Share this article Share The series has also carved a niche by being a little bit quirky, and not taking itself too seriously. Though the onscreen characters are pretty accurate representations of Federer, Nadal, Murray et al, the training games to grind your character's stats are slightly offbeat and unrealistic. Not quite a Wii sports game, but you're thinking along the right lines.
However, with its arcade leanings, Virtua Tennis is a series that feels as though it has been around forever. Given that the last outing felt somewhat definitive, how much further could SEGA really go with an arcade Tennis title?
With PlayStation Move, 3D, and Kinect support, every base is covered in Virtua Tennis 4 and the original development team are even on the case.
But for this entry into the franchise, is it enough? However, there are some serious visual inconsistencies at play.
In that respect, get used to mashing the X button on a PlayStation 3 to skip these scenes, over and over again. The music is horrible, and I eventually resorted to just turning it off.
The sound effects of ball on racquet are great, and the peripheral court sounds are nice too, for example the screeching on an artificial court. The crowd is serviceable, which is really all you could ever expect from a tennis title.
Whereas in previous titles, you could go anywhere you want on the map, picking any mini-game you wish, this system has been totally overhauled for Virtua Tennis 4.
As we touched on before, newcomers will have no trouble learning the swing of things.
Now, the career mode is broken down into separate seasons and whilst the map returns, it is totally different. To navigate it, you need to use tickets.
These tickets have a value, which is the amount of moves you are allowed to make on that turn think a dice roll, only with predetermined outcomes. At first, this seems like an incredibly poor design choice which stops you from picking what you want to do and when you want to do it.
Throughout the map, there are the obvious locations such as matches, tournaments and rest stops. Now however, there are also management stops, which allow you to buy tickets you get them automatically when you run out but buying them allows you to pick the value of the ticket manually , rest-tickets, shuffle-cards and eventually sponsorship cards, which allow you to get cash and popularity bonuses.
As you progress, you unlock all manner of costumes, including fancy dress items that enable you to take part in the special fancy dress exhibition matches. All of this progression is made with a view to earning money and enhancing your popularity, which in Virtua Tennis 4 is displayed with stars.
If you love the mini-games that always come as part of the Virtua Tennis package, then you might enjoy party mode, which sees you take them on either by yourself or against up to three other friends in whatever order you choose or at random.
Rather than selecting a level of difficulty however, you start at level one and progress upwards, gaining a time extension each time you succeed.
There are new mini-games to play, such the utterly silly one that involves collecting eggs and returning them to a mother hen. The PlayStation 3 version contains a few exclusive mini-games as well.
Also new to this installment of the series is the power shot. If you play well enough, you will build up a power bar which, when filled, allows you to unleash a power shot with the circle button B button on an Xbox The camera then cuts away, showing a stylised view before cutting back to real-time.
Whilst a nice touch, these power shots are far from unstoppable, so when the AI uses them, most of the time a skilled player will be able to return the shot and even win the point.
In that respect, the cut-away is yet another immersion-breaker. Sadly and it has to be said this is a massive oversight , this is only available from the main menu in either exhibition or party play.
Consequently, there is no motion-controlled career mode for Virtua Tennis 4! Motion control feels pretty accurate, but there is little skill involved in playing it this way.
You could easily sit down, swing at each ball and eventually win. The Move controller feels great, and is shaped in such a way that it feels like you are holding a tennis racquet. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that throughout a match the camera will switch from first person to third person, from service to regular play.
The excitement that was palpable during previews for this mode, with rumours of Move-enabled multiplayer online play are all sadly forgotten, replaced with the feeling that motion controls for this particular title are just a tacked-on feature, with no real skill required.
Worse still, booting up the game with the Move controller does not allow you to get past the title screen.
Despite this, Virtua Tennis 4 has incredibly well-animated players and eventually gives you a real feeling of mastery that only the best sports titles allow you to feel.
However, there is also a strong sense that a lot of features have been thrown into the mix, when the development time might perhaps have been better focused elsewhere.