During a recent visit, Strategy First showed off US Open 2002, its upcoming tennis simulation. The game's French developer, Carapace, has worked to strike a balance between accessible arcade-style gameplay and the greater level of depth found in simulation-type games.
The build that was shown to us appeared to be feature-complete, with all the different gameplay modes available, including arcade, career, multiplayer, challenge, and training. The arcade mode will put players up against a series of computer-controlled opponents. The career mode will allow players to play through the career of a singles tennis pro, competing in different tournaments and developing the pro's abilities. The multiplayer mode will let two players compete against each other or against the computer in a doubles match, and it's worth noting that US Open 2002 is one of the few tennis games that will allow for a mixed doubles match. The multiplayer mode will also include support for LAN play. The challenge mode will give players the opportunity to create and completely customize their own tennis tournament. Lastly, the training mode, as the name implies, helps players get acquainted with the controls.
Judging from what we played, US Open 2002 is very similar to Sega's renowned Virtua Tennis series, using the same power-meter-based serving system and a similar style of gameplay, though the action was definitely slower and more deliberate. The game also incorporates more simulation-style elements, most notably allowing players to adjust the tension of the strings on the racket, which can have an effect on shot speed and accuracy.
The presentation of the game seemed solid, with good-looking player models and clear textures throughout. US Open 2002 features detailed courts modeled directly after licensed Roland Garros and US Open courts, as well as several unlockable fantasy courts, with themes ranging from a sandy desert to an icy tundra. Off the bat, there will be 10 real-life tennis pros to choose from--six men and four women--and more bizarre characters, like a mummy or an Eskimo, will be unlockable. Though we were unable to get a real feel for it in the time that we spent with it, US Open 2002 uses sounds drawn from real French Tennis Federation matches to help imbue the game with a greater sense of atmosphere.
US Open 2002 is scheduled for a mid-August release on the PC, and Strategy First will also release it on the PlayStation 2. Stay tuned for our continuing coverage of this title.