Simulation sports title must balance providing veterans with engaging content while welcoming newcomers to the series. If not careful, the needle can easily lean to one side or the other. Veterans may find an iteration lacking in depth. On the contrast, if the learning curve is too steep, new players may not want to invest the time. Launching a little over two years after its predecessors, Tennis World Tour 2 is an another example of why Nacon (formerly BigBen) sets the standard in simulation sports games.
Laying the foundation (Gameplay)
Picking up where its predecessor left, Tennis World Tour 2 let’s players take to the court against the top tennis players across the globe. However, this time it features a vast number of improvements. Sticking with the idea of simulation, NACON adds several mechanics that increase immersion. Of course, this also increases the difficult of the game.
Previously, returning a shot was a simple button press. In Tennis World Tour 2, users will need to take into account power and timing. Both traits ultimately affect shot precision. Power is dedicated by pressing and holding the appropriate face button before a shot, then releasing at the optimal range. Sprinting will, of course, make this exponentially more difficult. Timing is relative to the incoming shot and the animation of your character, so pay attention. It is easy to miss the perfect timing if you end up out of position. Aiming also factors in timing and power. When taking the court, new and old players will need to be mindful of joystick control before taking a shot while on the move.
Tennis World Tour 2 also introduces a brand new serving system. Like regular shots, players will need to decide whether to play it safe or go for a power shot. After that, it’s all up to timing. Under sell it and you come up short. Overdo it and you end up giving the advantage to your opponent. Alongside basic fundamentals and advanced shots, the card system returns. This year’s decks focus on the moment to moment gameplay. In their decks, players can choose from a wide range of passive buffs, limited buffs and opponent debuffs. These can be extremely useful if you find yourself at a disadvantage. That said, the best way to conquer the court will be to practice, practice, and practice some more.
As expected of most sim sports games, the graphics are nothing innovative. Tennis World Tour 2 simply meets the standard. However, the game excels at showcasing emotions on the court. This took me by surprise as I played through Career. Nothing really tops the diegetic feeling of seeing your character express the same sigh of relief you do as an opponent smashes one out of bounds giving you a much needed point for a comeback. In that regard, Tennis World Tour 2 excels. Frustration, joy, relief, intensity, and defeat can easily be discerned visually and increasingly draws you in match to match.
While graphically there is nothing special, it certain does not detract from the game or its experience. Athlete animations are smooth and seemingly organic as they take part in pre-match tasks and compete. This is especially pertinent given how timing relies on animation hints. The stars of tennis look like their real-world counterparts. Crowds have volume, adding much to the feel of renown tournaments. The game also features a pretty relaxed soundtrack which I appreciate.
In terms of interface, the menu is simplistic and easy to navigate. Loading screens do exist but do not last very long. Most of them tend to have their own charm as each screen reads off bark dialogue relative to the world of tennis. The tooltips given are also pretty handy especially for new players. Just do not count on reading more than one or two per load screen as they switch quick and often.
Tennis World Tour 2 features four main modes of play. From there, they are broken down into appropriate subsections.
In Exhibition, players can compete in a set of offline matches. Offline play has the choice of both singles and doubles. You can play with a friend or AI opponent. The local co-op goes up to the max number of available athletes on the court. So singles can have up to 2 human players, doubles has up to four.
Tournament allows players to compete in official tournaments or create their own. When creating a tournament, you’ll need to define the difficulty which ranges from very easy to expert. Then, choose single or doubles, number of rounds, sets per match, games per set, and lastly, the rule for tie breaks.
Like an exhibition, Online lets players compete in singles or doubles. Online also includes a Singles Ranked mode. This series of ten matches pits players with similar rank against each other. Maximizing your number of wins within the series makes you eligible for promotion to a new league. Winning often means you’ll get matched against players of similar skill much faster.
In Career, players create their own athlete and embark on their own career path. This means managing time between tournaments, exhibitions, training, and resting. From the outset, you’ll have your agenda. From there you can choose a match or tournament to take part in, opt to train, meet coaches, hire agents, and essentially choose what you’re going to be doing for the month. The calendar view provides a breakdown of events for the year so be sure to plan in advance as some tournaments have a buy-in. After that, you can view the global rankings and win-loss records. My only complaint for this mode would be the lack of depth in creating your athlete. I understand it is simulation; however, a game with such immersion would highly benefit from a deeper customization tool. For now, you’ll have to contend with limited presets and a few advanced sliders to put something together.
Tennis World Tour 2 presents as a solid tennis simulation game. The additions to court mechanics add a level of depth that will take some time to master. Having court surfaces, weather, and ball freshness attribute to the pacing and difficulty of the bout is a stroke genius and a win for simulation lovers. The thing is, sports titles have gone in many different directions since their incarnation, whether that’s being made for pure pay-to-win monetization or simulation. While drastically different, they share in the fact each one is geared to a specific audience and thus the levels of ‘fun’ differ from person to person.
That is not to say Tennis World Tour 2 is not fun. While the game provides several opportunities to improve both in and out of Career mode with Tennis School and challenges, I find it unlikely a newcomer will stick with the game for long. That is to say unless they regularly watch or play real tennis. NACON does not shy away from the fact Tennis World Tour 2 is simulation through and through. This is their design M.O. and it shows with exceptional delivery. Long time fans should definitely pick this up, but if you are not a simulation fan now, I would not buy this under the notion it will make you one.
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Tennis World Tour 2 Review: An Ace Serve In Simulation