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Matchpoint: Tennis Championships – Shiny Yet Unrefined

Is it just me or did there used to be more sports games? Back in the ‘good ol’ days’ you had your FIFAs, Maddens, and NBAs – but there were also silly ones featuring dolphins and acrobatic soccer, snowboard sims, and the decidedly non-sim SSX. More niches seemed to be catered for. I miss the days of such depth and variety, when it seemed that every month there was a surfing, volleyball, or extreme sports title to wrinkle the brow. Rockstar even made a very good table tennis game at one point.

I was looking forward to getting stuck into Matchpoint: Tennis Championships to remind myself of the glory days of Virtua Tennis 2 on the PS2. Having played these kinds of games before, I had certain expectations. I was expecting a career mode, with mini-games to increase my stats. I got one. I was expecting a roster of current tennis players, with some legends waiting to be unlocked. I sort of got one. Most of all, I was expecting – hoping – for a good game of tennis. Did I get that?

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My first impression was that visually Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is very Arcade looking. Surfaces are flat, extremely bright, and devoid of much detail. Players have a nice musculature to their legs and arms, as you might expect, but the faces of players (your own or NPCs) are rubbery and their expressions often reminded me of our simian cousins. But this could be forgiven if I got good tennis. Hell, even FIFA, with its budget of a gazillion dollars can render weird and awkward looking faces, and the less said about eFootball at launch, the better.

The game starts with a tutorial showing you how to serve, play flat or topspin shots, volleys, etc. Matchpoint has you timing your shots, with the player pressing down on a button for power, while using an analogue stick to place the shot. For serves, it’s similar. It becomes intuitive, but takes a little getting used to. I found volleys pretty awkward, however. In other tennis games, you’d simply move your character forward and hit the right button to play a volley. But in Matchpoint it’s much clunkier, requiring you to hold a button down while your player always seemed reluctant to move forward, meaning I quickly chose to become a baseline player rather than a serve and volleyer, which was a shame.

Matchpoint does have neat quirks, like emphasising the lesser-spotted underarm serve. Using this cheeky little serve, which is not often played in professional tennis, was exciting. But in many aspects, I felt Matchpoint walked an awkward line between sim and a more game-y experience. The tutorial is a good introduction to the basics of tennis for those who don’t know the sport. However, there are times when the commentary was plain stupid, saying things that those who follow the real-life sport would find nonsensical.

I then started Career Mode. Here the player creator offered a good selection of skin types and faces, while the clothes seem somewhat irregular for professional tennis. Then it’s your age-old formula of slowly moving your player up the rankings by playing mini-games to improve baseline stats, and competing in lowly tournaments before rising to the major championships and glory.

However, none of this progression matters if the basic game of tennis isn’t satisfying and enjoyable. This is where Matchpoint: Tennis Championships falls down. Its major downside is that it’s too slow. The time it takes to play two sets of tennis seems endless. The developer needs to speed up time. Even simulations need to take out stuff that’s not enjoyable. Waiting in between points takes too long, waiting to serve is glacial, and the shots themselves could be sped up too.

The AI opponents were too artificial, with seemingly infinite stamina as I moved them from side to side in endless rallies. When I played a shot behind them, which is what many pros do since the opponent might expect you to play it into the large open court, the AI thought nothing of it and returned the ball no issue.

The game does have some interesting features, such as finding out your opponents strengths and weaknesses, with some disliking underarm serves, or not coping well with deep baseline shots, and it was exciting to discover these weaknesses. But overall Matchpoint: Tennis Championships was a letdown, providing an unrefined experience.

I wish things had been different, but there were instances when the developers’ lack of sport sim experience shone through. Torus Games comes to Matchpoint off the back of Paw Patrol: On a Roll, Praetorian HD Remaster, and Beast Quest.

What it has made here could be considered impressive, in a way, considering its lack of expertise in this genre, because it’s not entirely incompetent. The tennis does play fairly realistically and there is a rhythm to it that did remind me of Virtua Tennis 2 at times. But I'm not sure that you'll want to spend your hours with this game, because it’ll seem like time will slow down to a crawl.

The publisher provided a PS5 code. The game is available on Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Xbox Series, Switch, and PC. There is a day one patch.

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