|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: PAM Development||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Sports||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
With a grasp of the controls under your belt, you can embark upon one of the game's four modes: exhibition, tournament, career, and online play. Exhibition allows you to get a quick fix: you select your game type (singles or doubles), difficulty level, and then pick a player from the roster. 2K Sports went out of their way to get noticeable figures from the tennis world and it shows. Stars like Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Boris Becker, and Bjorn Borg are available. You can also use a custom character that you've created (more on this in a bit). Tournament Mode allows you to jump into well-known events from the tennis world such as the U.S. and Australian Open. This mode essentially plays like a string of exhibition matches, but with more structure.
The mode that will absorb most players' time is the Career Mode. It all starts with the robust character creator. After selecting a base model, you can fine-tune nearly everything about your character. From age to hair styles to custom animations and tattoos, you could literally spend an hour just making your character. The options at your disposal are ridiculously complex. For example, the morphology tool allows you to pick individual points on a face and stretch or tighten them - just be careful or you might end up with someone resembling the Elephant Man. Once you start winning matches in Career Mode, the game rewards you with XP and unlock points. XP works in a RPG fashion and can be used to level up individual parts of your character (like forehand power and accuracy). Unlock points function as in-game cash. You use them at a virtual, multi-floored mall to purchase new shoes, racquets, shirts, and shorts. They're all purely cosmetic, but offer a nice way to distinguish your character from the rest.
Since Top Spin 3 is a sports game, it comes with that particular genre's graphical baggage. That means while the player models look quite good, other areas are rougher around the edges - the crowds repeat with the same handful of lifeless caricatures and the stadiums seem like they could have used more detail. The audio side has this same kind of half-good, half-bad feel. Tennis noises, like crowd chatter and racquet swings, all come off as authentic, but the soundtrack falters. Made up entirely of licensed tracks, none of the songs seem to really fit a tennis vibe. It's a little weird to be creating a custom player while Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" plays in the background.
Multiplayer definitely gives the game legs - it's just a shame the performance is so inconsistent. For this review, multiplayer matches (both singles and doubles) were tested on multiple occasions and the latency was always different. On one occasion, the connection completely gave out; on another it lagged significantly, stuttering every five seconds. Only one match was seemingly lag-free. Still, the ability to jump online and challenge other players (either using your custom player or picking from pros) is a nice offering.
Top Spin 3 knows its market - this is a game aimed at tennis buffs who appreciate a simulation approach to their favorite sport. Like all realistic takes, there's a steep learning curve (thanks to the game's controls) that will probably frustrate more gamers than win over new converts. Virtua Tennis fans need not apply; this is tennis done more accurately...for better or worse. The game may not serve up an ace, but it makes for a solid set.
CCC Freelance Writer