I should start by pointing out that, despite its numerous flaws, Slam Tennis is still the best of the PlayStation 2's current crop of tennis titles. It's just that compared to the likes of Virtua Tennis, it's complete pish. After a few rounds of Slam Tennis you'll be moaning about awkward player behaviour, pitiful diving motions, overly complicated serving systems, ridiculous "super shots" which ultimately decide every point, the way the ball heads towards your opponent no matter which way you hit it, and the fact that ninety percent of the time you can barely see the ball anyway, because in motion it's hard to pick out from the court surface. All in all, bestowing the accolade of best PS2 tennis title on Slam Tennis is a pretty harsh indictment of the rest of the genre.
Fans of Pete Sampras (hrm), Andre Agassi (that's feasible) and Anna Kournikova (well, yes) will also be disappointed, because apart from Carlos Moya, Magnus Norman, English ne'er do well Tim Henman and a couple of others, you won't recognise any of Slam Tennis' protagonists. They all look roughly anatomically correct, but the player models are pretty poor, and given how static most of their surroundings can afford to be, this is a severe letdown. For some reason, Infogrames Sheffield have wasted their opportunity to harness the PS2's capabilities here and instead have chosen to bookend every point with unhelpful replays of the last shot, swooping scoreboard views and other pointless pageantry.
There's enough to do here, with exhibition and tournament matches, a training mode which has you blasting serves at blocks and other nonsense, and a fairly enjoyable multiplayer mode, but all are merely constituents of a fruitless could-have-been. It must have been obvious that things were too awkward even to those working on it - serving is a hit-button-twice power bar affair, but even the slightest tug of the control stick back or forward on the downswing will achieve a fault, a fine waste of the analogue stick. And although building up a power bar and unleashing a lightning winner might sound good in theory, it means that winning points is simply about double-tapping the circle button at the right time. What's worse is that you'll only win or lose points prior to super shots by screwing up, because the ball is rarely hit anywhere other than within slapping distance of the other player.
These days, you can buy a Dreamcast and a copy of Virtua Tennis for absolute peanuts, and I strongly suggest that you seek out Sega's little beige box if you're after some tennis action and have forty quid burning a hole in your pocket. If you absolutely must have a PS2 tennis title, then this is the best so far, but I can't imagine that I'll be playing it again any time soon.