Sport games are off to a good start on the Vita and the trend continues with Sega’s Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition. This game is almost identical to the PS3 version, which is certainly no bad thing. In fact, I’d go as far as to recommend this version over the PS3 one as the gameplay is better suited to the stop/start nature of handhelds, not that you can’t lose yourself for hours as well.
Graphically the game is on a par with the big consoles and has even inherited the dodgy likenesses. Take Djokovic, they’ve nailed the geeky haircut, but there’s something unsettling about his face. Oh and talking of unsettling, wait until I tell you about putting your own face into the game later on. It’s a bit Silence of the Lambs (see the third picture below).
Gameplay hasn’t really changed in years for the VT series, which allows you to jump in straight away, but may put off regular purchases. The familiar button set up allows regular shots, slices, lobs and drop shots. VT4 added special shots, unlocked by building up a metre that would vary between player types. Countering players, hard-hitters and defensive are some examples, with shots favouring their style filling up their metres, giving them momentum and courage to go for more flamboyant moves and eventually a one-off shot that should be unmatchable. These shots are quite returnable though if you’re on the same side of the court and if you’re only playing two set matches you may find you don’t even have time to fill it once.
Players often have a hesitancy to just smash a ball, especially when you’re at the net, which can be incredibly frustrating. For all the training minigames, there’s very little helpful information on how to play better shots, other than stand in the right place and hold down the shot button for more power. Cheers guys. Other tennis games have started to include indicators after every shot, grading your timing so you can get better, it would be nice to get a little feedback here too.
Well, let’s give you a quick look at the Vita-exclusive features of the game. A minigame has you tilting the Vita to rock a galleon ship from side to side so you can aim at its targets. A top-down tennis game allows two players to share one screen in a take on tennis that’s similar to air hockey. Drag your player around using the touchscreen and tap it to shoot. There isn’t much scope for accuracy, but as a bit of fun for ten minutes it’s a fine inclusion.
Single matches can be played in first-person using motion control to move your head, with foot movement and shots being handled as normal. It works well and can be very immersive, particularly when you charge the net. Crucially, it’s a million times better than the awful first-person PS Move options from the PS3 version.
Touchscreen menus are optional as are in-game touches. They’re reasonably responsive, but you’re never going to get the same standard of play as the buttons and stick provide, so why bother? A hybrid of analogue and touchscreen inputs fares better, but most players will try a few matches before shrugging and going back to traditional controls.
The game consists of the standard exhibition, arcade, practice, online and minigames options. So after a few exhibition matches to make sure the game works you’ll find yourself eagerly diving into the excellent career mode.
First of all you’ll need to create a character, either from the regular options or with the Vita’s camera. A quick self-portrait snap and there it is, you’re roughly hacked off face laid out on this tight-short-wearing psychopath. It looks hideous, but very funny. Thankfully you can mess around with a few colour options to try and get a similar skin tone to the body underneath. The capture only takes the flattest area of your face, so there’s quite a bad disconnect, but tweak it, add some hair and maybe a bit of stubble and you’ll look almost normal. It’s far from perfect, but at least it managed to be fun and amusing. I’m going to add everyone I know.
The game shares the board-game feel of the console’s career mode with random tokens allowing you to travel along a set number of places at a time. The spots you land on could entail a training minigames, a match or tournament, fan meet, injury or rest. This adds a real tactical edge to the series that it was crying out for. Not being able to rest at any time is still quite annoying, especially when you have a big tournament coming up, but planning ahead is all part of the challenge. As far as avoiding the monotony of match after match in most sports game’s career modes, Virtua Tennis 4 is one of the best titles out there.
Multiplayer stands up very well. I wasn’t able to try out the ad-hoc (local multiplayer) games between two Vita’s, but the online matches were silky smooth with players from around the globe always keen to line-up and guffaw at another British failure. Player data from your career character can be uploaded to a server to compete against players on your behalf in the career mode which is a cool touch, although you’ll have no control over them.
- Excellent career mode
- Amusing photo options for create-a-player
- Gameplay feels like a better fit here than the consoles
- Some player likenesses are a bit unnerving
- Still no shot timing indicators
- PS3/360 version is cheaper
The Short Version: Yes this great tennis game, but the PS3 version is only £10 now. I have both, and to be honest I think the Vita version works so much better. It’s a better fit with handheld gaming and the smooth controls and excellent career mode mean you can play it for five minutes or five hours.