Infectiously appealing, the Virtua Tennis series has been a big hit with gamers for almost a decade. Originally appearing in the arcades before a pair of appearances on the ill-fated Dreamcast console, it’s blend of immediate simplicity and well hidden depth has helped make it one series that all gamers keep a keen eye out for.
Unsurprisingly things out on the court don’t sway too far from the well trodden path. Again, the face buttons on your controller are set to various forms of tennis shot, making immediate play ridiculously easy, even for the most timid of Virtua Tennis virgins. Which is obviously a major plus for those gamers with house mates who perhaps aren’t quite as keen gamers, yet still fancy a few rallies.
Yet as simple as stabbing the right button can be, the simple start hides a wicked amount of depth and skill. Getting to the bounce of the ball early, and holding your chosen shot button/direction for a half second before the ball arrives will culminate in a much more powerful and almost unreturnable effort across court.
It’s a fantastic system, and one that though not blatantly changed, does somehow feel much more responsive and creative than ever. New player animations give what was previously quite stilted play a whole new lease of life, and the sheer ease at which newcomers can get to grips with the basics is one that the likes of FIFA can only dream of.
While multiple players will enjoy the same old dazzling brilliance when it comes to on-court tennis action, single player wise things are quite dull. The World Tour mode, allowing you to take on various training challenges, and head up the rankings returns. And it’s all sadly a bit bland.
Firstly, loading times are quite terrible. It’s not that they’re overly lengthy, but so incredible in number that you struggle to figure out just what new data the console is desperate to read. The menu system and spinning globe are once again entirely devoid in character, and there’s little excitement to be had from attaining the top rankings and winning the major competitions.
The training challenges are different however. With a few additions to the same batch of classics, these tests not only up your players stats, but prove a real heap of fun. Who couldn’t adore smashing tennis balls at a multicoloured wall after all?
The same can't be said for the visuals. While things are a step up from the last version, the character models just look downright weird. They universally pack the kind of stare you’d only expect to witness in your darkest nightmares, and all have the kind of glassy sheen that makes them appear to be coated in furniture polish.
But with all that being said, there’s no doubt that in terms of multiplayer enjoyment, Virtua Tennis 2009 has the lot. It’s perfect to play for a swift 10 minutes before you both head to work, and it’s a perfect way to spend a summers evening playing a grand tournament. It’s thoroughly addictive, drenched in charm, as well as being fantastic fun.
The series may be getting a little long in the tooth, and the single player options are a little stale, but multiplayer fans simply need to buy it. It’s heaps of fun in both short stints and lengthy playtime. And can be picked up by almost anyone in a mere 5 minutes.
Lonely gamers might fancy giving this one a wide berth and await hopefully major changes to the World Tour next year mind you.