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Top Spin 3
Top Spin 3

PlayStation 3 | Xbox 360
Genre: Sport Players: 1 (2 Online)
Developer: PAM Official Site: http://www.topspin3thegame.c...
Publisher: 2K Sports Classification: TBC
Top Spin 3

Genre: Sport
Players: 1 (2 Online)
Developer: PAM
Official Site: http://www.topspin3th...
Publisher: 2K Sports
Classification: TBC
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Top Spin 3 Review
Review By @ 12:01pm 04/08/08
Earlier this year we were given the opportunity to head out to Miami to meet PAM, the development studio behind 2K Games’ Top Spin series, for a sneak peak at Top Spin 3, their almost reimagined stab at the series that has, until now, always fallen just that little bit short of the net, serving up faults in game design while Sega’s Virtua Tennis was serving up aces.

It was their intent to take the core mechanics back to the drawing board and create a tennis game worth its weight in gold with a robust online mode playing alongside an equally deep and compelling single-player career offering.

At the time we saw the game it was looking like they might be on the right track; delivering all they were promising, but our thoughts were that the game still lacked in one of the most important areas for this type of game - pick-up-and-play.

So, quite a few months on, how has the final build held up? Well, the important thing is PAM have delivered one of the deepest, and most realistic tennis games ever. Unfortunately, as was our initial concern, this has come at the price of accessibility as Top Spin 3, for all its fundamental tennis mechanic glory, is one of the hardest games to get your head around the sports gaming world has ever seen.

With this in mind, it’s important anyone picking this up for the first time be ready to face a seriously steep learning curve. Tennis aficionados are likely going to love the game’s complexity, but casual players will be immediately turned off. That said, I’m convinced even veteran gamers – the hardcore elite – are going to find picking this up an immediate exercise in frustration. You can get your head around it, and when you do the game is infinitely rewarding, but it’s that initial first step that’s hardest, and it’s always the first step that either turns players away or invites them in for the long haul.

One addition to the fray however, comes in the form of a tutorial mode – a first for the series, and perhaps even an acknowledgment on PAM’s behalf they know they’ve created something tough to jump into. Top Spin School, as the mode is called, will teach you the fundamentals of playing, which for the right purposes are modeled closely off the real thing.

As I’ve mentioned in previews in the past, the key here is position, timing and placement. Having your body too far behind the ball isn’t going to get any weight or precision behind your shot, and so you really need to be playing as much a mental, strategic game as a physical one. It’s a change of pace for videogame representations of sport, and one only time will judge as welcome or not.

You can perform the obligatory Top Spin risk shots once again, only here, like the rest of the game, precision and a pure understanding of the game’s mechanic will be the only thing aiding you with these tools of destruction. A well-timed and judged risk shot that can tip the balance of play will be instantly gratifying if skillfully delivered. However, there’s no room for hacking this on to the end of your game – it’s no longer a function of luck or chance, performing these pivotal plays is as artful as understanding how to master the overall game, instantly (and oft frustratingly) adding to the game’s depth.

Once again career mode here is where the meat lies (beyond the innovative online and multiplayer options), and the way in which it is set-up is another new focal point for the series.

You no longer simply start as a lowly ranked player at the bottom of a 200 rung ladder. Now you enter competition as a junior first, with options to tackle opponents in either a hard or easy setting – one will progress you through the ranks a little quicker, while the other will reward you with more money and XP, giving an element of balance and clear choice to how you’d prefer to proceed. You’ll play monthly matches through a year-long season and so progress in an almost realistic fashion. The goal is to become number one in your class in the interim as opposed to number one overall with no mid-points to achieve. It’s a far more rewarding system and one I hope is adopted for other games of this nature.

XP is allotted to areas you decide you want to strengthen and it’s a long process to gather the points required to max-out any one particular area. Moreover, the choices you make always have an off-set, so giving yourself a powerful serve comes at the cost of stamina, and so on. This allows you to shape your player the way you want and in no way forces you to hold to any one particular style of play – a welcome addition to sports games in general.

In keeping with XP gathering and the game’s skill-tree and attribute system, going through the campaign mode sees you also able to create your own character with a heady list of customisation features that I touched on a while ago. Suffice to say, you’re no longer locked into just making a sporty-looking normal tennis player. Here you can create a tattooed, hat-wearing freak with crab arms and far too much make-up – if you so desire. It’s not the most extensive character creator on the market, but it certainly does offer up plenty to play with and means you’ll likely make an avatar 100% unique to you, which is a good thing when jumping online.

Similarly to the game’s single-player mode, the online component has you vying to win hosted tournaments, as opposed to simply being number one on an overall leaderboard. This approach removes any unfair advantages veteran players will have over newcomers and equally creates an exciting playing field for multiplayer. You’ll also still acquire XP which can be utilized in the aforementioned ways meaning you’re always improving and equally never facing off against opponents who’ll eat you alive through unfair match-making.

When you’ve got the rhythm of the game down-pat, the visual consistency of animations come to life revealing a rather impressive game. Missing shots because you’re uninformed on how to play will have your virtual self looking a bit silly, but don’t be fooled. There’s an impressive looking/feeling game here, you just need to be impressive yourself. Unfortunately, as appealing as all of that sounds, it’s a shame PAM couldn’t find a balance that would invite novice players to taste the fruit of their labour deeper than an early bash at it all. The learning curve here is not only steep but strict, and you’ll need to invest a lot of time not only with the nuances, but maintaining stride once you get going. Matches can last upwards of an hour, which may or may not scare people away.

If you’re a fan of sports simulation and don’t mind having a game make you look like a chump for awhile, you and Top Spin 3 should get along fine, if you have a short attention span or prefer your gaming of a more accessible nature, this may not be for you. It’s definitely one of the deepest sports games around, but for that same reason it might not be the most fun.
What we liked
  • Visually very nice
  • Deep mechanics modeled off real-world play
  • XP system allows for you to mold the player you want
  • Online tournaments are really well constructed
What we didn't like
  • Incredibly steep learning curve
  • Very unforgiving for sloppy play
  • Can you make you feel a bit silly early on
We gave it:
Latest Comments
Posted 03:39pm 04/8/08
wow this was bad on the wii:

game mechanics were ok, but everything else about it scuked:

shame, coz the original topspin on the xbox is one of the best console games evar
Posted 03:48pm 04/8/08
i knew someone here was a maj0r top spin fan... you should get a 360.
Posted 04:01pm 04/8/08
i have put so many hours into the original topspin:

i would go as far as to say that i am totally unbeatable by anyone but a robot built solely to play topspin
Posted 06:26pm 04/8/08
It's a pity about the learning curve, otherwise it would make a great party game.
Posted 06:56pm 06/8/08
Great review. Very accurate.. I've built my player and completed the career mode. And still the mechanics floor me at times. This is not a game for the novice player. Risk shots are difficult, if not impossible at times. This game is worth the initial effort. If your a tennis enthusiast.. It's a must buy :-)
Posted 07:53pm 06/8/08
shame, coz the original topspin on the xbox is one of the best console games evar

Totally agree with you. I had so much fun playing that original game.
sif greazy
Posted 12:16pm 14/8/08
wow this was bad on the wii:

game mechanics were ok, but everything else about it scuked:

shame, coz the original topspin on the xbox is one of the best console games evar
You should stop posting because we all know you pirate wii games.

Posted 01:34pm 14/8/08
want a tissue haji?
sif greazy
Posted 03:02pm 14/8/08
you forgot to link me to this place

youre still a f*****.
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