Imagine a football game with no headers, and no corners. Even if every other part of this mystical FIFA competitor played a supreme game of digital soccer, where the passing was perfect, the shooting spectacular and the tackling tremendous, you'd still look at it like the bumbling idiot it so clearly was; you just can't miss out on huge fundamentals of the sport you're trying to recreate. It would be ludicrous.
Thirty or so matches of EA's Grand Slam Tennis 2 later, then, and is it too much to ask for the ball to drop out of play even once? Just one time? Yes, you can fire a serve wide or long, but in open rallies it's seems completely impossible to send that fluffy yellow ball beyond those chalky white lines. And do you know how many times it hit the net in that same timeframe? Once.
Quite why Grand Slam Tennis 2 plays so fast and loose with the laws of physics and the reality of actual tennis is a bit of a mystery, but if I was the modern TV detective Sherlock... well, I wouldn't be playing Grand Slam Tennis 2, but I would deduce the only way to make EA's bullet-point-friendly Total Racquet Control work was to have such a humongous margin for error that it was actually impossible to make an error at all. You didn't think of that one did you, Watson?
Anyone who's played an EA Sports game in the last decade can probably figure out that Total Racquet control entails twiddling the right stick. Or, more accurately, jabbing upwards for a flat shot, thumbing backwards for a slice, or a thumb-jabbing backwards then forwards for top spin. Where you aim your thumb is roughly the direction your shot will travel, with the ball landing deeper in your opponent's court the further you press the stick to its edges. It's a fine system, although rendered completely unnecessary after a fiddle with the game's more accurate standard controls, yet it does allow you to get a pleasing knack for wrapping your wrist around a particularly eye-popping passing shot or delicate arching lob.
Spin plays an important part, as it should. Like the underrated Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, spin shots are accompanied by a coloured hue, so you know to counter slice or attack a flat shot with some heavy top. But if only there was some sort of risk in really pushing for the corners or attempting that impossible-looking cross-court winner. You either hit it perfectly or mess up the timing slightly and the ball goes a bit slower. Your opponent either hits it back or doesn't. It's about as tense as spaghetti.
It's not all bad. If you're happy to suspend your disbelief for a minute, Grand Slam Tennis 2 still plays a competent game of tennis and, due to the fairly established fact that tennis is a fun game, so is this. Smacking the ball around Wimbledon's Centre Court with Djokovic and Nadal is suitably exhilarating in short bursts, thanks to the occasionally excellent animation, and there's always satisfaction to be had in drawing your opponent over to one side of the court, cutting off the angle and dispatching a clean volley out of his reach. The problem is, that was fun in the original Virtua Tennis back in 1999 - and tennis games have advanced since then.