With the popularity of Virtua Striker and the announcement of Virtua NBA, it's no surprise that Sega has branched out and extended the series to include tennis. What was surprising however was the game's popularity.
The game includes eight real players: Britain's Tim Henman, Spain's Carlos Moya, Sweden's Thomas Johansson, Germany's Tommy Haas, Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov, Australia's Mark Philippoussis, France's Cedric Pioline, and Jim Courier from the good old US of A. Virtua Tennis looks very realistic and includes such touches as the ball boys and line judges reacting to the play.
It's been a long time since I've liked playing a tennis game as much as I like playing Virtua Tennis. The gameplay is just there - it doesn't try to confuse you with complex button presses or moves, but at the same time it offers enough flexibility to provide you with a realistic game. One refreshing note after Virtua Striker, is that the control is very responsive. The exception to this is when the computer takes over - to make it easier for you to hit the ball the game "helps" you get into the optimum position for shots, making it slightly awkward when you move somewhere without your control.
The graphics are nice enough - the faces don't have as many odd blemishes on them as the models in the arcade version, but there are lots of jagged lines, especially on the net. The animations are all fairly nice at this point, and I'm sure they'll be refined a bit before the game releases.
I really like the grunting and other noises made by the players as they hit the ball. Just like in actual tennis, it adds to the excitement of the game if you hear your player groan or wail as he serves.
While most of the game's modes weren't available to us in this early build, the doubles match was selectable and very exciting. Not only do you have to work as a team, but you have to play different roles throughout the match.
Tennis may not be as hard-core a sport as football or hockey, but Virtua Tennis is still very enjoyable, and it should please casual tennis players as well as the fanatical tennis junkies.