#862 Top Spin 3

Posted: 30th May 2013 by Jeroen in Games
Tags: , , , ,

243rd played so far

Genre: Sports
Platform: Various
Year of Release: 2008
Developer: PAM Development
Publisher: 2K Sports

To be honest, I’m not sure whether I’m entirely qualified to participate in today’s write-up, for similar reasons as why I felt my input on Sega Rally Championship were ‘invaluable’. Peter’s mother is a big fan (tennis nut might be a better word for it) and some of that has transferred to him (seriously, where the hell is Novak Djokovic in this game). I’ve picked up bits and pieces from that, but I know my knowledge is still inferior.

Wii Sports, a game we’ll discuss at some point when the numbers say we can go back to playing Wii games, probably brought video game tennis to people’s minds more than any. But, just as Mario Kart is a simplified form of racing games made more complex by the options in a game like Pure, Top Spin 3 goes more for simulation than accessibility.

Our Thoughts

One of the things I’ve noticed playing many games in the blog is that I get better at playing a lot of games. While originally I wasn’t that used to, say, the double joystick with trigger controls of a console first person shooter, and Peter struggled with WASD controls, we are getting used to them. Considering how many games seem to expect you to be at least somewhat familiar with them – giving some time to get used to it, but making your life easier if you don’t need to gain that muscle memory – it’s only natural that way. It’s also a big help – not having to learn the controls means that we can more effectively play the game itself. In fact, when the controls are unnatural – such as Free Running‘s oddly placed jump button – it can be quite detrimental to the game’s experience.

These basic controls work for a lot of games, meaning it’s easy to jump from one game to another and get the basics. Beyond these, arrow keys, mouse controls and many other things work. The one exception where it’s more difficult are sports games. The basics might still be the same – moving around using the appropriate joystick and usually your most important action is under A, X or whatever the appropriate button is.

What Top Spin 3 showed us more than anything is how the same muscle memory applies, but that if you don’t know it, you’re screwed. There’s a tutorial mode, but it doesn’t seem to explain much – just force you to press a button at the right time, with an accuracy that seems incredibly punishing to starting gamers – including us.

We sort of got the basics after a while. We managed to play. We didn’t do terribly in doubles. As in, yeah, the CPU helped us a lot. When we went to try out the career mode, we ran into more of a problem. Or brick wall. You start off with someone with low ratings (yeah, you need to improve your own character) and you start off having to defeat three opponents. All three of them are better than you. So much better that you can’t reach their level even after your defeat all three of them. It’s tough and not as much an introduction as it’s starting you off high and probably just making it harder from there. That’s just speculation, we never got further and didn’t want to break our controllers for this game.

When it comes to the selection of professional players in this game they have decent coverage of male players (despite the notable omission of Novak Djokovic) but the number of top female players is incredibly lackluster. Worse still is the number of retired players… three. Or one if you are playing on the Wii.  I am not saying that Monica Seles, Bjorn Borg and Boris Becker are not worthy or being in the roster but what about the likes of Steffi Graff, Martina Navratilova, Pete Sampras and Rod Laver? I know some players don’t want to be immortalized in video game form but more than three should have been interested.

It feels like a fairly good simulation – I suppose, I’ve not played that much tennis and didn’t go too far in – which is nice, but just not very accessible to us. It relies too much on what feels like past experience which we don’t have. I suppose in part you need the same sort of obsession with these games others have with the sport itself (especially true when I look at some of my FIFA fanatic friends).

Final Thoughts

The player licensing aside (something really rectified in follow-up Top Spin 4) this is a good sports game for those who are keen for a challenge. The controls are fairly awkward and the difficulty curve is far steeper than it needs to be. There are other tennis games on this list and I hope they do not have the same control problems this one did.

 

  1. […] too long ago (yeah, three months isn’t long ago now), we discussed Top Spin 3. One of the things that came up when we did were controls – if anything, that was the main […]