Grand Slam Tennis 2 (Xbox360)

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As a general rule, we try not to judge things based on their covers because they generally misrepresent what’s on the inside. When you pick up a game box and are greeted by a very vintage looking John McEnroe together with Novak Djokovic and Maria Sharapova, however, you can’t help but have your interests piqued. Throw into the mix four major Grand Slam tournaments, a crowd of licensed players together with an innovative control system and Grand Slam Tennis 2 sets itself up as a world class game.

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Positioning itself as the happy medium between the arcade-like appeal of Virtua Tennis and the more serious simulation style of TopSpin, Grand Slam Tennis 2 provides the perfect blend of television realism and technical control. Get ready to compete in the Australian, French and US Open as well as Wimbledon, exclusive to EA Sports.

Being a major licensed game you get to choose from twenty of the greatest tennis legends of past and present, vividly brought to life with realistic character models and animations. Individual player styles are considered to bring variety to the gameplay. Nadal for example will have strengths in defensive baseline play whereas Djokovic will be more of an all-court player and these differences are translated into player attributes.

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What would tennis superstars be without their swag? Grand Slam Tennis 2 doesn’t spare any expense when it comes to official gear, sporting a wardrobe of the biggest brand names in footwear, apparel and racquets. Apart from helping the players look the part and create signature styles, some unlockable items in career mode will actually increase your performance when using them.

Probably the biggest feature in Grand Slam Tennis 2 is the new control system, referred to as ‘Total Racquet Control.’ You control player movement with the left analogue stick, while selecting the various types of shots and ball direction with the right stick. For example, to pull off a flat shot, simply push the stick forward in the direction you want the ball to land. You can similarly pull off forehand, backhand, volley and slice shots. Lobs and drops shots, when executed properly, can surprise your opponents and gain advantage. Fortunately the game’s gradual learning curve gives you plenty of time to get to grips with Total Racquet Control.

If you find it all too technical, you have the option to use the face buttons in typical arcade fashion. While the Xbox 360 version has no Kinect support it is worth mentioning that the PlayStation 3 counterpart has a particularly well implemented motion controlled experience with the Move controller.

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There is no shortage of ways to play, with an extensive singleplayer career mode; a tennis training academy; local multiplayer tournaments; quick play for up to four players and a host of online matches and tournaments. In career mode, you embark on a ten season journey and work your way through the ranks starting at the very bottom. Throughout the seasons you can choose between competing in tournaments (which improves your ranking), training with John McEnroe (to develop your skills and attributes) and taking on exhibition matches (where you can unlock gear to improve your skill set).

ESPN Grand Slam Classics is a must for any tennis fan. Separate to the career mode, you get to jump straight into twenty-five of the most historic battles in tennis, relive crucial tiebreaker moments and even rewrite the records by changing the outcome of the matches. As you complete Grand Slam challenges, you unlock increasingly more difficult and memorable encounters.

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Online play offers endless opportunities to put all your training into practice with a clever player ability matching system. Whether you’re looking for singles or doubles, you can choose from a matrix of matches and tournaments tailored to your aptitude. If you’re looking for something completely different try Grand Slam Corner for a battle of the nations type game which blends together the strategy of Risk with tennis where every win adds to your country’s ranking.

Grand Slam Tennis 2 really comes to the party with its music, enlisting the renowned DJ Paul Van Dyk to provide a custom soundtrack for the game. You’ll notice his work on other games such as Mirror’s Edge, Test Drive Unlimited 2 and the previous Grand Slam Tennis title. The sound effects in general compliment the realistic visuals from the way playing on clay sounds slightly different on other courts, to the all-too-familiar grunting as players return shots (thankfully you can turn off these sounds if you find them to distracting).

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Voice acting in general can often be a weak point in videogames, but Grand Slam Tennis 2 makes excellent use of conversational commentating to bring life and credibility to the matches. Pat Cash and John McEnroe give contextual banter, discuss player strategies and even muse over on the past. While the overall vocal quality is excellent and conversation flows well, it can get repetitive, especially after playing a few tournaments. There were also the odd occasions when playing against John McEnroe in exhibition matches, where he seemed to be able to commentate on the game whilst taking part in the match (He’s got skills! – Ed)

Grand Slam Tennis 2 Wimbledon

Grand Slam Tennis 2 serves up a highly responsive control system, breathe-taking visuals, slick realism and a great attention to detail. Most importantly though, it offers so many different ways to play with legendary tennis heroes on the most monumental of world stages including the highly coveted Wimbledon. Whether you’re a die-hard tennis fan or simply want to let off some steam on the court, you’ll get hours of enjoyment out of this behemoth of a sporting title.