As regular as clockwork you can bet that each year a new and updated version of sports games hits the shelves – football, NFL and of course Tennis. But as Tennis doesn’t need roster or team updates or the latest kits, what is there that makes Virtua Tennis 4 any better (or worse) than VT3?

From turning Virtua Tennis 4 on you instantly know its another Sega game – the music and menu’s are so typical of Sega/Japanese-90′s style and don’t appear to have had much of an overhaul from the last outing. The same over-the-top arcade-sound effects guide you through the menu system until you find the type of game you want to play from singles or doubles exhibition matches to the Career mode.

The Career mode is rather bizarre. After creating your own character from the set models you see the differences immediately. In previous Virtua Tennis games you can chose from any destination from around the globe to travel to and take part in the event. With Virtua Tennis 4, you instead see what looks like a train line with dots along the way. Each dot represents either a training event, a rest stop, match or shop. However, you cannot travel to just anywhere you want – you are given tickets at the start of a new day which restricts how many spaces (or dots) you can travel. This is quite clever as it means you have to plan your moves carefully as jumping 4 spaces to an event could mean that you have to miss the following training session because your tickets are restrictive. That part can get frustrating but the shop allows you to purchase different tickets so as long as you plan carefully you can pretty much end up more or less doing most of the events.

The mini games make a return and do help make Virtua Tennis a bit more interesting. Each mini game you play will improve your created character in some way. So running around a court collecting chicks that follow you around while dodging tennis balls will improve your speed while firing volleys back at scrolling racks of plates will increase accuracy, etc. The mini games are just a bit of fun and do break up the monotony of playing match and match.

The main difference from VT3 to Virtua Tennis 4 has to be the improved graphics. The players look so much more like their real life counterparts and the attention to detail on the court environments is brilliant. The small things like the texture of the grass courts or the light positioning around the edge of the court really makes Virtua Tennis 4 look fantastic.

In terms of playing the game, although Virtua Tennis 4 is compatible with the Kinect and the Move, the standard controller was easier and more intuitive for us.

Virtua Tennis 4 on Kinect

When using the Kinect, there’s not much movement required – the on screen player will shuffle around the court and you’re left swinging your arm back and forth. You can rush the net by stepping towards the Kinect which is good for volleys but you’ll hardly do that as is easy enough to stand at the base line and thwack a rally from distance. Its good fun for a while but the Kinect picks up a slight delay in response to faster or jerkier movements and can get frustrating. Also, the finesse shots or angles are almost impossible to pull off with the Kinect as it is responsive to the full body movement rather than just the accuracy of the wrist.Virtua Tennis 4 review PlayEject

Virtua Tennis 4 on Move

The Playstation Move version of Virtua Tennis feels a lot more natural to play than with the controller and the subtle angles of shots can be picked up by the Move controller (registering a variation in the way the controller is held when the ball is hit) but its not always got the desired effect. A few times we tried playing short spin balls only to find we’d backhanded with power across the court. There’s not much requirement to move around the court either as the Move will pick up the shot rather than the movement of the player so it can get boring for those who want a more true to life experience.

Overall, we enjoyed playing Virtua Tennis 4 with the standard controller for short periods. The 90′s-style music and menu didn’t appeal to us and after having played previous Virtua Tennis games we weren’t impressed with a lack of ingenuity. The Kinect and Move features are welcome additions and we hope more developers will look to use these devices more in their games. They do need some work on them but overall, Virtua Tennis 4 is good enough to buy if you’ve not got VT3.

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