With Wimbledon now over you may find yourself hankering after a little bit more tennis action. Whether it's pure coincidence or not, the PC games market has been hit by a couple of big hitting tennis titles recently. Roland Garros French Open 2000, to give it's full title, is one of these games.
Tennis has always been one of the most difficult games to create on a computer platform, and to make it realistic - they have somehow always managed to wind up being nothing more than arcade style games.
No bad thing you might say, but I feel it's about time we had some realism here. I want to shout at the umpire in utter disgust when a call doesn't go my way! I want to experience fast paced rallies, resulting in a glorious smash to win the point! I want to get to the final only to be trounced by the hardest computer opponent you have ever witnessed.
So it was with a sweaty brow and a fidgety racquet hand that I loaded up Open Tennis 2000...
Tennis Wot Wot!
The game starts at the excellently presented main menu. Here is where you can set up a quick match, start a tournament, or head for the practice courts.
Selecting 'Match' will throw you into a single game against a player of your choice. You also choose the player you are to represent, from an initial six. All players names are fictional, but they all have differing ability levels. You can opt to play a men's or a women's game, play a singles or doubles match, and can choose the kind of court surface you wish to play on.
The 'Tournament' mode is pretty much the same except that you are now thrown into a knockout tournament. As in the real game, women's tennis is held over the best of three sets, the men's over five. You initially have access to four tournaments, although as you win these on different skill levels you will gain access to more.
Like the player names, the tournaments are all fictional too, with the exception of the Roland Garros in France. Roland Garros is a clay based court, with grass, indoor and hard courts also available in the USA, England and Australia.
A neat option is 'Training', which throws you into a practice court with the surface of your choice to train on. A machine then proceeds to pump balls out at you simulating another player's serve. A list of function keys at the top determines how the ball is ejected, so you can practice specific shots. Very cool.
Ace or Double Fault?
Serving is a breeze to execute. Click button A on your joypad, hold it and guide the little marker to where you want the shot to go. The longer you hold the button, the longer the shot will be. Increase and decrease the power of the shot with the up and down arrows.
You can also perform lob, drop and spin shots on service, and although these won't surprise your computer opponents too often, they may provide an easier follow up shot. The shot controls are exactly the same for open play.
We now discover the horrible truth of the game - it's just too easy! Having thought that winning my first game in straight sets was purely down to playing on a lesser skill level, I ramped it up to the most difficult. Sure, the players perform better at a higher skill factor, but I was still winning games with ease.
When receiving you can go an entire game returning serve without the computer getting a single point. Same applies to the serve, which can have you hitting ace after ace. The computer players just move too slowly, and even in some cases don't move at all!
Disappointed with this, I tried out the doubles match option. Excellent, I think, there's no chance that I can return serves quite so easily. Absolutely right .. except that your partner is basically about as useful as a chocolate teacup! More often than not he will stand still on receiving serves, and will choose random moments to have similar foot seizures during open play.
Graphics and Sound
You can be nothing but impressed when you first arrive on court for your virgin match though. The crowd cheers merrily as the French accented umpire introduces the players. Grass and clay courts look gorgeous, and the court surroundings are accurately portrayed. You even have all the officials in their correct positions, and raising their arms when calling a fault.
Player models are superb, with nice facial texturing and motion captured animation. Particularly impressive are the serves, with movements that are slick and utterly convincing. The only downside is when the players walk - they look rather stilted, as if a visit to the doctors could be prudent!
With a lot of tennis games the speed of the action is such that sight of the ball can be easily lost. Not so here. The ball is bright yellow, and if that isn't clear enough, it has a cool motion blur effect. The result is the ball is never lost from sight, no matter what court surface you are playing on.
Audio wise the game is quite a treat as well. Crowd samples are crisp and clear, but most of all they are loud. In the rare moments where you get into a rally, the roar of the crowd if you win is quite uplifting. Oddly enough, sometimes when you expect the crowd to cheer, they don't. Winning a set or the match rarely gets a crowd reaction, which rather spoils an otherwise excellent feature.
The umpire's dulcet tones could well grate on the nerves after a while, but thankfully he can be turned down. The sample quality is again excellent though, and in the Roland Garros tournament the umpiring is purely in French too. A nice touch.
What we have here is a game that could have been absolutely brilliant. I've never been so frustrated in a game yet, and for such a daft reason! It's got lovely visuals, great sound, superb gameplay, but it's just too darned easy to beat.
Unlocking some of the hidden players doesn't help in the least either. All of them are easily passed by returned serves, and are fodder for my own serving. You can disable the ball position guide, but that renders the game virtually impossible to play. In any case, you shouldn't have to.
Winning six love, six love, six love is no fun at all. There is an option for two player games, both in singles and doubles, which could well be the saving of the game for some players. For me though, it's the best tennis game to ever be deinstalled from my hard drive.
Download The Demo