Virtua Tennis 2009 Preview
Written Tuesday, May 19, 2009 By Dan WebbView author's profile
SEGA’s latest Virtua Tennis title is set to hit next-gen (are we really still using that term?) consoles on May 29th across Europe. With Sheffield based SUMO Digital still at the helm after taking over from SEGA’s AM3 for Virtua Tennis 3, as usual the question remains; what do they have in store for the unsuspecting public?
VT 2009 utilises the same technology that its predecessor Virtua Tennis 3 used and feels very much like the same game, but this time with a little more substance and depth. The easy to pick-up-and-play controls return which allows the game to be accessible to beginners but with enough depth to leave VT fans striving to master some of the more extravagant moves to be able to one-up their opponents.
The substantial updates this year are attributed to the whole layout and depth of the World Tour mode, which now boasts a fully licensed Davis Cup, more in-depth customisation and tonnes of equally minded amateurs to pit yourself against before you enter the big times. Virtua Tennis 09 sees 20+ stadiums and 20+ fully licensed pros from Nadal to Murray, and Sharapova to Ivanovic, for players to get friendly with. You’ll also see favourites Duke and King return as well legends like Becker and Edberg ... and also some chap called Henman. VT 2009 also includes a brand new character development aspect that focuses on player strengths as opposed to using numbers in a sort of RPG improvement system. What sort of impact that has on play remains to be seen.
The online mode for this year’s game has been tweaked ever so slightly with players now only able to take their custom-created World Tour characters online to compete in ranked matches. Players of course can still use the game’s pro characters online if they so wish, but only in player matches. It is a brave move from SUMO that may well backfire if there are those players who have no desire to create a superstar and want some instant ranked action.
This year’s version also sees the welcome return of the famed mini games that add a nice change of pace and focus to that present in the World Tour mode. VT 2009 sees 6 new mini games added, with 6 returning from VT 3. The mini games are great fun and when played with a chum you can really get the best out of them. The generally fast paced action sees you feeding animals, playing a Tetris style block buster game, and destroying pirate ships and many more ... all using your trusty racquet. In addition, to add a competitive edge to them, you can upload your scores online to see whether you have what it takes to beat the best.
The game literally feels as it did in 2007 but with the notable exclusion of diving players which fans complained broke up the play in VT 3, and after 2 minutes with the game, you’ll feel like you’ve never stopped playing it. SUMO seems to have focussed on the atmosphere of the game as a major focal point in VT 2009 with the crowd getting more and more boisterous as a rally continues, player’s visually sweating the longer a match goes on and a more 3D crowd. All of which are nice little tweaks to add some tension and atmosphere to the proceedings. One qualm we did have was that with all the different play styles and strengths of each player, it was hard to tell them apart other than their looks. Roddick’s got a pretty nippy serve though, so that’s true to form.
There’s is no doubt about it that Virtua Tennis 2009 is an improvement over its predecessor with SUMO focussing on refining, rather than redefining. The game looks okay visually but doesn’t seem to be anything to write home about. However, with the return of the simplistic gameplay, you’ll enjoy every minute of the game and its relatively small learning curve. It seems as if Virtua Tennis 2009’s long rallies and battle of the wits will surely be the game’s initial appeal but the mini-games and its fairly in-depth World Tour mode will keep tennis fans happy long after Wimbledon has come and gone. Long standing Virtua Tennis aficionados will be happy to see the successful formula back in action and the seamless online integration into the ranked World Tour will keep them vying to rise the ranks of the online leaderboards.
Check back in early June for our Virtua Tennis 2009 review with the game hitting European shores on May 29th.