There’s an elephant in the room as Nacon tells us about Tennis World Tour 2, and it’s not outspoken Australian hotshot Nick Kyrgios. The French publisher – formerly known as BigBen Interactive – knows Tennis World Tour was bad, and while it remains polite and professional throughout, it clearly wants us to understand that this sequel won’t make an unforced error like its predecessor.
The first game was sold on a single promise: Top Spin for the PlayStation 4. 2K Sports’ legendary tennis simulation outperformed even Virtua Tennis in our opinion, providing stroke-for-stroke perfection with a sublime control scheme and innovative online mode. Its successor has the same ambition, but AO Tennis 2 developer Big Ant has been swapped in to lead the production.
The main improvement – of which there are many – is that the sequel has transitioned to a new game engine with twice the animations. This is important for a couple of reasons: it improves the look of the game, but it also enhances the gameplay. Missing animations in the release’s predecessor meant that shot types didn’t always match animations, making manoeuvres impossible to read.
Nacon had been trying to promote Tennis World Tour as an e-sport, but oversights like this meant that it was never going to take off as intended. The publisher also admits that holding tournaments with the original’s shaky online infrastructure proved an exercise in irritation as well, so it’s completely overhauled the netcode to ensure that it actually, y’know, works.
This sequel isn’t just about fixing the old game, though – it’s also bringing some ideas of its own. The serve system has been completely overhauled, for example, meaning that you now have to get your toss right in order to achieve maximum power. Pulling the toss left or right will set you off balance, meaning you won’t get quite the same leverage out of your swing – a smart tweak to a fundamental part of the sport.
Hawkeye has also been added, augmenting some match day drama to tight line calls. And while the stamina system hasn’t been completely overhauled, the publisher acknowledges that the original was buggy in this department, and so it’s tried to better replicate the sense of exhaustion that comes with baseline back-and-forths with the world’s best players.
Perhaps the biggest addition of all is the introduction of doubles, which fans of the sport will know is a completely different experience to singles. Looking back, it’s bizarre to think a tennis title shipped without the ability to play in pairs, but Tennis World Tour was an unmitigated disaster when it first released, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised. It’s finally in, so that’s good.
One idea that we thought was interesting from the original and is returning here is the card system. These can be purchased with in-game currency – there are no microtransactions at all – and allow you to build a deck of five cards which can be triggered during key moments in the match. These may give you a subtle speed advantage, or upgrade your strength temporarily in a tie-break.
While these add an RPG-esque statistical element to the traditional sports gameplay, the publisher claims that they’re designed to replicate those moments of inhuman ability that the world’s best players unlock during Grand Slams. We’ve all seen it: when under the cosh, superstars like Roger Federer are almost impossible to put away, as they overcome impossible odds with superhero-like ability.
There are 38 licensed players in the game, and while we weren’t able to make out all the names during our presentation, we did spot the likes of Rafael Nadal and Ana Ivanovic. There’ll also be licensed tournaments which Nacon is keeping under wraps for now, and all real-world surfaces will be represented – with unique ball physics, of course.
We asked whether a PlayStation 5 version is planned later down the line, but Nacon is keeping quiet about that for now. Nevertheless, this does look like a massive improvement. It’s got the same, arcade-inspired saturated look that its predecessor had, but the under-the-hood improvements mean this may finally play a good game of tennis, too. Fingers crossed, eh?
Do you think Tennis World Tour 2 is sounding simply smashing, or did its predecessor damage the brand forever? Do your best John McEnroe impression in the comments section below.