Grand Slam Tennis 2 is the sequel to EA’s Grand Slam Tennis, which was released exclusively for the Nintendo Wii but never made it to the other platforms. GST 2 has ditched the cartoony look this time around and opted for a realistic aesthetic more suited to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Players can select from more than 20 characters, and can compete in all four Grand Slam tournaments.
With Top Spin 4 and Virtua Tennis 4 both released last year, what can tennis fans expect to see in GST 2 that the aforementioned titles can’t provide? For starters, GST 2 features one of the most impressive rosters ever assembled in a tennis game, with a mix of new and old-school tennis players that fans of the sport will truly appreciate. Although Top Spin 4 has Andre Agassi, GST 2 has more popular modern-day stars Djokovic, Federer, Nadal and Murray, as well as Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick. Players can also step back in time and take up legends like Boris Becker, Stefan Edberg, Pete Sampras, and John McEnroe (who also lends his voice to the commentary).
Something that is disappointing about most tennis games is the lack of modern female tennis players. The top four men’s players are all here but the same cannot be said from the women’s side of things – although you get the Williams sisters and scream queen Maria Sharapova, you won’t see the likes of Caroline Wozniacki, Petra Kvitova or Victoria Azarenka.
As I said, John McEnroe is doing commentary for GST 2 alongside Australia’s Pat Cash. Their commentary is great as it adds atmosphere and realism to the game, with both Cash and McEnroe even analysing what the player is doing and trying to suggest how they can improve on their game. It would have been nice if more commentary dialogue was recorded as I tended to hear the same phrases repeated, but this is a common problem in sports games and not a deal-breaker.
Graphically, GST 2 is hit and miss. Each of the Grand Slam events are animated with immaculate detail, including the courts and (of course) the sponsor logos. GST 2 is also the only tennis game that actually includes the outer venue courts as well, unlike in other tennis games where you’re on the centre court only. However, although the locations look great, I felt that the character models could have used some more work. Players such as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal look accurate, but the likes of Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova look a little off. Roddick looks eerily skinny and pale for some reason and Sharapova looks like an entirely different person.
Gameplay-wise, Grand Slam Tennis 2 is a mix of arcade and simulation style of gameplay. This is because gamers have two choices on how they want to play the game, opting to play traditionally using the face buttons, or using the right analogue stick. The analogue stick provides more precision to your shots and is arguably more deadly to use when you serve in the game. The ball isn’t as easy to hit as in Virtua Tennis 4 but it’s not as realistic as in Top Spin 4 either.
The animation is one other area where Grand Slam Tennis 2 falls short. If you’ve watched hours of tennis (like me), you’ll know the exact service and groundstroke motions each player uses. The animations for each player in this game are well off, not to mention that double-back-hand players will often use a one-handed backhand in this game. Slices are also ineffective in this game and will act more like a topspin groundstroke than anything else.
In terms of game modes, there’s quite a bit you can do besides just playing against your mates or the AI. There’s a very robust career mode, where you create a person from scratch in hopes they will become a Grand Slam champion. Unlike in other career modes, there are specific goals you can achieve during each match you play, ranging from serving three aces in a match to breaking your opponent’s serve a certain number of times. Overall, GST 2 lets you play a full ten years in career mode.
There’s also the ESPN Grand Slam Classics mode, where you can relive some of the greatest tennis matches that have ever been played. This mode is also objective-based as it tries to mimic the actual match as close as possible. It was a lot of fun replaying Maria Sharapova’s Wimbledon victory over Serena Williams when she was only 17 years old, although it's too bad Andre Agassi is not in this game as his rivalry with Pete Sampras was legendary back in the ‘90s.
GST 2 also includes a hefty online mode as well. You can play simple online matches or you can orchestrate your own online tournaments of Grand Slam events. There’s even a country leaderboard featured here so you can check which country is the best at playing GST 2. At the time of writing, French gamers were on top while New Zealand was only ranked 19.
Grand Slam Tennis 2 is an excellent addition to the tennis video game stable as it offers a lot more game modes than Virtua Tennis 4 and Top Spin 4, and (arguably) has a better roster. The only thing stopping this game from being the ultimate tennis simulation is that the gameplay and animations are a little off, and the commentary can get repetitive. If EA opts to release a Grand Slam Tennis 3 it will only have to improve on these areas to have a truly great tennis game on its hands.
Lasting Appeal: 8.5