Top Spin 2 Reader Review
Microsoft's backwards compatibility list is all a bit fishy, really. There are certainly some games on the 360 where, if their predecessors were able to work with Microsoft’s new machine, you really would have to wonder whether their existence was at all warranted. Unfortunately, 2k Games' new release Top Spin 2 is one of those games.
Of course, to be fair to Top Spin 2, there is only so much you can do with sports games. Cartoon titles aside, serious sports games will always be limited by the rules of the sport they replicate. This is especially problematic for a game like Top Spin, as the Xbox original basically nailed everything first time around. As a consequence, all we could really ask for from a sequel would be greatly improved graphics, and the smoothing over of the small cracks found in the original.
Sadly, we can say that Top Spin 2 fails to meet these criteria as well as it should. The graphics are certainly, crisp and clear, but they are not of the quality we have come to expect from Microsoft’s new box of tricks. The character models certainly don't come close to the models found in Rock Star's up-and-coming Table Tennis game, and the detail of the courts falls short of the arenas found in other 360 sports titles. Indeed, you inevitably have to wonder how they would compare to the original if Top Spin 1 were given the upgrade in resolution and anti-aliasing provided by the 360's emulator. If you’re a shameless “graphics-whore”, there is no reason to spend 40 of your hard-earned pounds here.
When it comes to ironing out the minor niggles found in the original Top Spin, Top Spin 2 manages to do this at the expense of adding in a few blunders of its own. 'Risk Shots' (special shots which require special timing, but can basically win the point for you) have, for example, been made significantly harder to pull off. This is a worthwhile addition, as Top Spin's online modes were essentially ruined by individuals who were able to pull off perfect risk shots every time, thus negating the whole risk/reward factor of attempting the shot. Alongside this improvement, however, the developers have both kept and expanded the original's irritating 'momentum' system by including 4 special momentum-draining 'advanced' shots. The problem with this new system of using momentum as currency is that momentum also governs the likelihood of your shots going out of bounds. Consequently, if you use vast chunks of your momentum to pull off special shots, your later shots are more likely to go out of bounds. Thus, risk shots and advanced shots can be seen as representative of the changes present in Top Spin 2. Although Risk shots have been improved, the introduction of advanced shots is a worthless piece of tinkering which arguably detracts from the improvement made to the risk shot system.
Of course - these niggles are just that. Niggles. At its core, Top Spin 2 is still a highly proficient tennis game. The movement of the players feels accurate, the physical attributes of different court surfaces have been modelled well and the ball travels in the manner you would expect it to. Like the original, it sports a wide (but noticeably not all-encompassing) selection of pros to use in exhibitions and custom tournaments and you have a wide variety of shots to experiment with. The powerful player customisation tools have also returned, and it features an-all new career mode which places more emphasis on balancing your time between training, tournaments and special events. Although, as with over areas, improvements in the career mode come at the expense of a loss of intuitiveness from the training sections. The online modes are solid but, thanks to the sale of the franchise to 2k, lack the XSN features found in the original.
Topspin 2 is, overall, a good game but one that is hard to recommend. Certainly, it is a worthwhile purchase for those desperate to get involved in the laughably shallow 'Wimbledon fever' that inevitably grips the country for a couple of weeks each year or for those who are desperate to build their gamer score via any means necessary, but even then it is worth noting that the original can be found for around a tenner in many second-hand shops. If you've had any prior experience with Top Spin, you’ve probably already made up your mind by now, but if you haven’t you might want to rent this first so you can be sure that you really want to hand over a good chunk of change for a game that you have, basically, already played.
7 / 10