In Virtua Tennis 3 you hit the courts as one of 20 of today’s top ranked stars including: Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, Rafael Madal, or Roger Federer or as a custom player you create for yourself on one of 25 courts from around the world. Even if you are not very good at tennis, this game is easy to pickup the basics, though it can take quite a while to master the different swings. Some of us are still working on the last part.
As I said a moment ago, picking up the basics is really easy, I hopped right into a game and started playing and won my first three matches by moving into the area where the ball was going and pressing the hit button and I was doing lobs and slices like the pros. It was at this point that I pulled out the manual and started reading about how to do some of the more complicated shots and that is when I started losing matches.
I would like to say that it was because I was focusing on trying new shots, but that is not quite true. Setting up the quick exhibition matches is fun and easy, but it does not help you master the game and I did not consider myself ready for tournament play or the world tour yet, so I thought I would try out some of the court (mini) games to build up my skills.
Unfortunately those require two to four players. Luckily I still had the manual out and realized that the world tour included both a tennis academy where I could practice the different moves as well as a selection of mini games where I could really have some fun while training.
I decided to go ahead and create my own character when I started the world tour. The first selection is whether you want to play on the women’s tour or the men’s tour. I chose the women’s tour. From there you can select your name, face, head, body, and outfit along with your playing style. All pretty basic stuff. The next thing you do is place your home base. This is where you come to rest and regroup. From this point on you are in the tour with a rank of 300.
At this point I tried out the training academy where you can work on all sorts of skills like hitting a max power ball, ground strokes, serves, volleys and foot work. The training is pretty limited at first, but as you complete the challenges like hitting five slice shots within the time window, then more practice options show up. For me the training academy was a little frustrating as I did not know how to do some of the shots and neither the game nor the manual really gave me a good explanation. So what I had to do was keep trying different things until I managed to do it once, and then figure out what I did.
The real fun for me was the mini games, where instead of being forced to learn I felt challenged to learn so that I could win. The games are Bulls Eye where you are trying to hit the ball against a big dart board on the court in front of you to get the best score. Followed by Pin Crusher where you are hitting a tennis ball to knock over bowling pins. This one is great because it really makes you learn how to control where your ball lands. Next is Drum Topple where you are trying to knock the red oil drums to the ground which requires powerful strokes. Avalanche requires good foot work as you run around the court dodging huge tennis balls while trying to pick up fruit. And my personal favorite is Alien Attack where you have to hit the aliens before they reach the barricade. That reminded me of an old favorite called Missile Command. As you complete the training and the mini games, your skill level increases.
During the course of the year different singles, doubles and mixed competitions are scheduled around the globe. As you progress you can pick up new gear from sponsors, other players, or from your coach and if you allow your player’s stamina to get to low they can become injured. After 20 years they retire from the sport.
As I mentioned before new players all start at rank 300 and it is not until you get close to rank 100 that the matches really start to get challenging. The one negative aspect is that you only have 20 opponents, it would be nice to face some generic computer generated opponents on the way to challenging the big names. The remaining aspect of play is Tournaments where you can play five singles games or three doubles matches.
Visually this game is both great and disappointing. When you are in the middle of a game the court and the players look great at 1080p. It is when the game ends and you zoom in to see them walk off the court that they don’t look very good and the ball boys look like blobs.
Overall Virtua Tennis 3 was a challenging tennis game with some great features. The mini games and the training academy really helped me improve my game. I do wish they had explained how to do some things while telling me I only had a short amount of time to do five of them. The world tour where you will spend most of your time was engaging, but I do wish more players had been included. And visually during game play the game was astounding, but once the game ends the post game graphics were not up to par with the in-game graphics.
Overall, this fine tennis simulation earns four out of five GiN Gems.