As well as all the biggest names in tennis (an impressive roster was revealed recently, in fact), Top Spin 4 allows players to create a custom character to put through their paces in a championship mode. As you rise through levels 1 to 20, you'll tailor your character according to how you want to play the game. You might choose to improve your speed and volleys, or go all out for power. Your character's style of play and overall level is determined by two fundamental attributes: offence and defence. So, you might have a four in offence and a six in defence, with your overall level being 10. You'll never have a character with 'max stats', but you can create tennis players who are exceptional at a certain style of play. Complimenting player development is a new coaching system. By choosing a teacher and assigning him (or her) to your character, you can add bonuses to your stats and activate skills. Coaches specialise in certain areas, so you'll want the right trainer for the style of play you're hoping to nurture.
Dupas confirmed the PS3 version of the game would support PlayStation Move, but I was unable to see this in action. He admitted a Kinect version would be more difficult, hence why the game won't support it. "You need to move your character around, do your shots. To simplify that would off-balance the game," he said. It seems there's a necessity for bat, club and racket games to support these new motion technologies, but with the refinements seen in Top Spin 4, 2K Czech has proven that the pad is still the most precise control method available.
I went hands-on after the presentation, taking on Remi at his own game. Given my lack of experience with tennis games, I was impressed how quickly I picked up the basics, and, more importantly, just how much I enjoyed it. It was as Stephane had said: this is not something that just tennis buffs are likely to enjoy. The responsiveness of the controls and general rhythm of a match are something gamers of all walks of life are likely to enjoy. It's similar to NBA Jam, in that respect.
Top Spin 4 is gearing up to be the most accessible tennis game yet. The word seems to carry a certain stigma with it these days(a point we discuss in Episode 60 of Back On Topic, but that really shouldn't put hardcore fans of Top Spin and Virtua Tennis off. It simply means that Top Spin 4 is better in the control department than its predecessors, and much easier for first-time players to acquaint themselves. The comprehensive character development tools and sheer scope for strategy on the court make Top Spin 4 as deep and rewarding as any previous game in the series. It should go without saying, but tennis fans might want to pop March 18 in their diaries.
Top Spin 4 is available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii on March 18, 2011.