Game Review: 'Top Spin Tennis 4'

Filed under: Video Games

Rated ON for Ages 8 and Up

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that "Top Spin 4" is a tennis simulation game that stars dozens of real tennis pros and features many known sports brands. Its virtual athletes emote realistically as they make and miss shots, but they're never mean-spirited, and they always shake hands after each match. Note that this game supports open online communication, a feature that Common Sense Media does not recommend for pre-teens.

The good stuff

  • Ease of play: Shot controls are immediately accessible, allowing players of all skill levels to quickly get their bearings. However, it is also a deep simulation that allows for nuance and strategy, meaning skilled players will find the challenge they seek as the game progresses. Several difficulty settings help ensure players of all experience levels are adequately challenged.
  • Educational value: Many players will come away with an improved understanding of the rules and strategies involved in tennis
  • Messages: This game simulates professional tennis. It encourages an interest in the sport while demonstrating the sort of training and dedication required to become a top athlete. It also promotes healthy competition among friends.
  • Role models: More than two dozen professional tennis stars, both male and female, appear in the game. They express both glee and disappointment when they make good or bad shots as well as upon the victory or loss of a match. They never appear too dejected, and they never get angry at their opponents. They shake hands and smile at the conclusion of matches.

What to watch out for

  • Online interaction: This game supports online play with open voice communication, which means players could be subjected to foul language and inappropriate topics of conversation and could share personal information with others.
  • Violence & scariness: Not an issue.
  • Language: Not an issue.
  • Consumerism: This tennis game not only promotes dozens of real-life tennis stars, but also features a wide variety of known brands, including Head, Yonex, Adidas, and others. Logos appear on equipment and ads can be seen surrounding the court.
What's the Story?

2K's top-selling tennis franchise returns in "Top Spin 4," a highly realistic simulation of the sport. More than two dozen authentic tennis stars, both male and female, play on recreations of some of the world's best known courts. Players can engage in quick exhibition matches, head online to play with others, or create their own avatar and embark on a lengthy career that involves building up skills, hiring coaches, and working their way up world rankings. The Wii and PlayStation 3 editions offer support for motion-based controls, allowing players to get up off the couch and become active, while the Xbox 360 version employs a traditional controller interface.

Is It Any Good?

The best tennis series around only gets better in this latest iteration, which offers stunningly lifelike character models, fluid animations, and photo-realistic venues. With multiple sportscast-style viewing angles and dynamic replays, it may take casual viewers a moment to realize that they're watching a video game as opposed to a televised event.

And the good goes beyond just visual presentation. The deep and satisfying career mode offers both realistic tournaments and special events that result in tangible rewards that augment your tennis star's skills and appearance. It will keep fanatics coming back for weeks or months. Franchise rookies, meanwhile, should be able to get a handle on things pretty quickly thanks to intuitive controls and optional onscreen cues that provide feedback on shot timing and first bounce locations. If there's a better tennis game around, we haven't seen it.

Play it on: Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

This review of "Top Spin Tennis 4" was written by Chad Sapieha.

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