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Xbox 360 Review: Top Spin 4

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There is no racket smashing.

No arguing a close fault with stoic unfeeling judges. 

Brought to you by the good people at 2K Sports, Top Spin 4 is pure tennis, filled with rocketing serves, foot work entangling returns, and sweat-inducing volley play. Once you add together the ultra quick gameplay and beautiful graphics, there is no question why this long running series has been embraced by critics as well as loyal fans for its in-depth accurate portrayal of grand slam action and easily considered the best tennis franchise in the gaming business. 

In this latest version of Top Spin, a few new goodies have been added to its already addictive gameplay. Although there is no fuzzy-headed John McEnroe for those maniacal racket smashers out there, dominating the courts this year are 25 superstars like Andre Agassi, Bjorn Bjorg, Pete Sampras as well as current stars like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer all in stereoscopic 3D.

Andre Agassi Top Spin 4

Each player is exquisitely programmed with 4,000 different signature style animations, so they look and play like their real life companions. The harder you work, the pure genius of the graphics engine comes rushing into play. Sweat beads up and trickles down your face, while exceptionally sculpted muscles strain with every shot, and depending upon the type of court your playing on stains of clay or dirt will color the multitude of outfits you can earn through experience points just as they would in real life.  

In Career mode the goals are to evolve the core disciplines of Serve & Volley, Offensive Baseline, and Defensive Baseline play in order to grow from a nobody to one of the superstars in the sport. You are not alone in this journey as you get an assortment of coaches who will enhances your abilities with set and achievement style bonuses in order to make your character stronger. Add in the special events like Yoga retreats, partying in nightclubs, and charity events which also earn you XP, and you can easily get lost in a virtual world of tennis star.

 As a fan of tennis, I found myself easily engrossed in the Career mode but play is definitely not limited to your climb up the through the ranks to be the next Grand Slam Champion. For those who require live action, you can take your customized player online to compete in the expansive world mode. Battle to the top of the multiplayer mountain each week, and hold up your championship while looking down on those who fell victim to your maniacal drive to be the best! 

My experience online was tempered by the overwhelming amount of supremely better players at much higher levels, but you earn XP no matter what mode you play in so I took the points as well as the thrashing. Watch out though… I’m getting better and through the use of the expansive advanced facial editor my character looks like a hulking, muscle bound Jack White whose serve does cut like a buffalo!

Although not Kinect capable, the programmers at 2K Sports did think ahead as far as the control scheme goes. Doing their very best to create a player friendly system that still has some challenge to it, the basic controls are all pressure sensitive on the buttons (A for flat spin, B for top spin, X for slice and Y for lob), while movement and aiming are controlled with the left analog stick. 

Depending on the length of time you hold down the buttons, your shots will either be right on the money or a complete loss and you will know which is which thanks to the new power gauge that lights up during every swing. There is an option that allows you too control your serve on the right analog stick, but I found it difficult and depended solely on button control. Also, if you find yourself out of position on the court, there is a turbo option which can be utilized by just hitting the right trigger, however you will find yourself dragging for energy when the next shot comes whistling towards you if you use it too much.

The locations of the matches, it is almost needless to say, are just as spectacular as ever. Sharp, well designed courts from Cincinnati to Kiev wait for you around the globe. (Although if you are looking to play at Wimbledon you will be disappointed because the greatest tournament in the world is not represented.) Each court is so realistically created that you can hear the players slide across the turf, smell the green grass around you, and need some form of stain fighter to get the dirt out of your clothes.

Top Spin 4

That’s right folks, Top Spin is back in all it’s glory and I have but one piece of advice for you…Always wear black because you will sweat in this game and nobody wants to see that, especially in 3D.

Top Spin 4 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.  The game is also available on PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

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About C. David Apgar