Grand Slam Tennis 2 Review (PS3)

I’ve never been the biggest fan of anything with the EA Sports logo on it.  Nothing personal but I’m just not into that sort of thing.  I like my sports with turtle shells and flaming people.  Normally Tony would review something like Grand Slam Tennis 2 but he doesn’t have a PS3.  Micah has one but we can’t make him review ALL the sports games.  So I guess that leaves me.  It works out though since I love tennis and am quite familiar with tennis video games.  I have played a number of them over the years and I was interested to see what EA had to offer with Grand Slam 2.

What You Need To Know
You can probably gather from the number in the title but Grand Slam 2 is a sequel.  I think it’s worth noting the number is a two and doesn’t correspond to a year.  Anyway, this release features all four Grand Slam events and a new Total Racquet Control scheme (optional) which allows control of your swing with the right stick while you move your player with the left.  Other than that, it’s tennis.  You can play singles, doubles, online or in tournaments.  As Grand Slam 2 features several professional tennis stars, there is an added mode where you can replay notable matches from history and in some cases change the outcome.  As you might have gathered, you can create your own player and take him/her on a ten years career to become the most ultimate tenniser everer.  There is also support for Move but since I don’t have an electric ice cream cone I didn’t try that out.  It’s worth noting the 360 version does not feature Kinect support.

Just Like ESPN
Tennis isn’t like football where you have to worry about several different players on a large field with several camera angles to switch through.  With tennis you have two people on a small court and you have a pretty good idea they are going to hit the ball back and forth.  I’m saying it’s easier to reproduce a realistic broadcast for tennis than it is for football.  The developers nail it with the exact camera angle as a broadcast, smooth character animations and terrific voiceovers.  You could easily trick somebody to think it was a real match.  What impressed me most was the sound design.  The sound effects of rackets hitting balls, shoes sliding across clay and the flat ping of the net are all spot on.  Even better is the ambient sound from a tennis match you wouldn’t even think about; the cheers from the crowd, the shouts of the line judge and even noise from traffic outside the court.  An ambulance drove by while I was playing the French Open and it took me a second to realize the sound wasn’t from outside my house.

It’s Just Tennis
Which isn’t inherently a bad thing; tennis is awesome.  But when I break down the value proposition against other games, I have to count the lack of variety against Grand Slam 2.  There are no bonus modes or mini-games to break (get it?) the repetitiveness.  The Classics mode is pretty cool as you can relive moments from tournaments gone by and even achieve a different outcome from the record books.  Likewise I had some fantastic matches online against players of my same skill level.  But at the end of the day it’s still tennis.  I suppose nothing else should be expected, even further since this is the most realistic tennis game I have ever played.  Perhaps this is a greater problem with sport sims in general but it still feels light on content.

Too Fast For Its Own Good
As I said, this is the most realistic tennis game I have ever played, which is great.  But, once the AI starts playing seriously, the timing starts to work against you.  Tennis is all about reacting to your opponent and trying to get the drop (get it?) on them.  The devs tried to capture this but I found several times where the window for my input was too small.  It became a regular occurrence to watch the ball bounce past my character after my button presses didn’t register.  This problem is compounded by a quirk in the movement system.  Your character will change from a shuffle to a run (sometimes moving seemingly on his/her own) when the ball is headed towards you.  It’s intended to help you get into position with time to swing but often I had my character move in a different path than I intended. This meant she could be in position to swing sooner or later than I expected.  Since the timing is so crucial, this gave me several chances to yell at my television in frustration.  This is all minor on the easier settings but it directly affected my play as I increased the difficulty.  The online is stricken with these problems, as well as the occasional hiccup, but since there is a human player on each end things sort of evens out.

Repeating Dialogue
Each match you play commentated by tennis greats Pat Cash and John McEnroe.  They smash (get it?) it too.  All there lines are delivered as natural as if they were watching a real match.  They have a great repertoire between each other.  The only problem, there isn’t very much of it.  While the voice acting is fantastic (I really want to stress how great it is) I often heard the same lines repeated from match to match.  It’s made worse since I have a definitive play style causing the same lines to trigger several times.  I became so used to hearing the same lines that I was shocked to hear new dialogue when I played my first doubles match.  McEnroe also does voice over for the training stages.  This isn’t as great as his work alongside Cash and sadly there seems to be even less lines.

Grand Slam Tennis 2 is okay.  It fails to be the definitive tennis game mostly due to some critical interface issues.  I haven’t played the rest of the series but I hope this is an improvement from the first game.  The physics play just as you would expect for tennis, the sounds design is great and the visuals are pretty good as well.  The mimic of a TV broadcast creates the illusion of a real match.  Grand Slam 2 will run you $50 (USD) brand new, which is nice, but it still seems a little steep for all but the most dedicated tennis fan.  If you buy this one, expect to play a lot of tennis and nothing else.  Do that and you will most likely have a good time.  If you are looking for something more, keep looking.

Final score –
Total play time – Approximately 10 hours
Review copy provided by Electronic Arts

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