Almost forgot Wimbledon was on, didn't you? Well it is, Henman's already out, and to celebrate us not having to hear the words "Henman hill" again for a year (or perhaps ever), 2K Sports has responded by lobbing a Wimbledon-themed demo of Top Spin 2 up on Xbox Live Marketplace.
It's pretty tough to cock-up a tennis videogame. For a start, all the action takes place on a single screen, and there are a maximum of four players to animate, and the rules are about as straightforward as any sport in existence. So long as the animation's good, the ball physics are believable and the controls feel right there's not much else a developer has to worry about. Maybe some licensing, venue and sponsor fluff to make the package feel official, but that's really all there is to it.
The fact that Virtua Tennis nailed all of this about six years ago didn't really leave much room for Top Spin's arrival back in 2003, so it had to fill in the blanks and provide online play for the first time, full player customisation and a control system that traded risk for reward. It was good, and the fleshed-out career mode made it feel less of a rival and more of a companion. VT2 was still the king, with its superior graphics and more instinctive feel, but no tennis fan dismissed TS the way your average PES fan routinely sneers at FIFA without even giving it a chance.
The inevitable sequel doesn't exactly progress far beyond what the original did, but, like we said, it's pretty tough to cock up a tennis videogame, and PAM manages to tick all the right boxes with a very solid if unspectacular offering that no tennis fan in possession of a 360 will want to miss out on.