Wii

North America

Grand Slam Tennis

by Neal Ronaghan - June 26, 2009, 8:09 am PDT
Total comments: 12

6

During the course of this review, I may have legitimately gotten tennis elbow.

Grand Slam Tennis is EA's first foray into tennis games this decade and also one of their first games to make use of Nintendo's latest peripheral, Wii MotionPlus. The presentation and graphical style of the game is nice and vibrant, and doesn't try to be realistic. Basically, it plays to the Wii's strengths and looks good. However, this first entry in what will hopefully become a long-standing series has some issues, mostly stemming from the absurd learning curve associated with its Wii MotionPlus controls.

Aside from the controls, Grand Slam Tennis doesn't really bring anything new to the table. It has a basic career mode, a character creator with an array of clothing and rackets to choose from, a few rule variations that are considered party games, a simple yet solid online mode, and a really strange and out-of-place fitness portion.

However, the biggest part of the game is, without a doubt, the new MotionPlus controls, which are never really explained in the game, aside from random words of wisdom such as "swing gently" or "the control is in the backswing." The only thing resembling a tutorial in the entire game is the ball machine, which just spits balls out at you and tells you what kind of shot you made (slice, lob, etc.). Those familiar with the tennis game in Wii Sports will most likely be completely dumbfounded at first. It looks similar to Wii Sports, but it doesn't really control similarly to that game. It wasn't until someone in our forums showed me a thread on the EA forums that I began to understand how the game was played.

And that's the biggest problem with this game. The actual mechanics of the new controls aren't actually explained in the game or manual. They're hinted at, but there isn't a concrete this-is-how-it's-done tutorial. Once you get past the confusing controls the game improves, but even then it isn't ideal.

There are also alternate control schemes. You can use the Wii Remote by itself in a manner similar to Wii Sports, and you can also add the Nunchuk (with or without MotionPlus) to gain control over movement. The Nunchuk can be difficult to use, though, especially with the MotionPlus controls, because the tether between it and the Wii Remote restricts your movement when swinging the Wii Remote.

Still, there are a lot of hiccups with MotionPlus controls throughout the game. The A.I. positions your player automatically when you don't use the Nunchuk, and oftentimes you'll have to guess on which side of the ball the A.I. will put you as your character runs over to the ball. On numerous occasions my character would go for the more difficult backhand shot while I was preparing for a more straightforward forehand shot. The game is a little lenient with these swings, as your character will hit it, albeit awkwardly and poorly, but a poorly hit ball can really kill you in the heat of the game.

Problems also arise with the game's on-the-fly recalibration of MotionPlus. Whenever the Remote is held still for approximately two seconds, the MotionPlus automatically recalibrates. If you're waiting for your opponent to serve and you have your Wii Remote to the side, this can really screw you up because it'll change where your racket shows up on screen. The game never really tells you that you pretty much have to have your Wii Remote centered and in front of you in between hits if you use MotionPlus.

If you couldn't tell by the title, the career mode takes you through the Grand Slam, which is spread across four different venues (Australian Open, Wimbledon, French Open, and the US Open). You take your custom character through all four tournaments and try to win them. Your character starts off with a zero-star ranking and works his way up to a five-star ranking. There are also special abilities that you can win from different tennis superstars that improve specific parts of your game. For example, if you beat Serena Williams, you earn the ability dubbed "Serena's Forehand," which improves your forehand strength. On the whole, the career mode isn't really anything special as it is quite short.

The online mode is pretty basic, too, only supporting exhibition matches, but the cool thing is that you play for your own country. So, as an American, I can play to boost my own ranking and also work hard for the U.S.A. I noticed a little bit of lag in my experience, but only in a few of the many matches I played.

At the end of the day, Grand Slam Tennis is a decent, but not great, first MotionPlus and tennis effort from EA. It isn't very fun as a pick-up-and-play title because of the steep learning curve. However, if you take your time and read up on the controls online, it can be a great game. I can only really recommend this game to hardcore tennis fans and people who aren't easily frustrated.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
9 6 7 6 5 6
Graphics
9

EA made a wise decision when they went for a cartoony graphical style. The game still has its realism, and the vibrant characters and colorful surroundings look great.

Sound
6

The tennis sound effects are nice and the commentary is decent, even though the music is pretty forgettable.

Control
7

If you put the time into learning the controls, they can become satisfying, but they are never properly explained in the game. On the bright side, you can play the game four different ways and change the control method on the fly.

Gameplay
6

There isn't much variety in the actual gameplay. There is a party mode that has over ten rule variations, but they are only minor changes such as certain shots being worth double points and tag-team doubles.

Lastability
5

With a short career mode, a joke of a party mode, and a befuddling fitness mode, there isn't much to do in this besides play rounds of tennis.

Final
6

It's a good first step for a young series, but the unexplained new MotionPlus controls really cripple it. If you put in the effort to learn the controls it could be worth a purchase, but for most people it probably won't.

Summary

Pros
  • Colorful presentation
  • If you put in the time, it might be worth it
  • Online mode
Cons
  • Controls aren't properly explained
  • Huge learning curve
  • "Party" mode
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

In case anyone is wondering about the recent controversy at Eurogamer...

Neal definitely played this on a retail Wii system.

Wait? I was supposed to play this on a retail system? just kidding

BlackNMild2k1June 26, 2009

It would've been nice if they added some WiiSports Tennis like challenges in the game. that way you really get to test your control & aim.

NovaQJune 26, 2009

I hope Virtua Tennis can do better than this.

BlackNMild2k1June 26, 2009

Has there been a single review of Virtua Tennis though?
Seems like everyone was caught up with GST.

Quote from: BlackNMild2k1

Has there been a single review of Virtua Tennis though?
Seems like everyone was caught up with GST.

Well, we haven't gotten a Virtua Tennis review copy yet, so that's our excuse.

EA did a much better job of advertising this. As much as I didn't enjoy the game, I hope this does well enough so that they make more because there is potential.

BlackNMild2k1June 26, 2009

Quote from: nron10

Quote from: BlackNMild2k1

Has there been a single review of Virtua Tennis though?
Seems like everyone was caught up with GST.

Well, we haven't gotten a Virtua Tennis review copy yet, so that's our excuse.

EA did a much better job of advertising this. As much as I didn't enjoy the game, I hope this does well enough so that they make more because there is potential.

I'm with you 100% on this, but unlike you, I actually bought it. It was for my mom, and she loves it, so I have no real complaints. She even uses the M+ so its must not be as hard to pick up and play as I had originally thought. I played her a couple days ago (double match), and she used the only M+ and she won, so that must mean something.

MonteblancoJune 26, 2009

Although I agree with the reviewer to the fact EA Sports dropped the ball by not offering a real manual or a tutorial of some sorts, I am enjoying this game greatly and I think many of his comments are off mark.

Instructions are a big problem into getting the controls right. It took me a few hours to learn the controls but I eventually got there after watching a very helpful video posted by a gamer at You Tube. Once I learned how to play it, it have been a very good experience. Despite a few problems, mostly due my own inadequacy with the control scheme, the game plays well and the AI does a decent job positioning the player. It is very possible that some gamers complain about the positioning just because they don't grasp real tennis positioning and how it is hard to close all possible gaps against your adversary.

In my short experience, online mode has been perfect so far. I played a few matches against an anonymous. Despite the fact he was in France whereas I am in Brazil, there were no lag in our matches. There is no online career mode but, as I doubt it would add anything substantial, I wasn't expecting it anyway. The fact you contribute to the overall score of your own country is a nice touch.

Graphically, this game doesn't hold well. I like the cartoonish style. However, there are few customizing options to create your player, the audience and referees look awful, and the courts are lacking (why EA cannot do grass as good as Wii Sports?). Furthermore, there are problems with hit detection outside the racket ball interaction and it is not uncommon to see your character walking inside a referee or through the balconies.

Audio is another mixed bag. I liked the original score and the commentator voice. However, so few phrases were recorded that they repeat over and over again.

In all, this is a solid title. It is hard to master but then it is hard to properly play tennis. Actually, this game gives you a good idea of the real thing but with a much easier learning curve. To me, this is being true to the spirit of motion plus. If anything, I would like to see motion controls even closer to reality at harder difficulty modes - EA Sports said they reduced 1:1 track to make the game easier to play. Good gameplay is matched with a nice, if somewhat short, career mode and great online playing. All that said, graphics and sound are only passable and deserve some further development. My main criticism is regarding the instructions. The manual is short and, although I appreciate EA environmental concern (it seems they really don't like chopping trees to provide useful paper manuals), this game seriously need a tutorial mode to help players grasping its fundamentals.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusJune 26, 2009

IMO I don't agree with the graphics score and lastability score.

I'd personally give the graphics score a 6 or 7, it really doesn't appeal to me since it just looks way too simple especially the player's clothing. I also don't really like how the characters look like.

Lastability seems too low, while I can't comment on how short the career mode, sports games usually give good replay value and plus the online mode should increase the longevity.

Career mode's pretty short, Luke. My beef with the lastability is that the party games aren't really party games, they're just rule variants.

Flames_of_chaosLukasz Balicki, Staff AlumnusJune 26, 2009

Quote from: nron10

Career mode's pretty short, Luke. My beef with the lastability is that the party games aren't really party games, they're just rule variants.

Ahh, well a lot of sports games "party" modes are rule variants. Sometimes they are crazy Mario Party style, but realistic sports typically just stick to rule variants.

Well, I didn't think they had much lastability...

And I also really liked the art style and simplicity with it. It had some personality.

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Grand Slam Tennis Box Art

Genre Sports
Developer
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Grand Slam Tennis
Release Jun 08, 2009
PublisherElectronic Arts
RatingEveryone
eu: Grand Slam Tennis
Release Jun 12, 2009
PublisherElectronic Arts
aus: Grand Slam Tennis
Release Jun 11, 2009
PublisherElectronic Arts
RatingGeneral

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