Top Spin 2 arrives on the Xbox360 with little in the way of competition. With EA yet to splurge into the Tennis field, and the only other sports offerings being Amped 3, NBA 2K6 and NHL 2K6 – all also from the 2K Sports stable – the title clearly has it’s own market sewn-up. But, simply being the only representation of its genre clearly isn’t enough to warrant purchase by itself; in time, there will no doubt be countless rivals to the title. So, as the first title to launch on the Xbox360 in the Tennis genre, does it have the staying power to last-through the Tennis drought?
The title provides the usual gameplay options; Exhibition, Tournament, Career and Party Games. The Exhibition Mode plays individual matches, with human or AI opponents, whilst the Tournament Mode let’s you create your own knockout tournament with both human and AI players. The Career Mode – a modern staple in sports videogaming – must be played through, at least to a minor extent, in order to best make use of the title’s XboxLIVE! functionality, as the majority of it will see you using your Create-A-Player built as you start the Career Mode, and Levelled-Up throughout. The Career Mode plots five seasons in a similar fashion to the Calendar System used in Juiced; Events, Tournaments or Training will be available on selected dates, some of which you may not be able to enter until you have improved either your abilities or status, and on each day you may only play one of the three available options. The Career Mode may be seen as the traditional flair for modern sports gaming; however in Top Spin 2 the vision seems largely superfluous. There is little incentive to continue playing through the Career Mode once all the Xbox360 Achievements have been unlocked; of which there aren’t many.
The title features an interesting, opportunist control set-up. Basic returns are executed with the Face Buttons – A for Safe Shot, Y for Lob etc. – whilst Risk Shots and Special Shots are performed by holding the R Trigger or L Trigger respectively whilst pressing the corresponding Face Button to the move you wish to execute. Initially feeling over-complicated and out-paced, the method soon becomes natural and Drop-Shots just behind the Net are within your grasp.
There’s a large variety of courts offering the usual variety in surface and texture, and the variety of clothing and accessories is bordering on Dead Or Alive-style fixation. The Create-A-Player feature rivals the likes of WWE SmackDown! Vs. Raw 2006 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for it’s depth, and allows you to create some truly monstrous beings.
Top Spin 2 is very polished graphically. Many of the players greatly resemble their real-life counterparts, often putting EA efforts with FIFA 06: Road To FIFA World Cup to shame. The lighting effects are comfortable, although never really having too much an effect on the gameplay, and the animation for the majority is top-notch. The title features easy guitar-lead tunes and a few up-beat light-rock bands. Nothing to upset mum, but hardly as “edgy” as the likes of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, Full Auto or Driver: Parallel Lines.
Top Spin 2 is in a league of it’s own on the Xbox360, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Its pacing has a distinctive display of a developer who knows they are seen as the best in their field, and has an unpleasant comparison with EA’s football branding appearing all too obvious. For Tennis fans, you could do a lot worse, but for those simply looking for a fun break from the monotonous racing and shooting on the Xbox360 would be better looking at Indie Bullit Inc. and 2K Sports first Alternative Sports title; Amped 3.