If you like tennis or if you just like playing an entertaining sports game at a medium pace this is your ticket. Top Spin delivers not only a great tennis game, but gives you an insight into the world of the top spinners with the impressive career mode.

The Game
The concept of the tennis is pretty straight forward. There are a few rules to learn then you’re off to smacking the ball back and forth over the net. Tennis is easy to pick up and if you’re not an avid sports fan, it’s not as complex and overly techniqual as a football or other sports games which is a blessing.

In Top Spin you will find a few game modes which include the obligatory exhibition mode, custom tournament, XSN Multiplayer, the great Season Mode and Tennis School. I would suggest going through 'Tennis School' or playing a few games in Exhibition Mode before you hit the season mode.

The career mode has you working you way up from a tennis amateur to a top ranking pro. Season mode is broken down into a few parts where you can gain sponsorships that outfit you in their swag, fly around the world participating in tournaments, buy new equipment and clothing and finally get training to improve and home your skills. As you play the game you will climb the rankings and compete in harder and more prominence tournaments aiming to capture the ranking of number one in the world. I can see Top Spin making some good coin to boot with all the licenses and sponsoring products in the game. You have Prince, Oakley, Adidas, MasterCard, Pepsi, and Xbox logos posted all over the arenas. For some reason I always drink Pepsi instead of Coke when I play this game, strange? Overall the season mode is an ace which all the other modes follow suit. Top Spin pulls off and captivates in the over serious world of professional tennis.

In Top Spin you can play the top athletes in both the male and female ranks around the world. You might recognize such names as Pete Sampras the ‘King of Swing’, Michael Chang, James Blake and of course, the beautiful Anna Kournikova. In total you have 32 characters to choose from. If the athlete you desire isn’t in the game you can create your own player, which you are required to do in season mode. The character modeler is great, one of the best I’ve seen. The system lets you have total control over ever aspect of the character right down to the size of your characters nostrils. Although the game has a wide selection of characters, I am perplexed of why you can’t play a female against a male. I’m sure a few good matches between the sexes wouldn’t have hurt anyone.

The controls in the game are fairly straight forward and this is a game where the more you want to learn the better you will be, but if you just want to hit buttons you will still enjoy the game. The A,B,X,Y buttons control different hit styles, and the triggers control the dangerous and effective risk shots. The implemented a meter in the game called the ITZ meter which fills up when your character does better in the game. When the ITZ meter is full then these risk shots can be performed with better accuracy.

Graphics & Sound
First off as many other Microsoft Sports games this year, the arenas look spectacular. There is a great variety in the courts and arenas in a worldwide setting. Although they didn’t have the licensing for the authentic venues you wouldn’t miss them. The crowds interact and look great. You’ll also notice some great simple-but-effective effects such as dust coming up from the sneakers on a clay court, and the speed of the ball when you connect perfectly with the racket. Too add to the great graphics are the character models in the game are top notch and are animated excellently. Top Spin looks and feels extremely lifelike and smooth.

One area where this game was lacking was the omission of play by play commentary, which makes for some quiet games. The background music is sufficient and has some top forty hits, but during the games you have only the lonely sounds of the tennis ball, and the glapping and ‘oh-ing’ of the crowds. It's interesting considering other games are filled with more noise, but overall the could have had an option to turn audio options on and off.

Microsoft Game Studios has been hard at work promoting their Xbox Sports Network (XSN) and giving gamers a great online gameplay experience. Now with Top Spin they have broadened their horizons to Tennis. Just like Inside Pitch, Top Spin makes it the marks as the first online tennis game for a console. This is an innovation, and kudos to Microsoft and Power and Magic Development for making it happen. Of course like other XSN games you will be able to compete one on one, join in tournaments, play doubles and watch your rank worldwide rank climb upwards.

Another innovation would be the amazing ball dynamics, yes there is such a thing. The game is based around how the ball flows and reacts when hit by different speeds at different positions. If you take the time to really learn the controls of Top Spin you will notice you can control and anticipate any shot with the spot on job they have done recreating the dynamics of a simple tennis ball.

Believe the hype! Anna Kournikova. She is one reason to raise the mojo in Top Spin, but she can’t make or break this title by any means. This games create a player mode is off the hook, the graphics and season mode are also way off the hook. This game has a good amount of mojo coolness despite being based around the often drab sport of tennis.

Top Spin is a great game which is accessible for any gamer. The XSN delivers again with another great sports title to add to the list. Although the game could use some minor tweaks, it’s predominately the best tennis game on the market. If you enjoy tennis, you probably already have Top Spin. There is no reason why you should overlook this title.

  • Intense action and realism. Top Spin delivers all the intensity of professional tennis from cross-court winners to crushing ground strokes to rocket serves. Gamers can master all the shots including slices, lobs, drops, spins and several trick shots, while perfecting their play on various surfaces including clay, hard court, and grass.
  • Get in the zone. Top Spin challenges gamers to take risks and pull off difficult shots to get into a zone and use that momentum to improve their play. Gamers can develop a player’s unique image on the court by pumping their fist after a great shot, slamming a racket to the ground, or arguing a bad call.
  • Play online to become the world’s best. Gamers may be #1 in their own living room, but Xbox Live gives them a chance to prove it anytime and anywhere on a global scale. Gamers can climb worldwide ladders, play tournaments, take on all challengers in singles matches or find a skilled partner for doubles play.
  • Build a career. Create a player’s personalized look, style and personality and use a coach to improve a weakness or perfect an aspect of their tennis game. Gamers can work their way up from the local playground, through the amateur ranks, to playing real pros in the world’s top tournaments, while earning endorsements along the way.

Top Spin
Power & Magic
Oct. 2003