Top Spin 3 Review for Xbox 360

On: Xbox 360PS3WiiDS
Top Spin 3 is a great sim alternative to Virtua Tennis' arcade style gameplay
Top Spin 3 is a great sim alternative to Virtua Tennis' arcade style gameplay

Top Spin 3 is a great sim alternative to Virtua Tennis' arcade style gameplay

The king has had a long reign. SEGA's Virtua Tennis series has sat almost completely unchallenged as the premier tennis video game for years. Contenders have come and gone, yet few have been able to go a full five sets with the arcade master. Top Spin has been one of the better challengers, but after a few weeks with each of the previous two games we went straight back to VT. With Top Spin 3 we instantly felt like we were playing something with great potential. Like when a new wonder kid burst onto the scene, we were just praying it wouldn't slip off the rails.

Here's a tip: start with the game's training mode. You might well think that you've played VT so you'll be able to jump straight in to TS3, but you'd be wrong. We made that mistake and spent ten minutes wildly swinging and missing before admitting defeat and heading back to the main menu. TS3 doesn't play like VT. Instead of simply holding down the shot button and letting the game hit the ball, in TS3 you need to release the button (and swing) at the right moment - just about as the ball bounces on the court.

That's not all there is too it either. The more powerful the shot you're returning, the harder it is to time your swing. The position of your player is also vitally important. Stand too close to the ball and you'll just pop it back in the air, stretch for a return and you're likely to hit wide of the court or even hit into the net. In VT the court markings and net were more or less only there for show. In TS3 they play a part in the gameplay. Footwork and timing is essential, and your opening few games will make the differences between TS3 and VT extremely clear. This is no arcade game.

Serving too is a tricky skill to master. It works on the same hold and release principle and can see you miss the ball completely if you're not concentrating. Direction is handled by the length of time you hold the left analogue stick down, so this too also has to be factored in to your thinking. It's relatively easy to hit a fast serve, but much harder to smash one that forces your opponent wide or, better still, serve an ace. As in the real sport, a good serve makes all the difference, so you won't get far by simply dolling the ball over the net. More advanced players can even opt to use the right analogue stick to serve, which offers the ability to add spin to your serves.

'Failure to time the ball correctly will see the ball flying wide or into the net.'

The time you're able to hold the shot button down for (you've got standard, slice, top spin and lob/drop shot) plays a part in the shot's strength along with the timing of your release, but Top Spin 3 also brings back the risk shots from previous games. Holding the left trigger/L2 during a shot causes your player to go for the court markings, while holding right/R2 trigger results in a power shot. You can combine both for an extremely high risk shot. Timing and player placement is important during all shots, but when using the risk triggers you need to be spot on. Failure to time the ball correctly will see the ball flying wide or into the net.

Other buttons allow you to manipulate your position on the court. Holding left bumper/L1 during a shot will make your player return to a central baseline position after the swing, while holding right bumper/R1 forces him to move into the net - ideal after a well timed slice to the back of the court. From here you can control the net, volleying a winner if you're able to time your shot well enough. You can also use risk shot modifiers on volleys, if you're good enough.

Visually it's remarkable, with incredibly life-like animation.

Visually it's remarkable, with incredibly life-like animation.

You could spend hours playing TS3 with friends in the exhibition mode (choosing from the likes of Roger Federer, Andrew Murray and Maria Sharapova (Rafael Nadal is only in the PS3 game), but the core gameplay experience is found in the career mode. Here you'll work through the ranks, playing in small Amateur and Challenger events before breaking into the Junior and Pro tour. Here you'll take part in full seasons, playing in tournaments against real pros as you attempt to improve your world ranking. All the time you'll be earning XP for your created character (the included tools let you sculpt characters to your liking), allowing you to improve your service, return, forehand, stamina, backhand, volley, power and speed. Play well enough and you'll gain access to two additional Legend challenges.

TS3's career mode is as you'd expect, although lacking in anything above and beyond the norm. It's also quite unbalanced. Your opening matches during the Amateur and Challenger rounds are far too easy, and you'll likely breeze through without losing a single game, if a point. As soon as you enter the Junior stage things suddenly get a lot harder, with players severely overpowering your relatively weak player. It's not insurmountable, but far from a smooth transition.

Online play is included in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games, with both offering one-off matches and an online world tour. A world tour lasts fifteen days and sees players competing in tournaments for ranking position. Our games proved to be relatively lag-free on both consoles, although the timing of shots is slightly different to when playing offline. Thankfully it's not something that takes too long to get used too.

As well as current pros the game includes a number of legends

As well as current pros the game includes a number of legends

Top Spin 3 looks great. Player models are excellent and the animation is superb. Generally you'll see one animation blend seamlessly into another, putting it up there with the most impressive and life-like looking sports games ever made. The crowds let the game down somewhat, falling into the typical video game trap of looking completely out of place, but you won't be looking at them for the majority of your time on court. Differences between the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are minimal, although we did notice more stuttering in the PS3 game. Audio work features the usual background noise from the crowd and an array of grunting, but the soundtrack (which features The Stone Roses, Calvin Harris, Jamiroquai and Franz Ferdinand) simply doesn't fit.

Also of note is the lack of mini-games. Tennis games throughout the years have included a selection of light-hearted games to play when you need a break from pressured tournament play - often as part of your player's training. The included training/tutorial mode features exercises that could be seen as mini-games, but there's nothing here that equals what's seen in Virtua Tennis. It's not a huge loss, but worth noting if you're expecting something to be included.

Top Spin 3 is a great game of tennis. For years we've wanted a sim alternative to Virtua Tennis and now we have it. It's got depth to the gameplay that will take a fair amount of time to master and solid online play, but outside of the controls developer PAM hasn't tried to do anything unique. The career mode is a little too basic and the lack of mini-games is a disappointment. Top Spin 3 is by far the best tennis sim on the market, but there's still plenty of room for improvement.

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User Comments

Thomas's Avatar
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Thomas

The Game Is Pish, waste of money
Posted 01:55 on 06 August 2008
Dezee's Avatar
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Dezee

does anyone know what the song is called that plays in the menu when you select your player? i think its by franz ferdinand
Posted 16:15 on 24 July 2008
Tom's Avatar
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Tom

On the website it has put Andy Murray has made it to Grand Slam Semi-finals ?
he hasn't only the quater finals
and when you play in wimbledon players should only wear white
Posted 17:13 on 22 July 2008
finbar mcmahon's Avatar
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finbar mcmahon

have'nt got this game getting it in 19 days look's cla
Posted 23:50 on 16 July 2008
JD's Avatar
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JD

i was a big vt3 fan and had never played top spin before untill top spin 3 and i must say this on a different level from vt3, top spin is way more relistic and plays like tennis once you get use to it, it did take me a few hours to vt3 out my system but when i used to the controls i found out that in top spin you do actually need to play tennis and yes there is a net in this game unlike vt3. The best thing about this game is the online world tour first you need to build your player up in career mode, ready for online once your player reaches 70 overall you can not add any more points so you cant just get 99s on everything which makes for better online play and rewards the better tennis players.Overall if you like tennis BUY this game, if you think you like tennis and dont know a slice shot from a drop shop then stick with vt3.
Posted 12:42 on 04 July 2008
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B-Train

Great game, but I ran into some issues. Anyone else find that R2 and L2 don't work from the menu screens? I can't switch between M/F players, levels in the mall, etc. Can't find where to adjust the facial features of a created player either, though that might be a result of the first problem. Is it the game, or do I need (2) new controllers?
Posted 20:24 on 26 June 2008
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Luisito

Just picked this game up yesterday, and I have to say I made a great choice, I never played any other Top Spin game before so it's all new to me, but I have to recommend this game to anyone whether you're a tennis fan, or like me are not...9 out of 10, and a must have title....GREAT, GREAT game, and I haven't even tried any online options yet!
Posted 00:59 on 26 June 2008
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DjTreateos

How is online mode ?
Posted 18:21 on 25 June 2008
peopleschamp66's Avatar
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peopleschamp66

can anyone let me know if you can do full sets in matches offline+online instead of only being able to play 5 game matches in career ect like in VT3
Posted 01:02 on 25 June 2008
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Holygrail2

Smash Court 2 is a wonderful game, but it's very under the radar because it didn't have Sega or Microsoft pushing it and advertising it. Still, that's the best tennis game I've ever seen in terms of timing. Simply holding down buttons has always been a pet peeve of mine. I'm intrigued that the new Top Spin has some of those aspects...
Posted 22:23 on 24 June 2008
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Cenotaph

I'm wondering why there's no mention of Smash Court 2 in this review, which is obviously where the new control scheme comes from. With the notable difference that in SC2 this scheme works better.
SC2 is still the king of the tennis games, let's wait until Smash Court 3 and see if it can be beaten.
Posted 21:07 on 24 June 2008
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PS3

How much is PS3 HDD install size?
Posted 17:17 on 24 June 2008
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INMATEofARKHAM

Well, I wouldn't mind a deep career mode... but no mini-games? I'm sold.
Posted 16:19 on 24 June 2008
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steve44

I'm picking this game up tomorrow. I've only bought 2 tennis games ever and quite disappointed. This is the first game that I've heard that is getting consistently good reviews. I hope online mode is good! That's what I'm looking forward to most of all!! 2 week tournaments baby!! Want to play online? Add me, PSN ID= STEVE44. Message me with "TopSpin 3"
Posted 21:02 on 23 June 2008
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topperharley

I never played the original Virtua Tennis, but I hope it was a lot better than VT3 (which I have played) for all the hype it gets. VT3 was just silly to me. Between running up treadmills dodging fruit (seriously, wtf) or watching players dive at every shot anywhere close to the sidelines, I couldn't put it back in the case quickly enough. I enjoyed TS and TS2 very much, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow when I can pick up this game.
Posted 18:02 on 23 June 2008

Game Stats

Technical Specs
Top Spin 3
8
Out of 10
Top Spin 3
  • Superb visuals
  • Great control scheme
  • No mini-games
  • Career mode is basic
Agree? Disagree? Get Involved!
Release Date: 20/06/2008
Platforms: Xbox 360 , PS3 , Wii , DS
Developer: PAM
Publisher: 2K Sports
Genre: Sports
No. Players: 1-4
Rating: PEGI 3+
Site Rank: 4,967 3
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