Virtua Tennis 4
Renew rivalries and start new ones in Sega's arcade style tennis game.
Sega didn't have to twist my arm when it announced plans to port Virtua Tennis 4 to Sony's PlayStation Vita, largely because I had so much fun with the series on PSP. Just provide a similar arcade experience and I'm good to go.
Thankfully, the publisher did just that with Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition, which includes the content from the console version, but adds some new features designed specifically for the handheld.
That said, Sega deserves some credit for trying to increase the game's appeal, though some additions are better than others. It begins with touch screen controls, where you're able to drag a finger along Vita's five-inch OLED to move your chosen player (be it Federer, Nadal or Sharapova, among others) and then tap to make him or her hit the ball. Not a bad idea in theory, but in practice, it's much too erratic and awkward. More often than not, I'd move in the proper direction, only to miss the ball anyway. Eventually, I returned to the tried and true button controls.
On top of that, the game includes four VT Apps, mini games designed to take advantage of the machine's abilities. I enjoyed Rock the Boat, which challenges players to tilt Vita to manipulate a pirate ship decorated with targets while volleying to break them within a time limit. Sega also deserves praise for VR Match, where gamers see things in first person while using the gyroscope to look around.
The final two Apps simply don't measure up. VT Cam lets players take pictures with in-game tennis stars, and is fairly useless. Touch Vs. switches things to an overhead perspective, ala Pong, but feels too weird to enjoy.
Finally, there's World Tour mode, which is this bizarre board game of sorts, where you create a tennis pro (you can import your face using Vita's camera) and then travel the globe, competing in tournaments, meeting fans and taking breaks to rest; even virtual athletes need to chill every once and a while. It's a novel concept, but the game limits not only where you can go, but also the tournaments you can enter. Fun, but a little irritating all the same.
As I said, though, the proven Virtua Tennis formula is alive and well in this game, and you'll still have a blast competing in Arcade mode, plowing through a series of cool party games (bowling makes a triumphant return) and challenging other players via Ad Hoc and online, so more often than not, there's an opponent waiting to hit the court.
Once you do, prepare to marvel at the impressive graphics, featuring beautiful locations (Melbourne, London, Paris) and character models that mostly resemble their real life counterparts. The game tends to chug a bit during intros and cut scenes between points, but the in-game action runs smoothly.
For the most part, there's little about Virtua Tennis 4 that'll surprise longtime fans, making this entry feel like more of the same. Yes, it comes with Vita exclusive bonuses, but you'll quickly grow tired of them and fall back on intense volleys and furious cross court smashes. To that end, World Tour Edition falls short of an ace, but still manages to hold serve.
Review copy provided by Sega.
What's Hot: Fast-paced and enjoyable tennis, first person VR Match, cool gyroscope controls, deep World Tour mode, online play, sharp looking visuals.
What's Not: Frustrating touch controls, useless VT Cam mode, Touch Vs. not much fun.