Thanks to a few changes in gameplay mechanics, Top Spin 4 feels like the closest thing you’ll get to an authentic tennis game! Developer 2K Czech did a good job of breaking down the kind of sophisticated hits you’ll be using to deliver top notch performance on various types of courts. The last three iteration had shared many of the same technical imbalances, where half of the physics were indicative of unexplained sequences, the kind you’d find in the Twilight Zone. To break free from the associated glitches, 2K Czech has employed shot assists and great animation to capture the dramatic thrills that make tennis such an enjoyable sport. In the previous installments, hitting a perfect shot is based on pure intuition. However, in Top Spin 4, players utilize “helpers” that make each ball contact a much easier order to carry out.

Depending on timing of your hits, you’re given a rating of good, perfect, too early, or too late. Holding down on one of the face buttons determines how hard you’re going to smack the ball back, while the first bounce marker dictates where the ball is going to land when your opponent returns a shot. This is only to give you an idea of what helpers are in the game; but it’s how you take advantage of these shot assists that will give you the winning edge. There are three fundamental play styles of tennis and mastering these techniques take time. These styles include the high-speed power shots of baseline offensive, the accurate control shots of baseline defensive, and the sharp plays of quick volley. Despite the various approaches to rallying, the controls are very accurate and the physics are right where you want them.

Top Spin 4 features a great reward system. Instead of leveling up your character’s individual attributes such as speed, power and accuracy, the game offers three major skills set to tackle: Serve and Volley, Offensive Baseline Play, and Defensive Baseline Play. It’s nice that this new reward system is the points are distributed automatically, which reduces the lengthy process of stats allocation. Can you imagine the progress of your career trucking through each attribute? You might as well forget your debit card and start writing separate checks to pay for your individual bag of groceries! On top of the typical upgrades, you can harness more abilities by hiring a coach while competing in the world tour. Bonus skills are added upon completing objectives (such as 100 forehand winners, 40 control shots, or 20 smashes) with him or her.

You can choose from nearly 50 coaches and try to unlock several other amazing skills to gain permanent performance boosts. Top Spin 4’s incredible reward system is carried over in netting valuable experience points. You can gain these points from taking part in bonus special events, playing exhibition matches for sponsors, etc. Your hard work are not just rewarded with experience points, but also gain a slew of fashionable wardrobes, hairstyles, and accessories. Top Spin 4’s reward system doesn’t just limit you laborious matches to acquire leveling up, but also a chance to take part in endorsements and appearances in TV shows. Attending such sponsorship events boost your fan club, which raise your star status and open bigger and better tournaments for next season. What makes your season so enjoyable is that each “Cup” like the US Open is the smart antics of the crowd watching.

The crowd reacts to how you play. You’ll hear dramatic “Oohs” after slamming a 140 MPH ace. The crowd mutters as tension builds up in heated rallies, accompanied by loud round of applause and cheers when you end the match in an amazing come-from-behind win! Whether you’re playing single modes or slugging it out against multi-players, Top Spin 4 looks great throughout. The detail of each court is amazing. You can see worn down surfaces as the tide of the game goes on. You get a nice dynamic contrast of shadows when certain portion of a stadium is being scintillated by the sun. The visuals increases as the camera pans on the action of the players. The animation is much better this time around. You won’t have to put up with those “accidental” slipping and ridiculous diving that force unnecessary errors.

Though Top Spin 4 gets high marks, there are a couple of letdowns that should be noted. The RB button that manages speed is relatively clunky. It is unresponsive and has no bearing effect no matter how hard we tried to get our player back to a particular position. Secondly, the skills gained don’t seem to have significant difference whether you are a starting athlete or a long-time star. We have a near-perfect tennis player in terms of attribute, and yet he struggles to manhandle a low-ranking amateur. We could be firing aces on our opponents but the invisible handicap seem to be preventing that from happening, regardless of which difficulty setting. Despite these setbacks, we’re happy with Top Spin 4’s redesigned gameplay mechanics. It’s a fantastic sport reproduction that remains true to its tennis roots. Thanks to the new shot assists, Top Spin 4 delivers top notch experience that serves both veterans and novice alike.