Virtua Tennis 2009

New balls! Our verdict on Sega's sporty update.

360 (PS3, PC)

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By Stuart McAndrew

Summer is back! We Brits like nothing better after a season of drinking lager and watching football than to break out the fruit squash, strawberries and cream and place our finest tennis players on a giant pedestal so we can grieve for the rest of the summer when they fail to win Wimbledon. Thanks to Sega, you can relive the glorious highs of the making it all the way to the semi-final before getting knocked out, just like your heroes.

Arriving three years after its predecessor (Virtua Tennis 2006, in case you were wondering), VT09 hasnít aimed to reinvent the racquet. Itís a simple game to pick up and play and like all classics itís a difficult one to master. Various shots controlled by with the face buttons on your controller and early positioning for the return results in greater power and accuracy. So far, so tedious. What makes Virtua Tennis stand out from the crowd?

A lengthy solo campaign is the first option I dived into. Seminal runner-up Tim Henman is your guide and will take through a series of challenges to improve your game. Your game is split into three sections; base strokes, serves & volleys and footwork. Complete enough challenges (or mini-games outside tennis academy) and youíll unlock a new play style for that specific part of your game which you can then allocate to your character.

Initially starting as a rookie, youíll need to win games and tournaments to rise through the ranks of the amateurs. For the first few hours (until you are ranked well enough to be invited to better tournaments) this means playing against competition who are almost incapable of scoring a point. Serves by you are aces. Any serve by your opponent which is returned is almost guaranteed to score a point. Indeed, your opponents seem to be unaware of the fact that tennis is a competitive sport and not a challenge to see how long you can bat the ball between yourselves. This wouldnít be very long anyway, as your opponents have an unerring tendency to fall over and miss.

Lack of competition early on wouldnít be such an issue if you moved up the ranks more quickly for each tournament won. It will take a half dozen hours play before you can hope to reach the next level of events and the same again before you come across a real challenge to actually test the skills Mr Henman has been teaching you. Couple this with insanely long loading times (especially double matches, which I avoided after the first half dozen tournaments) and you have the disastrous situation of spending more time with menus than on the court .

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