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I’m not claiming that Grand Slam Tennis and its MotionPlus add-on create the perfect tennis game. The controls are a little hit and miss at times, the career mode is a little Fisher-Price and the player development could be fleshed out some. It all feels a little like the first wobbly steps of Tiger Woods golf on the Wii back in 2007.
But this is the point: Grand Slam Tennis (as did Tiger Woods 07) does enough to convince me that I am actually playing the sport to be great. For all its foibles and frustrations, there is a genuine and unique connection between my actions and the result on screen.
To quote Coleridge, it does enough to let me ‘suspend my disbelief’. There are magical moments amongst the various ups and downs of a match where I forget I’m playing a video game and genuinely feel like I’m playing the sport. I return a backhand serve down the line, or chip a shot cross-court or maybe make a charge to the net checking back just enough to connect with the lob. And all by simply swinging my controller like the racket.
But as with Tiger Woods 07, there is a problem. This admittedly sometimes-broken rendition of tennis has ruined me for any other tennis game. I simply can’t imagine picking up a normal controller to play the sport again. I find myself enjoying the game for now, but have half an eye on next year’s inevitable improvement on what we have here.
I brought each Tiger release for the Wii the day it came out and rushed home to see what they had improved (or broken) each year. It’s taken three years of waiting, but it looks like Tiger Woods 10 on the Wii (with its own MotionPlus controls) will finally deliver the promise from all those years ago. Perhaps more telling though is that in all that waiting I had no desire to even try a golf game that didn’t have a real swing.
Many will complain that Grand Slam Tennis doesn’t deliver a quality experience, or that it struggles with fussy controls. But for me, even the moments when I can’t achieve the shot I want or when I need to recalibrate the controller don’t put me off. They somehow add to the impression that I am connected to a sport that I can’t always control. Too many years of being able to dictate exactly what the on-screen player would do have lulled us into a false sense of control.
The analoge movements here will never give the player complete authority over what is happening. But from my experience of playing in real life this is par for the course. Rackets slip from my grip, balls kick and skip of the court and sometimes my tired and weary limbs won’t do what I tell them too.
While I know this is by no means the ideal tennis game, I am convinced that here lies the seed to the future of video tennis. And I know I’ll never play a game without a real tennis swing again.
Wired: Totally realistic gameplay.
Tired: Sometime wonky controls.