EA Sports today pulled the covers off Grand Slam Tennis and Pocket-lint was on hand to get an early session on the court. Grand Slam Tennis, along with Tiger Wood's PGA Tour 10, will be among the first games to feature the eagerly-anticipated MotionPlus.
MotionPlus increases the capabilities of Nintendo's Wii Remote, making it much more sensitive and able to detect a new range of motions with greater precision than before. The unit simply clips into the bottom of the Wii Remote and off you go.
The great thing about the system is that is will enable players to compete, such as in Grand Slam Tennis, with one (or more) using MotionPlus and others not. This will mean that those who want a more advanced game can get it, whilst the novices can play along with more assistance.
Perhaps this is no different from changing the settings for each player that some games already allow. The real difference it makes is in how you play. In the case of Grand Slam Tennis, it can bring your real tennis skills into play. Not only the motion and power of the swing, but also the twist of the wrist to employ spin, even in serves.
Those who have played Wii Sports tennis will know that you can pretty much play the game without ever getting off the sofa. A flick of the wrist suffices in most cases. Grand Slam Tennis, both with and without MotionPlus, makes this practically impossible.
MotionPlus does make it a much more natural experience. We're not saying easier with that, it is less forgiving of lazy shots; if you want to really blow your opponent away, you have to make sure your swing is not only perfectly timed, but that the controller angle is right too.
Take MotionPlus out of the equation and you still have a fantastic game on your hands. We've been big fans of Wii Sports tennis because it is eminently playable and full of laughs when playing doubles with friends.
But if you are a tennis fan, then Grand Slam Tennis will appeal more than the bobble-headed insanity that is Wii Sports. EA have worked their licensing magic here as they have done in many other sports titles, so you don't get imaginary locations, you get the real thing.
Grand Slam Tennis sees you play out across the four tournaments: Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. Wimbledon is the jewel in crown here, so it was no surprise that we spent the day playing on Centre Court, at the famous SW19 club. On the Wii, of course.
Real tennis players, both current and past legends, have been stylised into the characters that fit naturally on the Wii. There is a something fairly cartoony about the graphics rather than driving for life-like realism. This fits well with the Wii and we think it pays off. It has that authentic look and feel that EA Sports bring to games, without showing up the platform that is playing them.
The players are instantly recognisable and have the character traits of their real life counterparts; fans will notice the stance of Nadal or signature celebration of Federer. It is a nice touch and stays in line with the detail that EA Sports have applied in the past to bring realism to their titles.
Gameplay itself is pretty easy to pick up. Ok, so serves need a little getting used to, but with plenty of assistance to help your movement around the court, novices should be able to dive right in. Some of your player's movements will be dictated by the style of the real player, for example rushing the net.
Should you want a little more of a challenge, you'll be able to hook up the Nunchuk to control your player movement around the court, however we didn't try this out and imagine it would adversely affect your swing with the Remote.
The sound is also really meaty, having been recorded over the last year on location at real matches. Everything from Pat Cash's commentary, to the thwack of the ball, to the roar of the crowd, rounds out a great tennis package.
We were playing an alpha build, so there is still some way to go before the release of the game and the control in normal and MotionPlus modes (the MotionPlus sensor was also a pre-production version), but even so, Grand Slam Tennis looks to be a cracking title when it launches on 19 June, just in time for the real Championships at Wimbledon.
Of course we'll be bringing you a full review of the game, in all its MotionPlus glory, closer to launch. But in the meantime, Grand Slam Tennis looks like one to watch.
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