Virtua Tennis 4
|Xbox 360||PlayStation 3|
|Install||3.2GB (optional)||3117MB (optional)|
|Surround Support||Dolby Digital||Dolby Digital, 5.1LPCM|
Tennis titles rarely push the consoles to their limits - environments are necessarily quite bare and there's obviously a set limit on the amount of major characters you're ever going to have present on-screen. Previously we've seen developers flirt with using the "leftover power" to produce 1080p visuals: now 3D is taking centre-stage.
As with Top Spin 4, the restricted nature of the environments and the lack of fine detail allows for a smooth 60FPS refresh-rate to be handled effortlessly while also leaving enough processing power left over for other elements, such as Kinect and Move support, plus a decent 3D mode exclusive to the PS3. In that respect SEGA's latest tennis title initially sounds like it's more feature rich compared to Top Spin, although when it comes down to the gameplay, the range of modes, characters and courts on offer, it falls considerably far behind. It's still fun to play however, and technically, conversion-wise is a much closer-matched affair than 2K's title.
Back in the hands of original series creators AM3 (UK-based Sumo Digital developed VT 2009), Virtua Tennis 4 features a native 720p framebuffer on both systems, with 2x multi-sampling anti-aliasing implemented on PlayStation 3 while Xbox 360 gets a welcome 4x MSAA upgrade. Despite the difference, the "jaggies" aren't an issue on either version, with the additional edge smoothing found on the 360 game only resulting in a subtly cleaner image overall.
As you can see from the head-to-head movie, texture detail, character and environment modelling are identical across both formats. There are some minor differences - such as slightly better texture filtering on the 360, and mildly lower resolution depth of field effects on the PS3 visible in some shots - but nothing that you could spot whilst playing, so these are basically insignificant on the whole. We also see a lighting off-set bias between the two versions, and PCF (percentage closer filtering) shadow filtering is implemented on both, with a mild dithering effect used to hide the saw-tooth edge effect. In the end the two games are basically graphically interchangeable, with any differences being more technical curiosities rather than anything that could affect the purchasing decision.
As with both Top Spin 4 and Virtua Tennis 2009, VT4 follows the standard blueprint of delivering gameplay at 60FPS and cut-scenes at 30FPS on both formats. V-sync is also solidly enabled, and the game consistently holds its intended update rates with ease - which isn't really surprising at all when you consider the limited scope of the visuals and lack of intricate detail present on screen. Oddly enough, the only difference we see between the two versions is that replays operate at 60FPS on the 360 and 30FPS on the PS3, hinting that the same baseline performance profile is being used for both 2D and 3D modes, with 2D performance being more far consistent.
Unlike Top Spin 4, 3D support is only available on the PS3 version of Virtua Tennis 4, while both versions get motion control in the form of Kinect and Move compatibility. The 3D mode in VT4 is far more impressive from a technical standpoint compared 2K's competing title. A full-fat 720p framebuffer is present along with 2x MSAA, thus matching the game's standard 2D presentation.
However, we do see a few downgrades in this mode. Both depth of field and the HDR-like bloom effect have been removed from the cut-scenes. Although this doesn't really have a negative impact on the visuals at all, the extra clarity benefits the eyes focusing in 3D. Some elements of the cut-scenes are also rendered out in half-res (640x720 per eye) presumably due to fill-rate constraints, and performance suffers during these sequences - indeed, outside of gameplay it's extremely variable throughout. Thankfully, gameplay manages to hold to a near constant 60FPS with just a few minor dips here and there, maintaining a fast controller response.
As mentioned above, there's also support for both Move and Kinect on both PS3 and Xbox 360 respectively. But neither version's implementation of motion control feels anything less than tacked on. We especially had high hopes for Move support considering SEGA's original PS3 exclusive focus, although the end result is both limiting and rather shallow to say the least. Control is solely centred around performing actual shots - you cannot control your character - and is restricted to a singular mode and two sub-options outside of the regular game modes.
At least lag isn't that much of an issue at all; use of the Move felt very responsive compared to competing experiences on the Wii. Kinect support on the Xbox 360 could've been a real winner, but alas the implementation is lacking, with the game unable to discern many moves with any real accuracy, ruining the experience. Overall, the Motion Play modes on both PS3 and Xbox 360 titles are hardly worth your attention.
Virtua Tennis 4 may not deliver quite as realistically polished game of tennis as its rival, Top Spin, but still manages to be enjoyable on the whole. Where SEGA's latest gains an advantage is with regards to the multi platform conversion aspect: the two games are basically a match. PS3 owners though get the better end of the bargain, with five extra characters and full 720p support in 3D during gameplay, which make it the best version available even if there's very little in it.
On the other hand, motion control comes across as disappointing in both, perhaps hinting that developers at present aren't really serious about integrating the tech into standard titles, just including it as another check-box feature when it could be the basis of a generational leap in gameplay.
Perhaps the only complaint that can be levelled at the game visually is the rather sterile presentation, in which you never really feel like you are in the heat of world class event. The TV crews filming the action from the sidelines never track the players on the court, and the crowd doesn't react realistically to the flow of the match. Granted, Top Spin 4 wasn't perfect in this area either, but it did at least try and generate exactly the kind of live atmosphere expected in various events.
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