Virtua Tennis 2009 Xbox 360
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Released on 29/05/2009
Virtua Tennis 2009 on Xbox 360 will again allow you to take on the world’s top tennis players in some of the most realistic courts to be found on gaming consoles.
Take on the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer or play as Maria Sharapova against Venus Williams to recreate some classic court battles. Joining this impressive roster of tennis stars are several new players for 2009, including men’s World No.4 Andy Murray and ladies French Open champion Ana Ivanovic.
In addition to the traditional singles, doubles and mixed doubles matches, Virtua Tennis 2009 on Xbox 360 will also have the official Davis Cup license, giving players the coveted opportunity to lead their country to glory!
Two years ago Sega released Virtua Tennis 3, a long-overdue update to the classic arcade, Dreamcast and PSP sports series. So good was VT3 that we labelled it ‘arguably the best sports game ever made', and eagerly awaited news of a sequel. It came this February, with Virtua Tennis 2009 slated for May.
Despite the lengthy wait, it soon became clear that VT3 developers Sumo Digital had been given a very short timeframe, starting late in 2008, to update VT in time for the French Open and Wimbledon. Considering that, it's impressive what they've accomplished with Virtua Tennis 2009.
Working closely with the game's original arcade developers, AM3, they've updated the roster to include current high-flyers like Djokovic, Ferrer and Britain's Andy Murray, plus legends Becker and Edberg – all with their own distinctive, authentic playstyles and animations. They've also tweaked the lob and removed the bane of VT3's gameplay, diving, replacing it with new stumble animations which give Virtua Tennis 2009 a much more realistic flow.
They've tweaked the lob and removed the bane of VT3's gameplay, diving, replacing it with new stumble animations which give VT2009 a much more realistic flow.
The improvements don't stop there, either; with refinements to the career-style World Tour Mode that now integrate ranked online play; the returning five-tier Arcade mode flanked by an additional three-tier tournament mode; medals to earn; unlockables everywhere; plus even crazier minigames, playable online for the first time in the series. On paper, Virtua Tennis 2009 seems a sure-fire tennis videogame world #1.
In reality, however, a few notable unforced errors have crept in. Chief amongst them is the opponent A.I. which is nowhere near as challenging as that in VT3. Those new to tennis games will probably appreciate this, but after a few hours (a few games, in some cases) returning VT players will be hitting cross-court groundstrokes, attacking the net, and putting away points with little fuss. Sadly, this lack of challenge permeates every mode, and makes the longevity factor of the singleplayer offering surprisingly small.
Addressing the flaws
It is a different story online, though. To their credit, Sumo have taken the big flaws of VT3 and tried to address them in Virtua Tennis 2009. But alas, the way they've done it hasn't made for ideal results.
In VT3, winning online in ranked matches with a custom character used to be nigh-on impossible, because the pro players were significantly better. In VT 2009, ranked matches have been limited to created characters only. That sidesteps one major problem, but in its place creates several smaller ones.
For one thing, it forces players to play the lengthy World Tour mode, training up their characters in minigames and climbing the rankings by winning tournaments, in order to compete online in match-made games. And while that is fun, it's such a big time investment that it removes a big part of the game's accessibility for casual players.
The most slick, polished and supremely playable sports game around, treading that fine line between sim-style depth and an arcadey immediacy with ease.
For another, it means that the only way you can enjoy playing as your favourite pro online in VT 2009 is in unranked Player Matches – which don't match up players of equal skill, or punish them for quitting. So if you don't want to invest time in the World Tour, the chances of you finding a good opponent and experiencing a fun, competitive match online are quite low.
The result is a schism that favours beginners and casual players, but might mean VT3 veterans will need to assemble a friends list of dedicated VT lovers in order to get the most from Virtua Tennis 2009.
(Suggestion for Sega: A far simpler solution would have been to keep ranked matches as they were, but raise the maximum ability of World Tour characters to slightly above the pros. This would have given beginners a matchmaking system they could jump straight into, while giving dedicated players an incentive to play the World Tour. And it would have kept intact one of the central joys of Virtua Tennis: creating your own character and beating the real-life pros. Maybe next year, eh?)
So, who is Virtua Tennis 2009 best suited to? Well, two core groups, really – at opposite ends of the spectrum. Novices will enjoy the fast, fluid accessibility of VT 2009's gameplay, the HD sheen and glossy realism of its pro player roster and the myriad party games on offer. Experts, meanwhile, will love Virtua Tennis 2009's improved net code, integrated World Tour and online ranked play, and the all-around smoothing over of VT3's rough edges. (Everyone should turn the music off!)
For all of the negativity, what matters most is that, when you're thrown into a game against an opponent of equal skill, Virtua Tennis 2009 truly comes to life. With diving a distant memory, overall smoother control, and an up-to-date roster of pros to pick from, it's still just about the most slick, polished and supremely playable sports game around, treading that fine line between sim-style depth and an arcadey immediacy with consummate ease. Disappointments aside, then, Virtua Tennis 2009 is still a worthy successor to VT3, and well worth picking up for fans and newcomers alike.
- On the court, VT2009 is smoother, slicker and more like real tennis, but still immensely pick-up-and-play.
- High production values: Looks great, loads of today's top pros are in there, and the big match atmosphere is top notch.
- Online play is better than ever - and now includes the brilliantly wacky court games. Zoo Feeder, anyone?
- Disappointingly unchallenging in singleplayer, which makes the World Tour mode in particular a bit of a slog.
- Online matchmaking is now limited to Custom characters only - so tough luck if you wanted to compete in tense ranked matches as your favourite pro, a la VT3.
- The same two year-old elevator music as VT3. Turn it off!
GAME smashes some questions towards Sega's Virtua Tennis 2009 team...
Here at GAME we loved Virtua Tennis 3 so much that we called it 'arguably the best sports game ever'. High praise indeed. So how do you follow that? We talked to two of the developers at Sumo Digital to find out...
Hello! So guys, who are you?
Kenton: Hello! I'm Kenton Fletcher and I'm a Designer at Sumo Digital.
Toby: Aaaand... I'm Toby Allen and I'm the producer for VT 2009.
What does that involve for Virtua Tennis 20009?
Kenton [To Toby]: Yeah, what does your job involve?
Toby [To Kenton]: Ah, don't start!
Kenton: Haha. Basically I was responsible for designing the World Tour mode.
Toby: My job is making sure the game ships; I deal with all the clients; licensing issues; things like that. I make sure the game gets out to the gamers and everybody's happy.
As a brief overview, what do you think did and didn't work in VT3, and what have you tried to improve for Virtua Tennis 2009?
Kenton: Well, the gameplay worked. That was the main thing we wanted to retain in Virtua Tennis 2009. Online worked, as people are still playing it now...
Toby: I think some of the minigames that we've dropped were one aspect that we saw as an area that didn't quite work. We've kept the ones we got best feedback on. In terms of gameplay there's a few tweaks. The character creator is now more detailed. Diving was a big issue...
VT3 was a success so with Virtua Tennis 2009 the main improvements have been little tweaks, here and there.
Kenton: Yeah, that didn't work. Nor did the lob, really.
Toby: Yep, that's been tweaked. What else? Um... the coach approach in VT3 in the World Tour; you had a sort of pseudo friendship happening with the coach emailing you, and you had players come up to you and say 'great match'… that didn't quite work...
Kenton: People found it a bit creepy.
Toby: Yeah, even AM3 (developers of Virtua Tennis' original arcade version) spoke to us about that, so that was an aspect of World Tour we've changed. We have included a friend aspect in Virtua Tennis 2009, but we've improved it.
Kenton: It was genuinely small things like that, though. There weren't any big things that we could point to and say 'that didn't work'
Toby: Absolutely. VT3 was a success so with Virtua Tennis 2009 it's been little tweaks, here and there.
Obviously your pro players roster has changed for Virtua Tennis 2009 – who have you got in there this time? And how did you balance the different styles of play?
Toby: In terms of purely updating the roster, we've got Andy Murray, Ivanovic, Djokovic, Ferrer, Kuznetsova...
Kenton: And the legends; Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg...
Toby: In terms of balancing, we worked with AM3 on that to ensure it fits in with the balancing we already had.
Kenton: AM3 write an individual playstyle for each of the pro players, and they take an enormous amount of care to ensure they all balance, especially when it comes to online play so you don't get certain characters horribly overpowered...
Toby: Basically we spent months talking to them, going back and forth, getting the balance right. We have a much more complex version of the character creation tool you see in the game, but essentially we apply the playstyles that you see in the game to each player accordingly...
Kenton: There's a couple of levels of complexity underneath all that too, getting the A.I. to behave the way we want. We did that for most of the custom characters that you see in the World Tour, and AM3 did that for the pro players; and in the end we put it all together.
One interesting change is Styles. They're unlockable now, and you can assign them to your player – is there a risk that might become gimmicky?
Kenton: We're really hoping that they work! [laughs] The idea was to simplify it down and stop Virtua Tennis 2009's World Tour from becoming a stat chase – I know a lot of players enjoyed that with VT3 but there were quite a few who found it frustrating...
Toby: It was a bit ambiguous as to what levels of stats you had and had much work had to go into that. So to simplify that down in VT 2009 we've got a more traditional approach of just tactics; changing your playstyle to adapt to your opponent; so if you're playing against a serve-volleyer, give your character a big forehand and then use that to hit winners past them at the net.
Kenton: There is one area where your character does improve; there's two levels to each playstyles – you get an improved version of each one which you can unlock later on, which improves your character when you get into the top, pro elites. But apart from that it is down your own skill and matching your tactics to the way you want to play.
So it's a bit like the Japanese arcade scene, where players hot-swap their custom characters depending on who they're playing?
Toby: It is a bit akin to that, yeah.
You've gone for a realistic look on the Wii version of Virtua Tennis 2009 – were you not tempted to make it cartoony?
We didn't want Wii owners to buy Virtua Tennis 2009 and say 'why have I only got half the game that the PS3 version has?'
Everyone seems to have this tendency that, because a game is on the Wii, it needs to be kiddified; almost dumbed-down. We didn't want to do that. One of our big things for the Wii version is that it had all the features the other versions did; the same online; the same in-game features. We didn't want Wii owners to buy Virtua Tennis 2009 and say 'why have I only got half the game that the PS3 version has?'
Toby: Wii owners actually have more, to be honest. They have the MotionPlus; they have the Wii Coach – it'd be great to play a HD version with a MotionPlus, that'd be cool... but only Wii owners get that aspect.
How do you position VT 2009 against your competition like Top Spin?
Toby: Purely from a brand position, VT is a Sega game, it's come from a traditional arcade background; it's established by its accessibility and openness to allow you to play it and discover its depths. What we've tried to maintain with Virtua Tennis 2009 is that accessibility, whereas other games might have gone in a cartoony direction visually, or a very hardcore sim version of tennis like Top Spin 3.
We like to have gameplay based on timing, power, position, but also little intricate bits to that. You can get into that position, get that timing, get that power behind it, but it will take you a while to master it and get that perfect shot where you've got full power and full control.
Kenton: It's like, learning while playing, rather than learning to play.
Toby: Yeah, exactly. It's just a different area in the scope of gameplay we can offer. People enjoy that accessibility; it's where VT excels.
As modes go, you've got Davis Cup in a Virtua Tennis title for the first time. Can you tell people about why it's a big deal?
Kenton: We've put the nations selector in at the beginning of World Tour, allowing you to select from pretty much any country in the world. Once you start your World Tour career, at a certain point you'll get invited to join the Davis Cup team, and whether you belong to a big or small tennis-playing country you'll be either in the World Group or the regionals.
You can get the World Number One ranking, you can go to King of Players, but winning the Davis Cup for your country is also this big, glamour moment.
It works pretty much like the real-life Davis Cup, but we've simplified ever so slightly because the real David cup rules are horribly convoluted...
Toby: It wouldn't make for a great playing experience to have that complexity open to you. It's fantastic to have that brand attached to our very solid tennis brand, but it's a question of making sure it ties in properly. I think we've done that pretty well, through the World Tour, through tournaments...
Kenton: It's supposed to be a pinnacle of your career. You can get the World Number One ranking, you can go to King of Players, but winning the Davis Cup for your country is also this big, glamour moment.
Games like FIFA have all of the official tournaments, stadia and players for that particular sport. Why do you think no-one's done that with tennis – with every ranked pro and every single real-life tournament?
Toby: From a licensing point of view it sounds like a bit of a nightmare. You have to buy individual player licenses, stadium licenses, tournament licenses, sponsorship licenses… it's a massive, massive amount of money. It depends if someone really wants to invest that.
Kenton: Also, while tennis is a very popular sport, football is on a level of its own.
Toby: Yeah, football is THE most popular sport in the world; you can regain your costs quite fast. And you'll find that FIFA has been built across the years; FIFA didn't grow to where it is today without taking small steps. Those small steps equal an extra license; an extra stadium. Now you see a massive behemoth sports series that has all these licenses – but with it, FIFA has that brand power to say 'we need these licenses'.
From one mode to another... online: it's there on all three systems now. VT3 players are going to be keen to know; has the lag issue from VT3 been ironed out? Can you even test that before release?
Kenton: [Crosses fingers and grins manically]
Toby: We can deteriorate the net code and cause latency issues for testing purposes. We've improved it, but it still really depends on your setup. I personally only suffered lag occasionally on VT3.
Kenton: It's always going to come down to the issue of your connection sending so much info across the net quickly.
Toby: The major bandwidth issue actually is voice communication. Turn that off and you'll have a better game.
Can fans still play as pro players online or is it just created characters now?
We've limited the Ranked Matches to custom players, just to stop the pro players from dominating.
Kenton: The online friendly games you can use any character you want – pro, custom, whatever. We've limited the Ranked Matches to custom players, just to stop the pro players from dominating.
Toby: So no King and Duke!
Kenton: And also because we wanted to see Custom Players online. There was an achievement on VT3 for 'Win online as a Custom Player'. And we must have played and played so many times just trying to win a single game against the pros, and got stomped every time.
Was it possible to get your Custom player to a level of the Hewitts and the Federers?
Kenton: Not quite – I think maxed out they were still a level below the pros. We've fixed that for VT 2009.
You mentioned Achievements there – can you give us an insight into the new ones for Virtua Tennis 2009?
Toby: It's a whole new set of Achievements. We've got Achievements for offline and online, but we've also got specific trophies for events throughout the career, and medals throughout the game.
Kenton: We've also kept a lot of Achievements from VT3 and shaped them around the new modes. There were also a few in VT3 that were just horrifically hard, so they've been toned down a bit.
The other side to Virtua Tennis is of course the minigames – How did you come up with the new ones?
Toby: We had a lot of inspiration from VT3 – the cute alligators, the massive fruit, we all loved that. We had enough experience of crazy minigame creation for SST (Sega Superstars Tennis) that we knew what we were doing pretty much straight away.
Kenton: Maybe that was it – maybe SST had warped our minds...
Toby: Yep, that's quite possible!
What are your favourite minigames in Virtua Tennis 2009?
Kenton: Zoo Feeder's amazing. Basically you face off against a row of zoo animals, and kindly zoo keepers serve you food that you have to hit towards the correct animal.
with the MotionPlus you can feel the difference – you're a bit more free to place the ball exactly where you want it to go.
Toby: Sounds like madness. Whereas blockbuster is form the PSP version of VT, and we've brought that across to a nice HD resolution. You have to hit the ball at huge blocks and make them topple. I like it because it makes me feel like a big kid.
On the Wii, what does MotionPlus add to Virtua Tennis 2009 – why should people buy it?
Toby: For me, it adds a lot of value to Virtua Tennis 2009. You can play regular tennis, and with the standard Wii controls you can feel like you're playing tennis, but with the MotionPlus you can feel the difference – you're a bit more free to place the ball exactly where you want it to go.
Kenton: It also flows better – it feels more natural, like you're in control of the game.
Toby: It's a more complete tennis gaming experience with MotionPlus.
Virtua Tennis 2009's World Tour Mode lets you improve your player's serve, footwork, ground strokes, volleys... if you were going to make the ultimate VT 2009 custom player, which pro player's shots would you take?
Toby: Oh boy! I'd tend to go for an all-rounder, because I know I'd get a lot of cheeky players who try to lob me, or do the drop-shot serve.
Kenton: Net player for me, every time.
Toby: Probably Roddick's serve, Nadal's speed, Federer's all-roundedness, with Andy Murray's jumping double-handed backhand...
Kenton: Actually I'd take Becker's serve. We've got this special animation for him where he throws the ball up and half leaps in the air. It looks amazing!
They didn't call him 'Boom Boom' for nothing! So, who do you guys rate as the best tennis player ever?
Toby [To Kenton]: You can answer that!
Kenton: I'd have to go for Federer, really.
Toby: I agree. I mean, he may be going downhill recently, but... he's an absolute legend. He still plays fantastic tennis, and he's just really, really good. Nadal is challenging now, but it's taken, what, five years to get to that stage? That says something about Federer. He's still going to be very popular in Virtua Tennis 2009.
And finally, who's going to win Wimbledon?
Kenton: Federer. [Nods emphatically]
Toby: Not going to go for Murray? ... Okay, I'll be controversial and go for Murray!
We live in hope! Thanks guys.
Virtua Tennis 2009 releases on 29th May on Xbox 360 and PS3, right in Time for the French Open – and arrives just before Wimbledon for Wii on 12th June, with full MotionPlus support.
Interview by: Mark 'Serve-Volley' Scott
Interview Published: 19.05.09
Virtua Tennis 2009 Review (28/05/2009)
Two years ago Sega released Virtua Tennis 3, …Virtua Tennis 2009 Interview (19/05/2009)
GAME smashes some questions towards Sega's Virtua Tennis 2009 team...
Here at GAME we loved Virtua Tennis 3 so much t…Virtua Tennis 2009 User ReviewsTop review3 years agoVirtua Tennis 2009Despite the other, quite frankly, inaccurate reviews, I purchased VT '09 on the day of release and haven't regretted it since. SEGA have delivered yet another aesthetically pleasing GUI along with amazing graphics and body movement. If you like sports games and love tennis then this is a must for any one looking for a challenge (in terms of game completion and gamerscore collection)!3 years agoVirtua Tennis 2009This is a fantastic game!!!! This is the best tennis game ever. this tennis game i got a couple of months a go has been fantastic. I have really enjoy this game so far and i enjoy it most when i play doubles with either friends or family. The making of your character is a bit stupid but the graphics are wonderfull. The world tour though is a bit slow. I would rather they had longer matches and tournerments and then you go higher up the rankings but all in all a fantastic game which i think is 5 out of 5.3 years agoVirtua Tennis 2009great game with good graphics an must buy for only 15.00 buy iyt now or u are missin out on a great game3 years agoVirtua Tennis 2009This game is getting bad reports and i dont know why, this a great tennis game but the tour is way too slow it takes about 50 tournument wins to even get to professional stage. But saying that the graphics are good i like the gameplay and mini games. - - - 85% - - -3 years agoVirtua Tennis 2009I dont agree with everyone else, this game is awsome! The graphics are good for a tennis game. Buy it, the price has gone down aswell.Configuring your price alert
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