Developed by Sega-AM3, Virtua Tennis 4 plays a lot like its predecessors — at least with standard controls. You run to the ball, hit X for a regular swing, square for slice, and so on and so forth. So what separates Virtua Tennis 4 from previous games in the series? SEGA has two answers for you: 3D and PlayStation Move support.
Exclusive to the PlayStation 3 version of the game, the game’s 3D technology provides players with a whole new perspective of the tennis court. Once you don the 3D glasses, the already crisp character models and environments gain a newfound depth. During gameplay, the added dimension extends deep into the television, while during replays, the characters’ arms and racket appear to burst out of the television screen. The added depth helps you determine where the ball is on the court, especially while you’re using the PlayStation Move controller.
Move changes the game in a number of ways. You’re no longer required to run to the ball — that’s automated by default while motion control is enabled (you can apparently turn on manual control if you have a sub-controller attachment). Either way, you’re able to rush the net or fall back by stepping toward or away from the screen. Each time the ball approaches, the camera shifts from a third-person to first-person perspective (a tad disorienting), framing your racket in the center of the screen with the ball somewhere at the periphery. With no button controls, it’s 100% about your swing. Like in real tennis, it’s best to hold the Move controller in front of you rather than let it dangle by your side, ensuring you’re prepared for a forehand, backhand, or spike-style swing.
The game’s motion control is pretty intuitive; it’s simple to understand but difficult to master. The controller picks up really subtle movements like wrist flicks, so you’re able to add topspin or slice by mimicking the real action. Those fancy shots will probably work against you in the beginning, though. Until you can maintain a decent volley, it’s best to stick to basic swings — that’s certainly how I found the most success during my brief time with the game.
Virtua Tennis 4 features a roster of 18 athletes. Six are new to the series, but most are old standbys like Federer, Nadal, and Williams. The game also includes a new ‘World Tour’ career mode and online hub, though I wasn’t able to try these out. What the Virtua Tennis 4 package really provides, though, is two completely different tennis experiences: the more strategic standard controls and the more reflex-based Move controls. Some will opt for the former, but I found the motion controls more engaging — at least for a short play session. The 3D is the cherry on top: unnecessary, but oh-so-scrumptious.