Tennis games are becoming a bit rarer as of late. The old glory days of TopSpin offered some of the best tennis we’ve ever had the joy of trying. Many have attempted to emulate its success but none have succeeded. Whilst the original Tennis World Tour had some good points and focused on some nice areas, it fell flat instantly with janky controls and just a general carelessness. Its follow-up, Tennis World Tour 2, attempts to fix this but fails in many of the same areas.
Let’s start with some of Tennis World Tour 2’s good points. It has a challenging and rather interesting rhythm system to each swing. Opposed to the more arcadey styles, this has you tap the swing button at the right time to get successful hits. Too late or too early will result in misplays that could cost you a point – or even the game. You can charge up before each swing for extra power but this is only worth doing at slower game speeds. As the returns get quicker, you swing just to stay alive longer than your opponent. This system takes a while to get used to but is one of World Tour 2’s best traits. This is, unfortunately, made a bit difficult by the visuals and lighting. Oftentimes, the ball can be very hard to see. This wouldn’t be a problem in a more arcadey title but the precise nature of swings here is betrayed by the hard-to-see ball. Too often my character was left wildly swinging in the proverbial dark hoping to catch a lucky break.
You feel on the back foot for most of Tennis World Tour 2, both in its gameplay and upgrade systems. It has an over-reliance on grindey stats and single-use cards. The cards can be bought in packs with in-game currency, and award you with perks such as more power or using less stamina. These get very specific to certain playstyles and fit a broader scheme too. Unfortunately, cards are so expensive in regard to the in-game currency, they rarely feel worth it. The game would’ve been much better suited to a system where cards earned were then unlocked permanently. The stats system revolves around your player character and the single player career; you make your character, change their playstyle and look, and are then placed into the world of Tennis World Tour 2. It has an overall stats system like most sports titles, placing pros around the 80s and little old you in the 20s. This means your fresh-faced character is absolutely abysmal from the start – something that is usually rather satisfying, but not so much here.
Stat upgrades are locked behind one of two things: your character’s level and your equipment. The levels take a long time to upgrade and all equipment upgrades slowly to match your level. After reaching the required amount, better rackets can be bought with in-game currency. The gameplay experience just isn’t strong enough to justify hundreds of matches before you get to the real fun part. Slow speeds and power added to the occasionally janky animations feel tedious within just a few matches.
The single-player career aims to switch this up a bit but doesn’t offer enough to grip you in any fashion. There are frequent tournaments that happen throughout the year that award you currency and experience. As well as this, there are standard matches, training, and small ways of temporarily upgrading your character. Hiring a new coach or agent makes a minor difference to the experience, but mostly goes unnoticed. There isn’t much of a story here to enjoy and Tennis World Tour 2 sort of just expects you to keep playing with no real motive. You might aim to be number one, but what drives you outside of that?
There is a fundamental joylessness to each match that really permeates through the base experience of Tennis World Tour 2. The gameplay loop is precise in theory but the hard-to-see ball and awkward animations really mess up that timing. It’s hard to justify continuing on when the game itself lands squarely in the net.
Atmospherically, Tennis World Tour 2 works as one might expect from a tennis game. The majority of your time will be spent in silence or listening to loud grunts, with the occasional commentary on score and whatnot. It isn’t bad per se, but it really is nothing more than that. The sound mixing can be a slight bit awkward with crowds suddenly dispersing or fading out as if someone with a volume knob was just slowly moving it down; if you’re really lucky, you can get a “quiet please” comment from the commentator. Different courts play and sound different but the general inconsistency of gameplay leaves that nice little touch squandered.
This leaves you with the option of making grunts incredibly frequent if you’re playing online – my favourite choice. There is some fun to be had with multiplayer but I don’t know how long that could last with its mediocre gameplay. Online you and a friend, or total stranger, can battle head to head in one of multiple renowned arenas. The doubles mode is probably the best of these options as that sense of communication can make those nice saves or great returns that much more sweet. The “Official Tournaments” and “Stadia” pack that are added on then come with a handful of tournaments and stadiums which is a nice little bonus, but again, Tennis World Tour 2 struggles with anything more that that. It is nice to see more real-life stadiums and tournaments, but those in themselves might struggle to see you justifying picking up the Deluxe Edition.
Fundamentally, there are a multitude of tiny annoyances that only serve to bring you out of that immersion sports games offer. The game looks on par with a late Xbox 360 title and its animations don’t fare any better. The over-reliance on in-game currency serves little purpose to the overall experience and most modes feel tacked on. In fact, Tennis World Tour 2 on Xbox One is like a really cocky pro player – on the court, it can be impressive and offers a lot of little systems to work with, but off the court, it is ugly and represents some fundamental issues with modern gaming. Whilst the gameplay is rather decent, it is far too much of a grind for so little content, and that is permeated with small issues that snowball into something much worse.