Top Spin 3 Impressions

New balls, please--we hit the courts with 2K Sports and its third Top Spin game.

In the relatively small world of tennis games, the Top Spin series has carved its niche as a realistic but playable interpretation of the sport. However, given that the last game hit the Xbox 360 near the beginning of the console's life cycle, fans have been waiting nearly two years for a bona fide sequel. 2K Games is going to answer those calls with a game that aims to take advantage of the graphical and technological advancements that have occurred in the meantime. We got to take a first look at the game on the Xbox 360 ahead of its release in early 2008, when it will also be hitting the Wii and PlayStation 3 for the first time.

Top Spin 3 arrives on court with a new control system, online tournaments...and sweaty player models.

Although previous Top Spin games have been quasi-realistic, the aim of the French developer has been to increase this facet of the game for the third outing. The general idea has been to treat the sport with the same sort of respect usually reserved for football games, and the control system has been substantially modified to reflect this. Now, instead of simply pressing the face buttons to take a shot, your presses have to be timed to relate to the position of the ball. The four buttons each relate to a different type of shot, but you now press the button to pull your racquet backwards and release it to take the shot. If you get into a strong position and let go at the optimal point, you can play a strong and accurate shot. However, if you're in a bad position or let go at the wrong point, your player will be forced to adapt and will lose accuracy as a result.

This system appears set to offer you more maneuverability, and will undoubtedly allow more control for advanced players than ever before. However, without being able to try the system out at our demo day, we were still concerned about its impact on Top Spin's more casual fans. The developer claims that the system doesn't alienate these players, but instead adds depth for serious players. 2k claims that people will still be able to pick up a pad and play, and as they uncover the advantages of timing and position they'll become more advanced at the game.

Another aspect of the control system that's changed is the advanced shoulder-button shots, which have been dropped in favour of "risk shots" on the same buttons. Whereas before, the triggers were used to pull off trickier but more effective shots, now the right trigger is used to apply risk to the shot played on the face button. The resulting shot will teeter closer to the line and may end up going out, but it will have more power and may wrong-foot the opposition. The real skill in using the risk shot lies with positioning yourself and timing your swing correctly.

The graphical detail is impressive; look out for footprints, skid marks, and camera crews.

However, not all of the changes lie in the control system. The graphics look suitably enhanced, with superb animation effects combined with a silky 60-frame-per-second running speed. Characters feature full cloth deformation, and even more impressively, sweat that makes clothes clingy and dirty. Thankfully, players don't have that slightly plastic look to them, either; both real-life and player-created models are highly realistic. Twenty-five licensed characters such as Federer and Sharapova will be making an appearance, although you won't be playing against such highly ranked players until quite some way into the single-player tournaments.

Although many of the world's biggest tennis names have made a return in Top Spin 3, the developers have made a conscious effort to push people toward its advanced player-creation tools. The system still lets you create big-nosed, comedic monstrosities, but the customisation options mean you can actually create a character that looks as polished as the ones built by the original development team. All the usual options for eyes, mouth, and skin exist, but you can also adorn your character with a variety of tattoos, accessories, and makeup.

One of the biggest advancements in the sports genre has been the introduction of online leagues, and Top Spin 3 is no slouch in this area. There'll be the usual ranked and unranked match options for quick play, but the two-week seasons will be the main focus for serious players. These seasons will be a fortnightly challenge for people to take part in over the Internet, with a separate ranking board determined by the overall performance of each player. The exact details are still being worked out at this point, but it will be an area where experienced players can flex their muscles against the best players in the world. The single-player care career mode will be slightly different this year. You'll start at the local level and will build up your skills to play the continental challenge and junior tour, until you get to the major players as part of the pro tour. There'll also be a local co-op tournament mode for up to four players, as well as a legend mode where you'll face a series of individual challenges.

Twenty-five real-life players will play in 40 world venues, and all the major tournaments will feature official licences.

We got to see only the Xbox 360 version of the game at our preview, but the team assures us that the PlayStation 3 version is being developed in parallel, is definitely not a port, and will also run at 60 frames per second. Furthermore, the Wii version will work with both the Wii Remote and the Nunchuk, with the remote replicating swinging and the analog stick handling player movement. The team isn't making any announcements on a multiplayer online mode for the Wii version, although it's clear from our conversation that they've been looking into it. We'll hold our breath for more on the game ahead of its release in Q1 next year, and you can be sure that we'll pass on any information we hear.

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Discussion

21 comments
JackalJnr23
JackalJnr23

Have a look at the screens 30 to 33. The created model in the red shirt looks as lifelike as the real life counterparts. On a side note, here's hoping that Novak Djokovic & Lleyton Hewitt are included on the men's side, while on the women's side I hope they include Ana Ivanovic & Jelena Jankovic.

gargarensi
gargarensi

Holy **** I'll be pissed if they don't throw Djokovic in there.

fanirama
fanirama

julius25 - there's usually not much commentary in tennis games. Its "ball hit, ball returned" typically, save for those awesome moments/shots. But, yet, some sporadic interesting commentary would be nice. Comments about weather, game style, shot selection, player history, trivia is welcome.

ukogmickey
ukogmickey

This will smash Virtua Tennis 3 as in my opinion is just a silly arcade tennis game wheras Top Spin 2 was more realistic in every sense, I mean you could have a bloomin 1000 shot rally for gods sake. Virtua says it all really. Anyway bring on TS3 it will be Smashin !!!!!!

nedo99
nedo99

The control scheme doesnt sound any different than it already is. Wat they talkin bout

damariners
damariners

this game gonna smashing rock dude

julius25
julius25

Im hoping for maybe some type of commentary during matches, that would be nice.

Yuskue76
Yuskue76

I want to know if you think you made a mistake but it was not your intention to make one, someone or some person made it like that should not be forgiven.

showstoppa
showstoppa

Top spin tennis 2 was terrible and virtua tennis 3 was twice as bad!! I must be a tennis purist because nothing i have played since the FIRST top spin has even been remotely enjoyable. This sounds pretty good but so did TS2 and VT3. I just hope that they got the same PAM team that worked on the first!

nehe
nehe

Woot!!! lol It's great to see that they are going to treat the sport with the same respect as the football and basketball games out there. Thats all I have been asking!. I'm so interested in their roster of players although you could pretty much make enormous amount of characters with there CAP mode. I need my Venus and Serena LOL PLease put them both in or I'll be forced to make them lol Oh also I hope everything runs smooth no lag online no glitches.. please so far Its sounding great though. I would hate to have those problems ruin the game

skee_uk
skee_uk

i have virtua tennis 3 on ps3 its an awsome game, but this looks quite neat also. im glad its not another port

rogerarmoo
rogerarmoo

Sounds awesome! The gameplay sounds a bit like Smash Court Tennis 3, which was sublime. The co-op online tournament rules aswell, i just hope it does not lag out like the last one. I think i managed a few lag free games on TS2... but its annoying the lag when you need precision and timing!

xLeXaRx
xLeXaRx

I'll agreed with "ddelella" Top Spin 2 was not only better than Virtua it was only a masterpiece over that game :D I really love this game, this game it's really realistic game for my it's the best tennis game ever made. And i'll be waiting for TS3 but for bow i'll still with TS2:D

DeathStar17
DeathStar17

I hope they fix the camera this time...

ddelella
ddelella

Top Spin 2 was better than Virtua Tennis so Top Spin 3 should have it beat at the very foundation of the code. I just hope they don't go overboard with features and realism like some of the NFL games. Some are just not playable anymore when they remove the element that attracts the people who are not tennis diehards.

mad_tyger
mad_tyger

I hope it's better than virtua Tennis!

galerian86
galerian86

I can't wait for this game. Love the original Top Spin. At least they are developing a proper game for the PS3. What does the time frame of Q1 next year is? Jan to March?

mattcake
mattcake

Control system sounds much better - the way TS2 worked was almost auto and you just picked the shot, I always felt if I anticipated the shot and got into the right position I should be able to hold the button longer for a better and harder shot. I also hope theyve fixed the "serve wide then hit cross court" to win 90% of shots on serve problem in TS2. Oh, and yes, we did notice Mauresmo the FRENCH player was waaay too strong. Coincidence the game is developed by a FRENCH developer? :D

taylorzhang
taylorzhang

Can't wait. Should be the best tennis game ever. btw, anybody who played Smash court tennis 3 on x360?

pastro243
pastro243

hope fernando gonzalez is here