You hear the stories all the time, woman throws Wii Remote into the television and it breaks, child throws a controller on the floor and it shatters. These are stories we used to scoff at here at PALGN, until we picked up Top Spin 3, which should come packaged with another controller. Let's rewind a bit, Top Spin 3 is the third game in the previously Xbox exclusive franchise, the previous two games in the series were pretty solid, but for Top Spin 3, 2K Sports has thrown all the previous gameplay mechanics out the window and started again. So we've established the game is frustrating, but is it any good?
For years now tennis games have been all about pushing the correct button when the ball is coming at you to pull off a drop shot, or a forehand shot or even a lob. You'll move to the front of the net and then move back again, and then do the same thing again. It's not exactly innovative, but it does the job, as Sega's Virtua Tennis has shown. Well, Top Spin 3 mixes it up a bit. In Top Spin it isn't just about hitting the ball at the right time, or pressing the correct button, but it's all about timing. The face buttons still dictate which shot you'll pull off, but you'll need to make sure you're in the right position and you push the button at the correct time, failure to do so will result in you missing the ball (and this is where the controller throwing will undoubtedly come in). This is a game that you will need to go to the tutorial (called Top Spin school in game) for. Even if you've played a previous Top Spin game, or have played tennis games since Pong we recommend you turn up early for class.
Risk shots are again back in force, but this time they aren't just about pushing a button but how difficult the incoming ball is. The game also includes a heart rate meter. Your players will get tired throughout a match and this means they will perform worse than normal. The inclusion of the heart rate meter is a clever addition and works rather well. All in all, the controls are tough as nails. This isn't to say the game is broken, the controls are sufficient and even extremely deep, but it now does mean that those who are after an arcade experience should stick to Sega's tennis title and those who are after something a little deeper will find plenty to keep them busy with in Top Spin 3.
Speaking of keeping busy, the single player options are pretty solid. Aside from exhibition and a tournament mode, the main single player mode is the career mode. Before entering the career mode you'll need to create your own player. The create a player mode is surprisingly deep, so players should be able to create a tennis player that looks relatively similar to themselves. In the career mode players earn XP for winning matches and the XP can then be used to upgrade attributes and to purchase new equipment. The seriousness of the game is reflected in the fact that there are no mini games, which are Wii Exclusive.
The online support is pretty solid and you can take your created player online. You can join in any tournament and as you win tournaments online you will also earn XP which can be used to improve your attributes. As we had a pre-release copy we found ourselves playing against Americans, which did mean there was the occasional bit of lag, but overall the net code seems pretty solid and the online game seems less laggy than Top Spin 2.
If you love pro tennis players you're well catered with in Top Spin 3. The game includes several tennis stars and their likeness including Roger Federer, Tommy Haas, James Blake, Gael Monfils, David Nalbandian, Mario Ancic, Andrew Murray, Andy Roddick, Tomas Berdych, Mark Philippoussis, Mario Sharapova, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nicole Vaidisova, Justine Henin, Caroline Wozniacki, Amelie Mauresmo, Bjorn Borg, Boris Becker and Monica Seles. The PlayStation 3 version also gets an exclusive character; Rafael Nadal. Don't ask us why, we have absolutely no idea.
Overall Top Spin 3 is a solid game. It does take a little while to get used to the controls and 2K Sports has really completely changed the game. They haven't necessarily made it better, nor worse, just completely different. Those who like to play their tennis games with a bit more strategy and depth will find Top Spin 3 to be an enjoyable game, but anyone who is a casual fan of the sport and anyone who just likes pushing the one button will find Top Spin 3 just to difficult to handle. We applaud 2K's decision to innovate or change the gameplay, we're just not sure how many fans will pick the game up based solely on the title and be left a little disappointed. The back of the box describes the game perfectly: are you up to the challenge?