Genre: Sport Developer: Publisher: Classification: G Release Date: 9th Feb 2012 Platforms:
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It's the Championship Match of the Australian Open. My character - imaginatively named Joab Gilroy - squares off against World Number 20 Kei Nishikori. The winner gets his name inscribed on the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup.
It was only a week ago that Joab turned pro, and he did so in spectacular style. He won the Dubai Tennis Championship without losing a single game and used the prize money to do nothing at all, nailing every option afforded him.
To get to the final at the Australian Open he beat Pete Sampras in his Quarter Final and Rafael Nadal in his Semi. Again - he didn't lose a single game. On paper this match-up seems like a sure thing for Kei Nishikori. According to the people who rate tennis player's abilities, Joab's Power is a mere '20' (out of 100) and his highest stat is his Net Play, a humble 50.
If past performances indicate future events though, Kei Nishikori is in for the humiliation of a lifetime. To reach the Grand Final Kei played a semi-final against current world Number One Novak Djokovic - and won.
As they step onto the court, the world watches with bated breath. The very landscape of tennis hinged on Nishikori's performance here. If Gilroy - who tennis statisticians rated overall a 35 out of 100 - managed to win this match without losing a single game again, how would the tennis world cope?
24 games later it was over. Gilroy lost only two points over the course of the match - both aces driven directly at the new champion. Some watching the match say he might have been distracted by an ethereal voice asking what he wanted for dinner.
Gilroy wouldn't lose a single game for the rest of the year. Instead of revising the measuring system for tennis players to more accurately reflect Gilroy's evident mastery of the sport, statisticians continued to rate him overall as a 35. He apparently never managed to raise his stats in any area by a single point.
When asked, other players said the reason they couldn't beat Gilroy was because when he stepped on the court they felt dumber. Something about his presence passively caused them to unlearn decades of knowledge about where to stand, how to strike the ball and how to stop a relentless net assault.
In the year 2013 the Association of Tennis Professionals - now headed by Joab Gilroy himself - passed a rule, banning Joab Gilroy from playing professional Tennis for life.
It probably doesn't need any further explaining - the career mode in Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a massive disappointment. It plays like they reversed the typical flow of a career mode - instead of starting out weak and becoming a strong player, the AI is so awful at the start of your career that you can cruise through with zero effort.
Typically, career mode is a fun way for players to acquaint themselves with the new game and to learn the ins-and-outs of this entry to the series. In Grand Slam Tennis 2 though, you actively learn bad habits as you train yourself to serve wide and attack the net as quickly as possible.
Outside of career mode I found myself cranking the difficulty up to "Superstar" to find myself challenge by competent AI - except in ESPN Grand Slam Classic mode. Classic mode sees you replaying historic rallies, and here the challenge is probably the best you're going to see (short of playing against a human) as you attempt to recreate Tennis' finest moments.
The faults don't stop at lacking AI, either. John McEnroe and Pat Cash do a fine job of talking about tennis while you play Grand Slam Tennis 2, but you'd be stretched to call it commentary. Commentary is reactive and intelligent - a clever comment here, and witty retort there - and at its best it can be almost indistinguishable from the real thing... at least for the first couple of hours.
In GST 2 I heard the same informative break down of the pros and cons (there are none) of playing from the baseline four times in the first tournament. It wasn't long before I also heard about the benefits of approaching the net over and over, and before I finished my first tournament I turned off the commentary.
The highlight - probably the best thing about Grand Slam Tennis 2 - is the speed of the game. Too often in Top Spin or Virtua Tennis you get the sense that you might not be playing on Earth exactly, as everything is just a little bit slower than it should be. Perhaps gravity is different in these worlds, changing the momentum of that little yellow ball. In GST2 the game moves along at the rate it should, especially when playing against a human or at Superstar difficulty.
The other slightly positive thing is the licensing of all the major Tennis tours and the stunning replication of the various courts. It's a very TV-familiar experience, making it great for anyone watching you play.
Still, all the licensing in the world can't help you if the core gameplay is faulty, and in the case of Grand Slam Tennis 2 it just keeps serving double faults. The more you play it the less you find to like about it until eventually you just wish you hadn't started at all. Like last year's AFL Live - there's a core concept in here which might eventually turn into a beautiful sports game flower, but for now it's wallowing a little too heavily in manure.