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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 

 

 

   

 

 




Building on last yearís successful Virtua Tennis., Sega Sports Tennis 2K2 is a vastly improved title with more depth yet retains the excellent, fast moving gameplay, excellent television style graphics and multitude of extra modes that made the original such a sleeper hit. Donít forget about all the addictive mini-games, which add more to the overall appeal. While Tennis 2K2 may be one of the last Dreamcast games ever made, at least the console is going out on a high note with one of the best sports titles the system has ever seen. Read on to see what elements make this such a smashing success.

From the days of Pong, thereís one sport thatís always been with us, and rightly so. The mixture of complexity of strategy and simplicity of play means these types of games have almost universal appeal. Surprisingly, while thereís an avalanche of football, baseball and basketball title released every year, Tennis is largely unsupported due to the actual sportís lack of star-power and mass-appeal. Things do appear to be changing in the past year or so as the market becomes more accepting of these kinds of games. Despite conventional wisdom that Tennis is a niche sport with limited appeal, Sega delivered last yearís most satisfying sports titles with Virtua Tennis which was a resounding success. This release was rightfully hailed as one of the best video game versions of the sport ever made.

This yearís edition has been renamed Tennis 2K2 but the same addictive, action packed play that made the original such a surprising success remains intact. Sega deserves a lot of credit because in addition to improved graphics and new mini-games, the gameplay itself has been greatly enhanced making for a vastly improved game. Tennis 2K2 plays a lot like its predecessor with the same addictive, fast action style thatís easy to get into with intuitive controls and some outstanding strategic elements as players have to learn to place their shots. However, with a more sophisticated computer AI program in place, Tennis 2K2 poses a surprising challenge since you spend a lot more time anticipating the computerís next move than you do reacting to your own volleys. This makes things a lot more exciting and challenging. Helping to increase its overall intensity, the computer controlled players are more aggressive this time out and require more effort to beat. Whether theyíre shooting devastating volleys or running up to the net, they are really good at relentlessly attacking the player with more sophisticated moves requiring plenty of skill to master the nuances. The play has been enhanced dramatically giving it a more realistic feel that retains the original titleís addictive arcade action making for an excellent play balance.

This sequel plays a lot like Virtua Tennis but adds in several new features that enhance the longevity and depth. One of the new features is the appearance of female players, as seen in the cover art featuring the Williams sisters not to mention Monica Seles amongst other tennis stars. In all, the game features 16 real-life tennis stars of both sexes with a good sampling of styles. The biggest change is the addition of new customizable characters, both male and female who you can take through the World Tour mode. The extensive World-tour mode has been vastly improved and is deeper and more satisfying than the original with a lot more to do. This mode is much tougher with more extensive training and a longer quest with more goals, but offers more of those addictive mini-games that made the first title so much fun. There are about 8 different mini-games, all of which are brand-new in this installment and serve as good training for skills such as aiming shots and other techniques in addition to being quite entertaining in their own right.

You can spend a lot of time in the mini-games alone, which is saying a lot about their overall quality. Doing this will however cause you to lose sight of the bigger picture and the other modes offered. The endless number of play variations is outstanding and this is why Tennis 2K2 is so excellent. The game really comes to life in its extras. Additional modes include tournament and exhibition modes for single players and doubles matches plus the addictive multiplayer mode where up to 4 gamers can compete in standard or mixed doubles matches, which give Tennis 2K2 an incredible breadth. All of these modes are highly polished and deliver maximum entertainment value, especially the multi-player mode which is excellent and allows up to four players to compete on the same screen. Sadly, Tennis 2K2 doesnít include support for online play which it was originally supposed to. It should go without saying however, that despite this absence, thereís more than enough fun to give Tennis 2K2 an incredible amount of depth.

The visuals in the game are quite impressive with richly detailed, with the same flashy presentation, shifting TV-style camera angles and brilliant polish that the series is quickly growing famous for. The production is incredibly slick and gives Tennis 2K2 increased intensity. Add in the realistic silky smooth character animations giving all the players a lifelike appearance with excellent reaction shots that show the playersí emotions effectively and the experience is like looking at a real tennis match. Whatís even better is that there are fewer apparent flaws with jaggies less noticeable in the engine this time. Sound effects and speech are well done with the realistic sounds of sneakers squeaking over the courts lending a great deal of realism in this department as well. Tennis 2K2 has also broadened its circuit so there are now a greater variety of courts as well. Players will find that the different surfaces also play a key role and need to be mastered as well. Some of these have more a harder surface which leads to bouncier balls while others such as the clay surfaces offer a more gripped surface that leads to more strategic play.

As was the case with the last game, the silky smooth and highly responsive controls are intuitive making Tennis 2K2 much more accessible than most sports titles and adding much to the addictive nature and enhancing its appeal. These are some of the best controls in a sports game of modern vintage, giving Tennis 2K2 that elusive balance that makes it easy to learn and difficult to master. The outstanding control shines with the standard Dreamcast control pad and the intuitive interface makes what already was a game with high-replay value even more addictive. However, the apparent simplicity belies a surprising amount of depth and strategy that occurs on the court.

This depth comes into play as you delve into the strategic feel of the action. Youíll find thereís a great deal of nuance and subtlety that comes through in the counter volleys, devastating lobs and super-shots meaning youíll need to spend a lot of time mastering the nuances of the sports. The computer is quite sophisticated, requiring you to think ahead and making shot placements extremely important. Thereís little chance a newbie will be able to beat the game at the highest difficulty levels. While in the previous game, you could get away with a little sloppiness and rely on chance for the occasional easy point, thereís much less room for error which makes Tennis 2K2 incredibly challenging. And since you can no longer run over competitors once you learn a few tricks, youíll need a much better eye this time around.

Overall this is a highly polished title that offers solid gameplay, addictive modes and excellent multiplayer action. Sega had one of the better action-sports titles to come out in the past few years and now Tennis 2K2 makes it even better. This isnít a half-baked finale, since a lot of effort has gone into it, making Tennis 2K2 an excellent title through and through. The most disappointing thing is that Tennis 2K2 is that itís going to be one of the last Dreamcast games released but the solidly addicting play should offer some comforts for owners of the orphaned system, which is all the more reason to applaud its high-quality.