Review: Xbox 360: Top Spin 4

Top spin returns bringing with it an absolute blinding performance especially tailored for gamers into their tennis simulators and also caters and creates possibilities for newcomers to enjoy the series thanks to some tight controls and excellent physics.

The Practice Ground is where you will begin, in the PG you be able to get to grips with the basic controls, basic shots and how this all comes together when to start to familiarise yourself with the gameplay. Feel free to come here whenever you feel the need as TS4 does take you to the PG before you get to the main menu, you can skip this at any time by pressing start. The PG isn’t where the actual games tutorial is, the Top Spin Academy section is where you’ll find the basic tutorial and other tutorials that gradually build in difficulty depending on what you’re learning and what style fits you best. Top Spins tutorial is excellent for newcomers as its simple to follow and the tutorials interface is easy to get to grips with. Neil Rally (your trainer) will then run though some chit-chat which thankfully you can skip at will and after the niceties another box will appear clearly stating your current tutorials objective along with some simple bullet points to follow. This makes the games tutorial section worth playing and coming back to whatever skill level you’re at as TS4 does have a few improvements throughout which you can learn first in the tutorial section and most of all this part of the game is simply enjoyable which is rare as most tutorials are just asking to be skipped.

The character creation menu can be found in Player Zone in the main menu along with My Player and the Practice Ground. Creating players is always quite fun in most games, depending on what you’re given. Top Spins player creator is a little quirky with faces though it is a good player creator all-round and the level of items and options you get to mess around with in the beginning is refreshingly varied, you could go for the cool green haired look that so many tennis players sport in real life or go for gold with some tattoos.

The characters movements and interactions while playing is something to appreciate, you’ll notice you’re given a hand with player positioning and have more control and choice into what shots or strategy you want to take because of it. Your player, all-round, reacts better and sooner to shots leaving that slow tug at when you begin moving to counter a thing of the past, also footwork is more advanced and help any newcomer become a formidable opponent or help those pros reach a higher, more rewarding level of gameplay.

After a bit of practice it’s time to face some proper competition in Career Mode. The main objective in Career Mode is to increase your player’s status; it represents your current progress. You can unlock new titles by completing objectives along the way, obviously your final objective will to be ultimate ruler of the tennis universe… so to speak but you will begin as a lowly Newcomer. This mode is based on twelve month seasons and each month you will be able to choose one Preparation Event and one actual tournament to increase those player stats which in time unlocks an amazing amount of tennis gear and other such marvellous events to participate in.

You have a Career Card which shows your players important ranking information and what level you’re currently at, this is always useful to just keep tabs on what needs improving. There are two things you’ll want to keep track of on your Career Card and these are your season ranking and Top Spin ranking. Season ranking is the sum of points you’ve earned since the first of January which decides who the best player of the season is and Top Spin ranking is the sum of points you’ve earned in the past twelve months which decided who’s the world’s number one champion is. Ranking is always important but you will also need to improve your skills and stats using other ways than just tournaments as earning and spending XP’s will allow you to evolve your player as well.

To unlock your next status you will need to complete some objectives along the way, this is visible on the main career screen and has the reward for completing the objectives too just underneath. After you’ve upgraded or changed into some groovy clothes from the many different clothes company’s Top Spin has to offer you can start or get back into the action using your Calendar. With your calendar you can browse what events you have coming up in that year but every month you can only play one Preparation event and one Tournament. With Preparation events you have two options, play against a sparring partner or complete a Special event from the many you will acquire along the way. Sparring training is a friendly short match (depending on what difficulty you chose at the begging of the game) and you can choose what type of your opponent you want to help with your weaknesses or strengths  regarding certain aspects of ball play like base line or net play. Special events are everything in-between practice matches and tournaments like Exhibition matches, physical training or some cool extra activities like jet set parties; Special events are a great way to earn easy XP and/or fans.

On the left side of the calendar shows your up and coming tournaments, some of them will only become available to you once you have reached a higher player status or ranking, the bigger the tournament the bigger rewards you will receive. All information you will need will appear in the Addition information box after you highlight an event, this makes planning your season a lot easier than coming in and out of menus, Top Spins overall interface works very well because of additions like these. It might seem like there’s only a couple of options to choose from in your calendar but most lead onto other things and unlock items, all of which is good fun thanks to Top Spins control scheme. There’s also the option to replay a tutorial section at any time using the start button if you can’t remember something, there’s a lot more to get to grips with Top Spin and this feature will help anybody overcome any navigation or play issues.

Once you’ve got a bit of weight behind you the game will introduce coaches to you. You can hire coaches from the locker room and having a coach will grant you several bonuses like XP bonuses, attribute bonuses or gameplay skills. To have access to a coaches bonuses you will have to play some matches to complete their objectives for you, the more you complete the more help you get constantly with the attribute and gameplay bonuses. Coaches also have levels themselves (bronze, silver or gold) and according to your player’s development, new coaches will appear as you progress, obviously gold coaches are what you should be aiming for. You can change coach whenever you please in the coach page but you have to keep in mind that once you do you will have to complete the new coaches’ objectives to receive the bonuses as the past coaches bonuses get deactivated and the new coaches objectives become your new targets, all info for coaches is available before you choose and you can even compare coaches side by side by using the X button. This helps create movement within the games smaller areas and keeps you customising and aiming higher and higher without really trying to.

At the end of the season, if you are the player with the highest number of wins you will be rewarded extra XP. The season recap screen will pop up and will scroll through your positions in each tournament and afterwards a table will appear showing you how much the bonus was and what for so next season you can try set your sights a little higher. Overall the Career mode is filled with many a thing to accomplish throughout your play and has several fun activities to participate in, also these normally lead onto other things and rewards which keeps the games pace nice and fresh. The amazing array of clothing is always something to mess with and unlock and for a small feature of the game, it creates bundles of things to customise and keep you occupied. The courts are all great to play on from grass to clay and the learning curves inside of Career mode could make the biggest tennis novice into a considerable treat, balancing a lot of players together always creates good online/multiplayer possibilities and Top Spin does so, with class.

After you’ve finally pulled your head out of Top Spins engrossing Career Mode you do have some other options as far as gameplay is concerned with the likes of Exhibition mode, King of the Court and more. Exhibition mode consists of Single and Double matches which you and three A.I. can play or three human players, you can choose your created player or many of the tennis stars that play today, for example; Federer, Nadal, Murray, S.Williams and many others are available to select. You can change the difficulty and match duration in the set-up sequence if you fancy some really testing opposition or want the A.I. to give you more of a challenge while playing with friends and also you can select which court/surface to play on from Melbourne to Rome and they all look superb.

There’s also King of the Court mode for party games made up of several players, A.I. or human (human players need to be local). This mode basically is based round a number of short games that knock players out who lose and have new players come in to challenge the leader/winner and after three players have been defeated the winner is crowned King of the Court. This brings a singular experience to Top Spins total experience and helps create more opportunities for mixing the type of matches/gameplay up as there’s only so many ways to play tennis especially in a simulator without losing its original direction or feel. 

Xbox Live modes are available and Top Spin has some good old familiar options to choose from and has a couple of extra rewarding games alongside these, not all online modes are completely predicable. Player match is a quick online exhibition match where the matches rules and venue are open choice, whatever you fancy. World Tour mode is an online Career mode where it’s basically set out the same as the offline career but with a few tucks for ease of use online. You’ll build your online Player Card by playing online watches versus other Xbox Live users in a series of different tournaments, they’re certain rules to the online career, for example; you can play each tournament only once per season and you either win or get eliminated. You also have the option of quick matches and training with a sparring partner like you do in the offline but all your efforts ultimately go to your online player card. This brings a worldly open stage vibe to Top Spins online play and with it, a good sense of accomplishment as you progress as matches are lag free and rather competitive with the extra players thanks to the games accessibility, this also means matches are balanced well often when the right online filter is enabled to get paired with a player closer to your skill level.

Top Spin 4 is a completely safe bet as far as just a game is concerned but it does absolutely demolished this year’s other tennis opposition in its genre in so many different ways. Top Spins online and offline structures and modes work very well and with a great control scheme that ceases to stop helping your learn and adapt your style only keeps adding to the experience, it would be a great title to help most people crack or get into something new and rewarding, and, last but not least, fans can enjoy the old with the new.


Score: 9/10


Developer: 2K Games
Publisher: 2K Games

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