Grand Slam Tennis • Page 2

The humble pie edition.  

As a means to encourage repeat play, your budding pro will be awarded extra points in their star rating as a reward for success, starting off at zero and rising in half-star increments up to a maximum of five. It's never explained how exactly this translates into making your player better, and as such the allure of slogging through the career mode diminishes fairly quickly, when one-off matches can be just as much fun anyway.

But as is generally the case with sports games, playing Grand Slam Tennis against a human is where it's at, and happily it's possible to get an online game going in a matter of seconds. Matches are remarkably tense affairs, pleasingly lag-resistant, and a second player can join you on your machine if you fancy some doubles action. Getting matches going against a friend is also straightforward, with the ability to either add buddies linked to your EA Sports account, or those already stored on your Wii friends list. Simple, seamless, quick to connect, and great fun.

Matches can be ranked or unranked, although you'll have to go through the slightly irksome process of signing up for an EA account and all the fun that goes with that to actually play ranked matches. If you do, then you can establish a bona-fide worldwide singles rank and work on becoming top dog - something far more interesting than trawling through offline single player matches, as fun as they can be.

If you're after simple offline multiplayer thrills, though, you're not short of party game options. For example, you can indulge in games where drop and lob shots are worth double points, or tag-team games where you take it in turns to win the point during the rally. Others set time limits, where the player with the most points after two minutes wins. And so on. It's all fairly perfunctory stuff, but it's there if you fancy bending the rules for kicks.

As you might expect from EA, 23 of the game's major stars have been licensed, and it's these pros that you'll be facing throughout. But unlike most other tennis titles, the focus isn't entirely on the current crop. So alongside the likes of Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, you get old stagers like Bjorn Borg, Pete Sampras, Boris Becker, John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova and Pat Cash popping up for another crack at Wimbledon. Impossible, obviously, but it adds an undeniable allure to the game to be able to play against the stars of the past as well as the latest and greatest.

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Missed!

Another interesting decision is the caricatured cartoony visuals, which are somewhat in-keeping with the Wii's cuddly family-friendly appeal, and make a pleasant change from the ultra-realism served up in all competing tennis games. The animation is slick, and the attention to detail is subtle and surprising - as is the hilarious petulance the players display when things go against them. It will be interesting to see if EA sticks with this for the other versions when they turn up.

The biggest issue people are going to have with Grand Slam Tennis in its launch phase is shelling out GBP 20 a pop for MotionPlus units to unlock the obvious multiplayer potential it has. While online is a great way to enjoy the game, there's nothing quite like taking on a friend in the same room as you. And if you're hoping for local doubles action, well... that's one hell of an investment for a tennis title. Right now, you're either going to have to spend the money to find out, or hope that your friends are willing to part with the extra cash for the slightly-better-value bundled versions. In these early days of the WMP, such issues are going to be moot for many.

And in Grand Slam Tennis's case, they may be entirely moot, for this is a game which absolutely requires a WMP to unlock its potential. Despite our initial - and entirely incorrect - reservations and problems with Grand Slam Tennis, our re-assessment of EA's new brand couldn't really contrast more heavily. Far from being "crippled by unintuitive controls", the reality is that it's beautifully intuitive, and just about shades Virtua Tennis 2009 on Wii by simply having a more satisfying feel to it. It might feel a little lightweight as an all-round package, but as a multiplayer game it's hard to top. It's a close-run thing, but as far as tennis titles go right now, this sits right at the top of the pile, and is a cracking advert for the Wii MotionPlus.

8 /10

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Kristan Reed

Kristan Reed

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Kristan is a former editor of Eurogamer, dad, Stone Roses bore and Norwich City supporter who sometimes mutters optimistically about Team Silent getting back together.

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