Review

AO Tennis Review

  • First Released Jan 15, 2018
    released
  • PS4

Double fault.

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Without a major new tennis game since the last console generation, there is a lot riding on AO Tennis, an officially licensed game themed around the Australian tournament of the same name. Unfortunately, the final product feels half-baked and rushed, because AO Tennis is a game brought down by a frustrating lack of polish and poor presentation.

The game's controls and subpar shotmaking mechanics leave much to be desired, especially for a title that shares its name with such a prestigious tournament. In addition to the typical face-button setup for the various types of shots that can be played (such as slices and spins), AO Tennis adds an option where players can use the right joystick to serve and play shots. While a good idea in theory, the result is far too simplistic and feels clunky. The game automatically selects one type of shot for you every time with this method, which, although suitable for newcomers, will make you want to revert to the face buttons anyway due to its lack of depth.

Even with such basic shotmaking controls, AO Tennis does a poor job implementing them. The game aims for a tried-and-true system of holding an appropriate shot button in order to increase power before letting the shot fly. But the system is inconsistent, and far too often you will miss, use the wrong shot, use too much power for no discernable reason, or simply not react to the oncoming ball at all. And that's if you've managed to arrive at the shot in the first place.

Movement in AO Tennis is unresponsive and clumsy. Sprinting from side to side to chase down shots feels like an impossibly vain attempt every time, and to make things even more futile, there's no diving mechanic either. There are also random occasions where you might find yourself automatically pulled towards the ball, regardless of what buttons you may or may not be pushing. This troublesome movement system makes AO Tennis a frustrating game of wild guessing; it's a gamble between actual responsiveness, or losing a rally because your player does nothing at all.

Should you anticipate correctly and time a shot properly, don't expect it to land where you want it to either. Each shot type is wildly unpredictable in regards to where it will land and how much power is behind it, regardless of how perfectly you timed the power gauge. This throws normal tennis strategies out the window in favour of unrealistic ways to win points, such as hitting drop shots off 200km/h serves. Past the novelty factor of hitting error-free drop shots at will, the rallies in AO Tennis are simply jarring and unsatisfying to play.

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All the aforementioned mechanical problems are amplified even further in AO Tennis' lackluster doubles mode. The expanded court margins and the near-lifelessness of players on screen exasperates the game's shotmaking problems and render doubles to a barely playable feature.

Each match is also noticeably lacking in atmosphere and gloss, which can be attributed to AO Tennis' bare-bones presentation. There are no commentaries, no crowd interactions, no entrance music, no pre-match greetings or handshakes, no post-match congratulations, and no trophy presentations, even if you've won the whole Australian Open tournament. The venues themselves are also rendered in a mediocre fashion; there is practically no detail to the different kinds of court surfaces, and you wouldn't know the difference between Rod Laver Arena or Wimbledon's famous Centre Court if it weren't for the change in colour scheme.

There are also some glaring omissions and extremely odd decisions that feel like straight-up mistakes at best and corner-cutting at worst. There are no in-game tutorials to properly explain how everything works; Rafael Nadal's distinctive on-court grunts are weirdly reused for random computer opponents; every single player (including iconic, real-life pros) has almost the exact same shotmaking motions; and the in-game referees occasionally get line calls incorrect, such as calling "let" in the middle of a rally.

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Unfortunately, AO Tennis' poor presentation extends beyond the match court. There are a number of game modes available from the onset, but each one is sorely lacking in polish or even mildly interesting features. Career mode allows you to create your own player and take them on a journey from rookie to Grand Slam champion. But aside from playing tournaments and earning money in order to improve your player's skills, there is absolutely nothing to do besides match play. There are no training mini-games, practice courts, or even a rudimentary simulation of a tennis career off the court, such as press conferences or building up an entourage of coaches and physiotherapists. There is a special Australian Open tournament mode, but it's as bland as the matches in Career mode. You simply slog through the 128 male or female player draw and then do it all over again once the finals are played.

Should you not want to create your own character, AO Tennis has a roster of real-life pros for you to choose. A total of 18 pro players are currently available to play, including Rafael Nadal, Angelique Kerber, and a contingent of Australian players such as Sam Stosur and Ash Barty. But the lack of more recognisable superstars such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, or Serena Williams does diminish the star wattage of AO Tennis a bit, especially for casual players.

AO Tennis' custom player creation tool does have enough features to let you create other real-life pros, and these creations can be shared online with other players. Having said that, the number of available individual options are quite limited, so crafting some of tennis' most unique looks (such as a long-haired Andre Agassi) won't be possible.

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But the small roster of licensed pros available are given an unfortunate spotlight in AO Tennis because of terrible visuals and facial animations. Each real-life pro looks wooden, and they barely meet the standard set by the Top Spin and Virtua Tennis franchises years ago.

The developer, Big Ant Studios, has promised to continually improve AO Tennis throughout the year, promising an ambitious slate of content that includes new players, events, and game modes. But with its poor presentation, lack of content, and frustrating controls, AO Tennis in its current state is subpar at best, and requires much more refinement to even meet the standard of last generation's tennis titles. Rather than a Roger Federer-esque ace, AO Tennis is more akin to a double fault whose shots don't even make the net.

Back To Top
The Good
N/A
The Bad
Bland visuals and lifeless character animations
Movement and swings feel clumsy and inconsistent
Lack of tutorials and feedback is frustrating
Noticeable lack of polish and bare-bones presentation
Very few licensed top players available for play
3
Bad
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Rather than play the real thing, Alexander spent countless tennis matches worth of time playing AO Tennis. GameSpot was provided a complimentary PS4 copy of the game for this review.
27 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for santibatmanskywalker

Do you know the estimated date for when this game will be in America and / or Argentina? Thank you very much and greetings

Avatar image for santibatmanskywalker

Do you know the estimated date for when this game will be in America and / or Argentina? Thank you very much and greetings

Avatar image for killercondoms
KillerCondoms

Not surprised, it's tennis after all. Bloody boring sport that is.

Avatar image for mattyac
MattyAC

I wish there was a new Virtua Tennis or Top Spin game in the making, I've missed a good tennis game for years :(

Avatar image for idimidi
idimidi

@mattyac: Actually, "Tennis World Tour" is coming out later this year (heard something about May). It's being developed by the guys behind Top Spin :)

Avatar image for santibatmanskywalker

It is impossible, that you have qualified with a 3 if in America it still has not come out, your rating is not credible, I have a lot of faith in this game

Avatar image for RobDev
RobDev

@santibatmanskywalker: and yet the review states they have been given a copy of the game. your post is not credible. the game is dogshit.

Avatar image for Yams1980
Yams1980

3/10 for that nice "i gotta poop" box art

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico
LTJohnnyRico

Surprised it even got a 3 with no good points at all!

Avatar image for PrpleTrtleBuBum
PrpleTrtleBuBum

@ltjohnnyrico: Well, it's a game

I'm not sure you can call "It looks and plays somewhat sometimes" a Plus. I'd say 2 and 1 are reserved for games that are this uninteresting, and also crash and slow down frequently

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo
DudeBroPartyYo

Top Spin 4 is all you need

Avatar image for KingKalo
KingKalo

This ruined the 9 streak. Sad.

Avatar image for fox_fury
fox_fury

Greatness Awaits! :D

Avatar image for dudebropartyyo
DudeBroPartyYo

@fox_fury: Why are you quoting Sony slogan?

Avatar image for lembu90
Lembu90

@fox_fury: In this April...

Avatar image for mattcake
mattcake

The pic at the top looks like someone has thrown a little white mint from the right hand side, and they're both trying to catch it in their mouth.

Or some drugs.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@mattcake: Or like they're really angry that they're in this piss poor game. I'd probably be angry, too.

Avatar image for bongaconga
bongaconga

Super Mario Tennis from 1989 for gameboy is the best tennis game ever made.

Avatar image for RicanV
RicanV

The Good: N/A

Ouch.

Moderator
Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

I don't get it. Some crappy noname tennis game focussed on the Australian Open gets released and Gamespot has to review it? Did they get payed for it?

At the same time other games get no coverage whatsoever. Valkyria Chronicles 4, a true sequel to the first game has finally been announced for consoles a few months ago and Gamespot didn't even take notice.

Avatar image for RobDev
RobDev

@Atzenkiller: yes, imagine reviewing a game based on A MAJOR TENNIS TOURNAMENT THAT'S CURRENTLY HAPPENING. They must have gotten paid.

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@RobDev: I beat everyone's gonna buy a crappy tennis game that Gamespot rated 3/10 because they're so crazy about that tournament. Or not.

Gamespot would have been better off doing an article with recommendations for some actually decent tennis games. But since tennis is quite a niche sport, at least when it comes to videogames, hardly anyone would care I assume. Probably still more though than there's people who care about this review.

Avatar image for RobDev
RobDev

@Atzenkiller: firstly, Tennis isn't a niche sport. Do you think Federer earned $600 million playing fucking tiddlywinks? Secondly obviously played the game and created the review so they should not release it because its a bad game? This was an anticipated release.

Avatar image for Renunciation
Renunciation

@Atzenkiller: Nov. 19 article -- https://www.gamespot.com/articles/valkyria-chronicles-4-announced-for-ps4-xbox-one-a/1100-6455085/

Nov. 20 video -- https://www.gamespot.com/videos/gs-news-update-valkyria-chronicles-4-announced-for/2300-6441935/

That's more coverage than a few of my favorite games from the last 2 years combined (Rabi-Ribi, West of Loathing, Doki-Doki Literature Club).

Avatar image for Atzenkiller
Atzenkiller

@Renunciation: That's strange, cause if you check out the game's page here: https://www.gamespot.com/valkyria-chronicles-4/

You'll find absolutely nothing on it.

Avatar image for Renunciation
Renunciation

@Atzenkiller: I'd gotten those results by typing "Valkyria Chronicles 4" into the search bar up top, and never realized that the game's page was empty.

Seems as though Ed fixed it up, though. Cool! : )

Avatar image for doorselfin
doorselfin

@Atzenkiller: Thanks for noticing this. It's likely that the announcement article and videos went up before a page was created for the game.

Have gone and fixed it. Looking forward to that one!

Staff

AO Tennis More Info

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  • First Released Jan 15, 2018
    released
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    6.2
    Average Rating4 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate AO Tennis
    Developed by:
    Big Ant Studios
    Published by:
    Five Star Games, Big Ant Studios
    Genre(s):
    Sports, Tennis