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Matchpoint: Tennis Championships Review

Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is a tennis simulator that hands you the reins to creating and managing your very own player in the world of professional tennis.  Starting from the very bottom, you will train, work, compete and even exhibit your skills on your way up the rankings to become World Number 1! Read on for our Matchpoint: Tennis Championships Review

Time to hit the court

When you begin Matchpoint: Tennis Championships, there are seven modes to choose from.  These are divided into two categories: Local and Online.  Local modes consist of: My Career, Quick Match, Practice, Training and Tutorial.  (Naturally, you aren’t likely to play the tutorial more than once, but it’s still a valid option nevertheless.) The online modes consist of Ranked Match and Casual Match, which are self-explanatory.

Quick Match does what it says on the tin.  It puts you straight into the action where you choose both your player and your opponent from a selection of professional players (but not necessarily the most well-known ones, unfortunately).  There are, however, a couple of aspects that seem strange to me about the available options in this mode.  First of all, there is no option to randomly select either or both players.  This would have been a nice addition as it would have added a further challenge to the mix in not knowing who or what to expect.  

Secondly, the fact that you can select the same player for both your character and your opponent seems bizarre.  However, it isn’t unheard of in sports games to allow the same person/team/entity to face off against a copy of itself.  If anything, at least that way you can be guaranteed an even matchup!

Career mode

Matchpoint: Tennis Championships offers a straightforward career mode that allows you to create your own character and then attempt to rise through the rankings.  You begin career mode in the deciding set of a best-of-five match, which was an unexpected yet pleasant surprise.  The score stands at two sets each in a best-of-five match and both the pressure and atmosphere are immediately electrifying.

Unfortunately, this level of excitement fails to return to the same heights beyond this point.   This is because your career is limited to winning tournaments and not much beyond that.  It would have been nice to have had a compelling narrative around your character and/or perhaps better character development.  In its current state, career mode is somewhat repetitive and uninspiring and often feels lacklustre at times.  For example, tournaments take a significant amount of commitment and time to progress through if you want to see your player go all the way, and this can understandably turn some people off.  

Matches feel the same

Your opponents’ difficulty levels don’t vary that much at all, so most matches feel the same for the majority of the time.  There is a difference in most opponents’ playing styles, however, but they can be quickly and easily learned within a few games.  Unless you are dedicated and prepared to put the time in, it can become tedious and occasionally verges on becoming boring as you work your way through each match.

Considering how much there is to think about during a game of tennis, controlling my character was both surprisingly easy and intuitive. Matchpoint: Tennis Championships’ control system forces you to focus predominantly on your shot choice first and player positioning second, which isn’t actually a bad thing overall.

Quick thinking

After a short amount of time, I felt fully in control of their actions.  Deciding which shot to play, where to aim and how much power to use is smooth, feels completely natural and has been implemented very well indeed.  The action buttons (A, B, X and Y) each correspond to a different shot type and holding down the right trigger allows you to play specific versions of each shot too.  This seemed somewhat daunting at first because you have to make a lot of decisions in a very, very short space of time.  

Once your opponent hits the ball back to you, you must decide which shot to play in response, where to place it and how hard to hit it, all in under one second.  It seemed impossible, but I found myself thinking more and more tactically as each game progressed.  You aren’t required to move your player around the court very much, which is very helpful, but it tends to make matches feel slightly too easy too often.  

Honing your skills

Training is good fun as it allows you to hone your skills to better prepare you for future matches and it has been implemented very well.  The format typically goes that you are told how to do certain shots, and then given a practice target to reach in order to learn it.  The shot types are varied and the accompanying explanations are detailed yet brief.

At the end of each training session, you are given a summary of what you just did.  Your statistics’ values are updated with what you have learned and these are shown alongside a helpful summary from your coach.

The in-game artificial intelligence (AI) is good, with opponents reacting as a real human would to your shots.  However, there were occasions when an opponent would be able to reach the most ridiculous of shots from the opposite side of the court and then proceed to slam it past me in the most unnatural way.  These instances were rare but still annoying.

No comment

The commentary is generally good, with the commentators providing accurate coverage of the on-court action.  They will announce things such as how many chances to break you might have or whether the last shot was good or bad, but it isn’t perfect.  For example, on one particular occasion, the commentators said that I had “worked so hard for those two game points” because I had indeed just won the last two game points.  However, the style in which I won them couldn’t have been further from what they announced.  The reason I won two game points was because my opponent made four consecutive double-faults.  That means that I stood in the same spot and didn’t move.  At all.  I literally did nothing apart from wait for my opponent to make a valid shot, which they failed to do, and I benefitted from it.

The ball physics are especially well-crafted, with the tennis ball reacting accurately and realistically based on which shot is played and the surface it is on.  Top spin shots propel the ball quicker once contact is made on the ground.  Slice shots apply backspin to the ball, meaning that the ball is spinning backwards whilst travelling forward.  As such, when it hits the ground the backspin should slow the ball down significantly, and this is precisely what happens in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships.

Taking on other players

Matchpoint: Tennis Championships offers the option to play against people locally or online against strangers and/or friends alike.  It also offers cross-platform support, meaning that you are not limited to players on the same system as you, which makes the matchmaking pool much larger.  Online play supports ranked and unranked matches, casual matches and even doubles matches.

Due to the various game modes available, there is a high degree of replay value attached to Matchpoint: Tennis Championships.  Despite a dull narrative, Career Mode has plenty of matches, training and exhibitions to take part in.  If you want to see your character through at least one season, this means that you will return to it several times in the future in order to do so.

There is also the option to play each match however you like.  What I mean is that you can replay certain matches again but change your style to see what works or doesn’t work.  You can opt to play aggressively at first, then go back and change it up to perhaps play defensively the next time.

Taking a closer look

The visuals in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships are, for the most part, pretty good.  However, when you look more closely you begin to see several rough edges, both literally and metaphorically.  For example, characters’ facial animations are incredibly basic, with their expressions rarely ever changing, regardless of the scenario.  Furthermore, how characters react when celebrating a win or being angry about a loss is incredibly unnatural in some cases, with the animations becoming janky and unnatural.

The audio is good, with authentic sound effects for different shots, crowd reactions and calls of the linesmen/lineswomen.

Background music is energetic, which complements the fast-paced and competitive nature of the sport.  The sound effects are great, making for a more immersive experience overall.  However, the audio did occasionally clip in and out and I found myself checking my volume level on more than one occasion because I thought something went wrong with my system.  On those occasions, it went from having background noise or even music to complete and total silence.  This is unfortunate because it breaks the immersion immediately when this happens, especially in the middle of a rally.

Conclusion

Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is a well-crafted tennis game that can provide hours of entertainment.  However, audio glitches, janky animations and lack of narrative or better character development in career mode detract from an otherwise enjoyable experience.  If you want to take part in a well-implemented and fast-paced tennis match that requires you to think and act quickly, then Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is definitely worth a try!

Pros:

  • Smooth, responsive gameplay.
  • Realistic ball physics.
  • Simple yet deep gameplay mechanics.
  • Variety of game modes to choose from.

Cons:

  • Not challenging enough / often too easy.
  • Lacklustre career mode.

Grade: 7

Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is currently available through GeForce Now and PlayStation Plus Premium. This review was made by Mus from PapaBear Gaming. You can check out his channel right here. You can follow him on Twitter by going here. That was it for our Matchpoint: Tennis Championships review.