We visited both the Namco Bandai and Microsoft booths where Smash Court Tennis 3 was on display to get some hands-on time with the latest build of the game. While the demo was limited to only a single venue, Garden City Arena in Sydney, Australia, we did have a bit more choice with the player roster, and decided to pit Roger Federer against Gael Monfils in a three-game singles exhibition match.
Player models appeared smooth and accurate, and bore a striking resemblance to the real athletes they're based on. The demo we saw featured eight male and eight female characters, each with a choice of four different outfits to reflect your style when you hit the court. The player roster includes all the big names from both the male and female pro circuits, including Nadal, Hingis, Blake, and Sharapova on what appeared to be more than a dozen real-world courts.
Smash Court Tennis gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has picked up a virtual racket. The four coloured controller buttons are each mapped to a specific shot. Slices, lobs, top spins, and basic returns are all here, and also double as taunts, as well as signs of frustration or approval when you lose or score a point. Holding a button will increase the amount of power behind your shots.
The most noticeable difference with Smash Court Tennis 3 is the serve system. Rather than have a scrolling bar to indicate power and timing, the ball begins in your hand, with a large target off to the side of your body. As you toss the ball into the air and reach the apex of your serve, the target zone becomes smaller. Striking the ball at the latest possible moment will give you a slight power serve, but you're not penalised for missing it. If you do miss it, or even ignore a button press, your serve will continue at normal speed. Player movement is controlled with the left analogue stick and felt responsive.
Little touches like TV-style screen changes and reverse-angle line replays only help further provide a realistic tennis experience, and we're looking forward to our next hands-on with hopes of trying out some of the other play modes.