Top Spin 4

Xbox 360 PlayStation 3
Disc Size 5.4GB 4.9GB
Install 5.4GB (optional) 4817MB (mandatory)
Surround Support Dolby Digital Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM, 7.1LPCM, DTS

In theory, it shouldn't be too difficult to achieve cross-platform parity with a tennis title - geometry is fairly limited, and effects-intensive work is at a minimum. The graphical requirement is such that 60Hz gameplay isn't a real push, and SEGA even managed to support native 1080p60 with Virtua Tennis 3 on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

Despite this, Top Spin 3 managed to omit some graphical effects from the PS3 version of the game, mitigated only by the inclusion of Rafael Nadal, absent from the 360 release. It also suffered from a truly mammoth mandatory install. Thankfully, from a gameplay perspective, everything ran as expected. For the new sequel, some things change, other things stay the same while headline additions include stereoscopic 3D support for both platforms and implementation of PlayStation Move compatibility.

Let's kick off with the usual head-to-head comparison video.

No real surprises with the basic setup of the image - native 720p on both systems, with 2x MSAA on Xbox 360 and quincunx for PlayStation 3. We also see a fairly sharp difference in the default gamma settings. Part of this is down to the output format of the 360 HDMI signal being significantly different to the PS3's default setup, but this doesn't seem to account for a difference of this magnitude. Intricate detail is somewhat lessened on PS3 too, but that's down to the chosen anti-aliasing tech.

With Top Spin 3, we saw the occasional layer of texture detail missing on the grass courts - both versions appeared to randomly suffer from this in the Exhibition mode, which was either a bug or some kind of "wear and tear" variable we can't tweak. Repeat testing on another system showed up different results. Quite curious all told, but at least the obvious omission of environment maps and reflections in Top Spin 3 appears to be resolved in Top Spin 4.

Performance-wise there are no real surprises. Top Spin 4 adopts the standard pioneered by Virtua Tennis in adhering strictly to a v-synced 60FPS during gameplay, then dropping back to 30FPS for the character close-ups and pre-event sequences. Here the developers switch to much higher detail models, necessitating the drop in frame-rate. We see the odd intrusion of screen-tear at this point, and you might notice a near-constant tearing on the PS3 too - thankfully, the tear is right at the very bottom of the screen (literally line 708 out of 720), so tucked into the overscan area of many screens and pretty much invisible even if it isn't.

Top Spin 4 also supports stereoscopic 3D on both platforms. HDMI 1.4 is adopted for the PlayStation 3 version, whereas the standard side-by-side mode is utilised for the Xbox 360 game. Neither version is fully satisfying in this regard. Moving to half-resolution on the Microsoft platform has clear visual artifacts, especially evident on the lines of the tennis court itself. However, the game does seem to be running at full 60Hz frame-rate in-game. The only other negative aspect we picked up on is the addition of noticeable screen-tear during the player close-ups and the removal of effects such as depth of field.

The PlayStation 3 implementation sees similar cutbacks in the quality of the visuals, along with some others too - anti-aliasing is now gone, for example, and while resolution is higher than it is on 360, we're still only seeing 1024x720 per eye.

It has to be said that the utilisation of 3D itself isn't especially strong in this game and while the impression of depth is fine, the actual gameplay application is not hugely impressive. While there should be some advantage to the depth perception in terms of the positioning of the ball, the reality is that the combination of shadows and established camera angles means that this hurdle has already been overcome.

PlayStation 3 also has the apparent advantage of support for the Move motion controller, but we see no change from the disappointing implementation found in the PSN demo - there's no 1:1 tracking here whatsoever and after the sublime nature of Table Tennis in Sports Champions, a retrograde step like this is a bitter disappointment.

As Kristan Reed noted in the original review, the basic implementation of video games tennis has been established now. Motion control is the new gameplay frontier and it's a real shame that the developers have not embraced the challenge and come up with a worthwhile control scheme. In fact, the whole notion of a 3D controller with a 3D display presents an opportunity to revolutionise the genre completely - but there's been no real effort in tackling this with Top Spin 4.

Top Spin 4 addresses the basics as well as you'd expect and hands in a satisfying tennis experience on both platforms. The Xbox 360 game has a minor visual advantage, but it's a strong purchase on either system - just don't expect the motion control or 3D to live up to the raw potential that the concepts offer.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.