Tennis serves up winner

From: 2K Sports
For: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series 

Can you remember what you were doing in 2011?

Talk about several lifetimes ago. But I think, around work and chasing after a 3-year-old son, I was finding time to play a little Top Spin 4 on the Xbox 360 (bless its little heart). Not, of course, imagining it would be THIRTEEN years before another game in the beloved series would launch.

Somewhere along the line, tennis became the black sheep of the sports video game universe.

While football, basketball, American football, baseball, cricket and others — not really rugby, sadly — got two more console generations of improvements and enhancements, the court sport had to make do with a couple of decent indie efforts.

That always seemed a shame as, while tennis could be considered on the niche side for gaming, it has always been a sport that has translated well.

Hitting a ball backwards and forwards is such an elemental process, harking back to the days when Pong kept youngsters entertained for hours.

So, Top Spin is back, and in the capable hands of publisher 2K Sports, flush with resources after years of pumping out the mega-successful NBA 2K series, and developer Hangar 13, known for the excellent Mafia titles.

Out of the box, Top Spin 2K25 offers a tantalising glimpse of how a tennis game can challenge some of its rivals in many areas.

This is admittedly something that strikes me about most modern sports games, but sheeeeesh the visuals and the audio are genuinely quite fantastic.

From the blades of Wimbledon grass to the dust kicked up from the Roland Garros clay, from the grunts and groans of some of the world’s greatest players to the sounds of the crowd in iconic stadiums, everything is presented so beautifully.

The player roster — headlined by the GOAT pairing of Serena Williams and Roger Federer — is solid, with the promise of more stars to come, though the appeal of tennis games, perhaps more so than in other sports, has always been creating your own player, outfitting him or her in some snazzy gear, and levelling them up from local hack to world’s best.

That is again the most enjoyable way to experience the game.

Through training exercises, games and tournament victories, earn virtual currency to spend on cosmetic items and new courts, and get XP to level up (slowly) your various skills.

Like many, I am wary, and weary, of 2K Sports’ heavy focus on online modes — you can do one-off games or full tours in this — and microtransactions, but you can still go far without spending more money or sweating over player v player interactions.

Putting everything else aside, the only thing that really matters in a tennis title is the gameplay.

And it is oh so very good. Sublime, even.

The learning curve is steep, though nicely ameliorated by a deep tutorial mode guided by the great John McEnroe, but the experience of gliding around the court and seeking to out-smart an opponent quickly becomes extremely enjoyable.

You can keep it simple with your shots or dive right into more complicated controls to find new levels of power, placement and panache.

Some say tennis games are boring. I say they are a neat mix of the simple — soothing, even — and the addictive. It’s nice to have Top Spin back.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter