Those gamers growing up with the current generation of consoles will know no different, but back in the day it used to be fine and dandy to delay the release of a game in order for it to hit the world in its very best capacity.
These days however the day one patch and post-launch amendments are par for the course. But in my eyes that seriously affects the hype surrounding the launch of a new title. I mean, if a game isn’t ready to be released, why release it? Why can’t both publishers and developers get around a table and decide what is the best for a game in the long run, because dropping out only half a product does nothing for anyone.
Case in point: Tennis World Tour.
This is a game that was delayed, and then actually released on the original date, confusing the world and leaving us gamers wondering what all the fuss around the original delay was. Well, I’m here to tell you that Tennis World Tour shouldn’t have ever released on the day it did, and judging by the oddities and issues which are currently plaguing the latest tennis title, it quite probably should have been pushed back some more for good measure.
And that leaves me in a bit of a quandry. See, the developers have openly stated that Tennis World Tour isn’t finished (my words not theirs – they’ll talk about how the game will evolve from launch with exciting additions), but taking things on face value and from the main menu alone, a scrolling Tennis World Tour logo arrives in various colours to cover up the fact that the ‘news feed’ area is meant to be populated with ‘news’. There is also a serious lack of matchplay options, with the online options ‘coming soon’, whilst dipping into the exhibition mode puts you face-to-face with comically created tennis superstars (seriously, that Cristiano Ronaldo statue at Madeira airport has got nothing on these guys and girls). Three things that ensure that Tennis World Tour gets off to a seriously dodgy start.
From leaving the menu and any fun that can be found in the seriously limited player creation opportunities, the gameplay isn’t up to scratch either. And for all the dodgy visuals and lack of game modes in the world, if the gameplay found in a tennis title is rubbish, the game as a whole is going to be just that.
I can’t fault the development team at Bigben Interactive for not actioning all the tennis basics, as they are all in place, allowing us to fire off aces, knock a passing shot down the line, hit things up for a lob and tease a little drop shot just over the net, but with a lack of any form of precision in place, what actually happens during play is very much hit or miss. A simple tap of the relevant face button is usually enough to ensure that any ball coming your way is placed back into your opponent’s side of the court, but holding down these buttons, and sticking a bit of swazz on things via the left thumbstick will let you place shots a bit more effectively. But should you dare to hold those buttons down for even a millisecond too long, your shot could easily end up on the completely opposite side to where you were aiming. Now, there has to be a bit of leniency for gamer error, as not everyone looking to pick up a controller for a bit of tennis will be the most fluent of gamers, but the line between ‘great shot’ and ‘bloody hell, where’s that off to?’ is so fine it is laughable. But then perhaps it doesn’t help that it’s stupidly hard to put any timing into your shots due to ball lag and the fact that there are times when your player seemingly misses the shot, only for the ball to end up flying at lightspeed back across the net.
Even better than that is that occasionally, no matter how hard you try, your guy or girl will just completely ignore any shot near them, while at others will pull off the fancy dan moves and strike it from between their legs. I think you can quickly get the jist of where I am going with the gameplay side of Tennis World Tour.
The AI you face have to put up with these strange issues too, and at least any fault that you feel isn’t your own can be easily duplicated with that guy or girl over the other side of the net. But due to the fact that the online modes aren’t working even though the game is out in the open for full purchase, your only other option away from the wonders of rallying against an AI opponent is to drag in a friend. Thankfully though this is where Tennis World Tour ups its game because even though issues can affect either player, should you manage to get a few rallies going with a friend, it is reasonably good fun. Or should that be reasonably funny? It’s probably more of the latter to be honest.
And talking of the humorous side to Tennis World Tour, it has to be mentioned that the player faces being dropped in for the likes of Roger Federer, David Goffin, Dominic Thiem, Kyle Edmund or some of the few ladies included – Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki or Madison Keys – are always good for a laugh. Like mentioned earlier in this piece, that absolutely hilarious statue of football icon and all round demi-god Cristiano Ronaldo may have been slated from every corner of the Earth, but the inclusions in this game are far, far worse. And that makes me wonder why they have even bothered using the tech available to them. I mean, if photogrammetry has been used, great, but if that same system creates hideous results then it may be worth rethinking those best laid plans.
Even the courts that you play on are poor in comparison to modern day visual spectacles and whilst I can get past the fact that licenses are thin on the ground, I have to seriously question the choice of overall set designs. This is no more true than when playing on grass as the ball and lovingly manicured lawns play havoc with each other, one blending into the other without a care in the world. And for as simple a game as tennis should be, it’s pretty hard to return a ball you cannot see – especially one that is lagging its way across court. It’s nearly as bad as adding yellow target areas in the tutorial and skill games that break up the main matches. I mean, who would add yellow to a floor when the ball travelling over it is already that colour? Oh….
The audio that accompanies all this is equally as comical with tennis superstar John McEnroe kindly enlisted for commentary duties. Except I’m guessing his fees were too much for a smaller games company to really afford as his lines are severely limited, instead duplicated in mammoth amounts. And whilst there is consistency in what he is saying (due to the limited script), it rarely actually corresponds with what is going on on court. Mentioning that ‘he’ smacks a ball with so much power when two ladies are duking it out on court, or talking about hard hits down the baseline when you’re pulling off a delicate dropshot, are just the start of it.
But hey, there has to be something good about Tennis World Tour does there not? And yes, there is. Just. For the career mode is surprisingly good fun as you take an unknown wannabe from the lowest leaderboard positions up through training sessions, exhibition matches and official competitions in order to take down all comers and help them make their way to the top of the world rankings. Spread out over seasons, which seemingly continue for as long as you have the strength, energy or willpower, the combination of match types, training sessions and rest opportunities allow for a little bit of tactical nous to hit home. It’s just a shame that when you do take to the court, you are subjected to the poor game physics again. I guess it would be possible to rest for the entire year, but even the greatest players would then struggle to find their rank increased.
It is however worth playing through the career just in order to unlock new equipment types, employ coaches and agents, increase your player’s attack, defense and serve & volley stats and mess around with the strange and totally random Skill Cards system.
Whilst the career mode, a tournament against the AI and one-off single matches with friends are pretty much the entirety of Tennis World Tour as of here and now, it’s nice to see that Bigben have indeed promised more, with online play, the chance to take to the court in doubles matches, worldwide leaderboards and more stadia and new player faces all on the cards in the days, weeks and months ahead. Whether I want to see the latter appear is up for debate, but until the time comes when further updates and multiple patches have finally managed to hit the game, it really shouldn’t be something that you should ever been considering.
I understand that delays, post-launch patches and day one updates are now par for the gaming course, but that doesn’t mean that a game shouldn’t be held back if it’s not up to scratch. Case in point: Tennis World Tour.