After a long stretch without any good simulation games served up for tennis fans, we've been treated with quite a few in the last couple of years with both the AO International Tennis series and Tennis World Tour. The latter is now ready to give us another match after a horrendous debut, and I've have checked if the second try is any better.
When Tennis World Tour was released in 2018, there was a real hunger for tennis games on the current generation consoles, and the game probably got better sales than it would have if it had any real competition at the time of release. The first iteration was not what people expected from a new tennis simulator, but Big Ant wants to try again. Alas, it doesn't seem like the developers have learned a lot since the last time around.
The career mode was one of the few things in the first game that was pretty decent, and the sequel hasn't made many changes. I guess you don't want to change something that works, especially when there are so few things that are working well. You still improve your player gradually by completing training sessions between tournaments, resting when you need to, or having meetings with the staff to increase how many experience points you get. It's pretty much the same as any other career mode in any other sports game, but with a very minimalistic skill-tree to make your player better. I would like to be able to improve my serve specifically instead of having to choose between general improvements to attack, defence or precision, and the current setup feels very much like the simplest solution.
One aspect that doesn't take shortcuts is the ability to improve your player with various clothes and equipment. The number of rackets, strings, frames, headbands and other things you're able to buy is enormous. There are even packs with power-up cards that give you additional skills for a short period of time during games. I am sure Big Ant would love it if I spent my real money to buy packs to have my player become better, but unfortunately for them, I never felt like doing so.
The game mechanics in the first serve were horrible. I easily could perform drop shots to win any point, even if I was behind the baseline. There are some improvements this time around, but far from enough. Tennis is all about hitting the ball at the correct moment, and on this front, Big Ant has done it right. It's nearly impossible to hit winners without good timing, which is a good thing. Sadly, this seems to be the only thing that really matters when it comes to winning a point. It's more difficult than before, but it's still very straightforward once you've played the game for some time and you've got the timing down.
The level of difficulty is slightly improved, and I am not able to beat Rafael Nadal as easily as I beat the fictional characters. What's more, you'll feel the progress when your player improves, unlike the previous game where your improvements made little to no difference in terms of difficulty.
Customisation of your player has some new features but is still very underwhelming compared to many other sports games, and the fact that I have to use my own player to play the career mode, and not any of the 38 pros, is frustrating. As a Norwegian myself I would love to be able to take Casper Ruud to the top of the ATP rankings, but Tennis World Tour 2 doesn't allow me to do this.
Graphically the game looks pretty much the same as its predecessor, and the sounds are as good as ever. Again, why change something that works? I would love to see more improvements on the graphical side, but I would much rather see an improvement to the gameplay next time around.
To summarise, Tennis World Tour 2 is a slight improvement over the first release, but it's still far behind AO Tennis 2, which at this point is the current leading tennis simulator. If Big Ant was to try a third time, I really hope that the quality of the gameplay takes a bigger leap than it has here. The franchise has never looked better, and the addition of a ton of equipment and clothing helps, but that doesn't really matter when the game itself plays like this. If this was the only tennis game out there it would probably be worth picking up on sale... but it's not.
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