2K Sport’s Top Spin franchise is in my opinion the current frontrunner for doing the sport of Tennis justice on the gaming platforms. Its main competitor is SEGA’s Virtua Tennis franchise but the nod has been going to Top Spin since its initial release on the Xbox. Top Spin 2 for the Xbox 360 took the series in visual terms forward but the gameplay didn’t have much changed. Well neither is the case in Top Spin 3 which 2K hopes to have hit the sweet spot and created the best tennis game on the market. Is this the case? Is the third time the charm for the Top Spin franchise? Read our full review to find out!
Top Spin 3 unlike the second game does much more to change the flow of the game in which we have been accustomed to. Anytime you do major gameplay shift you are more then likely to have some fans want the old and others happy for the new. For me I think 2K Sports has gotten to the point with many of the sports franchises where they want to do more with their games. With Top Spin 3 you get the idea that right out of the gate that they were going for a much more simulated game of tennis where as past Top Spin games in my opinion were more of a hybrid between arcade and simulation.
So let’s talk about Top Spin 3 in terms of game modes. There isn’t a lot of new and exciting modes to speak about for Top Spin 3, this doesn’t look like an area of focus. They have a pretty in depth training mode which we will get into later and of course the career mode. Now the career mode used to be in previous version very similar except in Top Spin 3 they did away with training/practice sessions. Now instead your player advances based on their performance in the tournaments. What was always nice about the practice sessions was that it gave you a bit of a break in the action from just playing one match after the next.
You of course start the career by creating your character something that the Top Spin series has consistently been great at improving and there is no exception here. Following that you work your way up the ranks through the juniors, until you can reach an elite status. The biggest issue I had was that the game never really gave much incentive (outside of I suppose achievement points) to continue through. The game makes it feel like such a grind with tournaments getting longer and longer that it is rather difficult to to keep with the game’s career mode.
The game’s biggest enhancement was the change in controls which for some are going to be a fresh new look at the franchise and for others are going to want to go back. Much of the controls are done much more on timing. Serving can be done with the analog stick or face buttons, but you get a better serve on the analog side of things. The ground strokes are all about timing and it is really a force to be reckoned with. To start it really feels foreign especially for the avid Top Spin fan who has become accustomed to the past Top Spin control schemes. Even after putting in some really long hours with Top Spin 3 the groundstrokes don’t feel as fluid as the old game. They are much more realistic don’t get me wrong, in 2K Sports defense the game is much more of a simulation of real life tennis but that also takes away from some of the pure joy that you got out of past Top Spin titles.
The Xbox Live support is pretty standard they have some extensions from the normal quick match and custom match but the usual 2K Sports online depth is not all there. I would have liked to have seen more done with online leagues and deeper tournament experiences but I guess that is left for another day.
Top Spin 3 still plays fantastic, there is no doubt about it, it just doesn’t have that all around great flare that the first two titles had. I think this was a developmental year for the gameplay, the extensions from the original game made for a deeper experience but the modes really lacked the depth that would normally keep you coming back for more in a tennis title.
Visually Top Spin 3 has done some really nice additions but once again hasn’t gone the extra mile to make this a top tier sports title. The big addition to the game is the fatigue system which is visually captured with a serious amount of sweat and redness to the face. It is nice to see this addition and I think its needed, but I would have liked to have seen more down with the tennis environments. I really think places like Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York has such an amazing vibe at night that needed to be captured in this game.
The new control scheme for me did take something away from the Top Spin experience, especially for the initial reaction to the game. Once you start getting into the game it does level off quite a bit and I think that it sets up for a great experience in the future but for Top Spin 3 it does have some balance issues. Online play is fantastic, not overly deep, but that is where the competition for Top Spin 3 is at.
2K Sports has done Top Spin 3 a great service with a lot of the improvements that the game has gotten. The only issue I really had was the control scheme which I think takes some of the excitement of the Top Spin experience away, but at the same time sets up a deeper experience for Top Spin in the future.
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