After the disappointment that was AO Tennis back in 2018, Big Ant Studios went back to the drawing board in more ways than one for the sequel.
AO Tennis 2 comes back with improved gameplay and deeper modes than its predecessor, but is it enough to keep tennis fans hooked for more than a set?
More To Do
Unlike the first game, AO Tennis 2 offers a number of options to keep players engaged and entertained.
The first mode you see is the Australian Open which the game’s named after. It’s a tournament mode that takes you through the first Tennis major of the year, and it’s complete with full Australian Open branding. There’s also your standard Play Now and Online modes as well as a neat little Scenario creator. It’s a basic mode that allows you to create different moments and play them out. Again, it’s neat but you’ll quickly move on other areas of the game like the game’s creation suite and career mode.
Career mode is where AO Tennis 2 puts all of its efforts.
AO Tennis 2’s creation suite is one the deepest in any of Big Ant’s games. The game returns the same player creation for the first AO Tennis; the venue creator allows you to make the tennis environment of your dreams. What makes the suite really stand out, however, is that all community creations from both AO Tennis and AO Tennis 2 are available to download.
Career mode is where AO Tennis 2 puts all of its efforts. You start as either an active or created pro. You kick things off with a cutscene that serves as an intro of sorts with some pretty awkward animation and voice over. I’m all for cutscenes in sports games, but just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.
Once you’re in the mode, you have a central hub for checking events, messages, managing expenses, and more.
In the calendar, you can set your events weeks and months in advance. Players can register for tournaments, take part in training , or even take a rest week. Finding a nice balance between play, practice, and rest is key to making sure you never lose too much energy or run risk of injury.
There are singles & doubles tournaments to register for. If you want to give doubles play a shot, it’s up to you to recruit a partner. To get to these tournaments, you have to make sure you have the money for flights, accommodations, and general transportation. You even have to have the money to pay for your nutritionists and coaches. It’s touches like that as well as managing various sponsorships that make the career mode actually worth playing.
Twitch and Shout
If I were to describe the gameplay of AO Tennis 2 in one word, it’d be twitchy.
There are plenty of times where the controls feel perfect and everything plays smooth. But then there are times where the game just doesn’t feel right. The shot system from AO Tennis returns where you choose your shot with the face buttons or right stick and use the Left Stick to move a white reticle around to aim. For the most part, the shot system still works, but when it doesn’t it can become really frustrating.
You see a hit come at you and you know exactly what shot you want to return with. So, you run up to the ball and choose your shot only to watch your player seemingly forget how to play the sport at all whether it’s hesitating to swing or simply watching the ball go by. In doubles play, it seems to happen far more often as nerves apparently takeover between players. But don’t worry the AI will still make plays even if it means returning a shot off their chest.
General player movement feels smoother than the first game, but is still too stiff for my liking. There’s also a slight delay in movement response that shows up at the worst possible times. You also still can’t dive for shots, but you can actually run for them this time around which is nice. Like the first game, though, it’s either make contact with the ball or your player doesn’t swing.
The game looks pretty much exactly like what you’d expect from a big ant Studios game. Everything looks good but not great and as we get to the end of the generation things are starting to feel a bit stale.
With that said there is an overall better feel than that of AO tennis the first game. There’s still no real broadcast feel to match, but there’s a nice match intro that plays as well as informative stat overlays throughout. They did add the pre-match coin toss this year which add something to the match I guess and you can also react one of two ways after each point.
the crowd couldn’t care less during long rallies
I will compliment them on the on-court sound. From the shoes to the ball hitting the racket and playing surface to even the crowd, it sounds like being at an event. My only complaint on that front is that the crowd couldn’t care less during long rallies and the atmosphere seems to be the same in every event.
The game’s roster is decently sized but it feels pretty weak. Their players like Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Ash Barty, Johanna Konta, and Nick Kyrgios, but some big names remain out like the Williams sisters, Rodger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and more. Of the top 15 ATP and WTA player rankings, only four in each are on the roster. It’s not the biggest problem because licensing can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a bit disappointing to see.
Also disappointing is the game’s load time. On average, it took about two-to-three minutes just to load into a match no matter the mode.
AO Tennis 2 is a solid representation of the sport. There’s plenty of mode variety and the gameplay is simple enough for anyone to pick up to get started. And even with its clear shortcomings on the court, it can be pretty fun which is the whole point of games in the first place. The career mode is what will keep fans coming back to the game, but we’ll see if it’s enough to keep them coming back month after month.
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AO Tennis 2 is definitely a step up from the first game, but there’s still a lot that can be done to make the series a must-have for tennis fans, let alone sports fans.