It is widely acknowledged that Wii Tennis was the most played, most enjoyed game in the Wii Sports bundle that accompanied the system at launch. It was easy to play, but hard to master. It was obvious that developers would be quick to produce new tennis games to follow up the success of Wii Tennis. After a few somewhat disappointing tennis outings over the past couple of years, EA seeks to offer up the definitive tennis offering on the Wii. And it seems as if they have succeeded.
The career mode alone would make for a sufficient stand-alone game. It consists of creating your player, and taking him or her through the Grand Slam tournaments, year in and year out. For each tournament, you will start off with a warm-up, exhibition match against another low-ranked player like yourself before going into a choice of mini-games in which you will have a chance to learn special skills of the opponents. You will also play a short singles match against one of the legends in the game, in order to steal some of their attributes. For example, by beating Novak Djokavic, you can earn his powerful forehand. This is great, because there are almost 30 of these past and present professionals in the game, including McEnroe, Edberg, Federer, Roddick, the Williams sisters, and Sharapova. After that, it’s on to the actual Grand Slam tournament. At first, you’ll be paired up against the stars in the early rounds, so it will be a challenge. But after your ranking begins to get better, you will have an easier road. In between tournaments you will earn money that can be used to boost your skills, as well as buy new clothes and equipment. It’s a wonderful mode that will keep you coming back for more as you seek to earn a career Grand Slam.
Along with the career mode, you also get Tennis Party mode, Fitness mode, Exhibition, and Online mode. Party mode lets you play 12 different mini-games, with up to 4 players, offline only. The games are alright, but they really just aren’t different or novel enough to make them worthwhile. It would have been nice to have some crazy games that were truly new and creative, but instead what we have are games that are simply variations of tennis. For example, one of them is a doubles match in which volley winners are worth 2 points instead of 1. It’s fun, but not much different than the rest of the game. Wii Fit junkies will be happy to discover the Fitness mode, which tracks calorie burning goals as you play the game. Online mode is very solid, but it leaves something to be desired in terms of options. The gameplay is generally smooth and hiccup-free, with some exceptions, but there are no online tournaments and no party play online. There are simply ranked and unranked matches, with the system set up so that countries compete against each other for points.
What everyone wants to know is how the controls work with motion-plus. The answer is that they work very well. It’s not quite the unbelievable experience that the hyped up developer videos led you to believe it would be, but it’s still great. The angle and swing path of your virtual racquet are registered quite accurately by the controller and motion-plus. If you follow through to the right, you will hit it there, and vice-versa. You have the option to play with or without the nunchuck attached, and I would recommend using it. It provides the complete experience in which you can control both your swing AND the movement of your player.
You are able to control both the direction and the spin of your shots. If you swing from low to high, you will hit a topspin shot. Swing high to low, and you’ll hit a slice. Hold A while you swing and you’ll throw up a lob, and hold B while you swing and you’ll hit a drop-shot. It works very well, and you’ll really feel like you have control of both the direction and type of shot you hit. We did test the game without the motion-plus attachment as well, and we are happy to say you can still have a good time, although you will miss out on the intricacies of the great control scheme the motion-plus affords. Without motion-plus, where you hit the ball relies completely on timing.
Visually, this game is very good-looking, considering what it is trying to do. EA was not aiming for realism or authenticity. But what they did, they do very well. The game has a cartoony, jazzed-up look. Granted, the game could probably run on the Gamecube, but the animations are smooth and the framerate doesn’t drop. Sound-wise, the game is excellent. The sound effects are on point, and the announcing and environmental sounds are great.
Grand Slam Tennis is not perfect, but it is the best tennis outing to date on the Wii. This game is easy to recommend to any Wii owner, and especially tennis fans. The career mode, online play, and excellent and innovative controls make it an attractive and ambitious effort.