sporting related titles.
Grand Slam Tennis doesn't, however, aim for true one-to-one movement representation - something which is promised in the current adverts populating the airwaves. Instead it takes into account your Remote swinging speeds and the manner in which you hold the Remote in order to make your chosen tennis playing character strike the ball in the way you desire. Just remember that the front part of the Remote - the one packing the buttons - is considered the face of the racket.
It does, essentially, work. At first you'll be swaying around in a similar manner to Wii Sports, and viewing the same old quite unpredictable results seen in the aforementioned Wii bundle title. But a little time proves that shot manipulation becomes intuitive and impressively accurate.
Shots do aim towards the spot you're urging the ball to drop, and the game does a good job of reigning you in a touch. With true representation, the majority of us would barely manage a single shot per match landing within the lines of the court, so the game does its best to give a much needed helping hand. Plus, lobs and drop shots are made with a racquet swing combined with a button press, so all isn't that realistic in terms of play.
What is a fantastic addition is the inclusion of Nunchuk control. Now you can utilise that sizey analogue nub on the Nunchuk to force your player to rush about the court. It sounds such a tiny little simple change to Wii Sports Tennis, but it adds such an incredible amount to proceedings. It does, however, take a lot of time to get used to. It'll take your mind quite a while to realise that the analogue stick is used solely to move your character and not aim your shot too.
Sadly it's not all peaches and cream. Just like any other new control method, the Wii Motion Plus can be a temperamental beast. It may happen only once or twice per dozen matches, but those moments where your player suddenly refuses to swing, despite the incredible arc of brilliance you've just created in your living room, is more than enough to cause a Wii Remote shaped hole in the wall. And when the racquet connects with ball, there still are a few instances of the ball veering off in completely the wrong direction. Again it's a rare occurrence, but one that flatly brings you right back to earth.
Visually, the Wii's power constraints have been overcome by utilising stylised representations of some your tennis favourites. Bold clear lines, and colourful backdrops make for a visually appealing title. It's not quite a Wii best by any stretch of the imagination, but it performs its job admirably and attractively.
Single player-wise the game again does a fair old job. Taking you through various friendly match-ups before hitting the major circuit, you earn new skills and abilities from stronger serves, to more attempt-worthy lobs. Sadly the large portion of unlocks as you play through are yet more blandly coloured clothes to layer upon your created tennis sensation. Sadly a form of gaming victory that's a long way behind what we truly desire.
Multiplayer-wise things take an upswing. Up to four gamers can play on one screen, as expected. And although it lacks the immediate fun to even the newest of gamers that Wii Sports Tennis packs, it's still a riot when you've got to grips with the control system. And for those of you lacking the friends/money required for all those Remotes and Nunchuks, the online mode is sturdy enough to while away more than a few evenings.
As far as modern tennis titles go, Grand Slam Tennis has all the facets you could desire. It looks good, it's great fun with friends, and it plays a decent representation of the racquet-based sport.
It's a shame that a few control based inconsistencies, and a sub par single player career mode leave things a little less enthralling than we'd hoped for.