Top Spin 4 Review

By Nick Sangrey - Posted Apr 28, 2011

2K Sport's brings its fourth installment of Top Spin to major consoles with more licensed pros than ever and a long list of venues for you to play through while chasing the dream of becoming a tennis legend. Add deep character customization and comprehensive online play and you'll be well on your way to becoming the World's number one tennis player, well, virtual tennis player.

The Pros
  • Deep tennis roster/venues
  • Simplistic yet challenging gameplay
  • In-depth character customization system
The Cons
  • Gameplay can get repetitive
  • Some timing elements in gameplay can be frustrating
  • Limited game modes

Top Spin 4 Review:

Top Spin 4
, if nothing else, will ensure that you understand timing. As it is one of the most important things to understand in tennis, you’ll quickly find out that this isn’t a game you can just button mash through or expect any computer assistance in regards to hitting the ball; however, Top Spin 4 does ensure that you have all the tutorials and practice opportunities you’ll need to get on your way towards mastering the game.

There is a long list of players for you to choose from, such as pros Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams, but you will also get the chance to control legends like Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. But really, it is all about making your very own player and building them up to the iconic status of “Legend”.

What’s All the Racquet About?

Overused, “witty” pun? Check. But is that all there is to say about 2K’s latest tennis video game, Top Spin 4? Thankfully, no. Top Spin 4 brings you a great tennis simulation that is easy to pick up and play, but provides enough of a challenge so that you actually feel good when you look up and notice how many hours have passed since you turned the game on.

For those who have braved ever trying to play tennis, you will learn that like golf, it isn’t as easy as the pros make it look. Personally, after failing to serve a ball in play for a solid five minutes, I understand why people have the urge to smash a racquet against the ground and storm off the court. Fortunately, Top Spin 4 gives you the choice to make yourself that frustrated, or you can just press a button and let the game do it for you. In this sense, new players will find that they don’t have to have any previous experience with a tennis game to be able to learn and enjoy what Top Spin has to offer.

That being said, for those who are looking for a challenge, you can find it here. The game offers a good variety of difficulty settings and advanced tennis techniques that allow for a personalized control of how you want to go about smashing a little, green, fuzzy ball around.

The game doesn’t offer a huge variety of game modes, but what is there will keep you involved for a long time. Essentially, there are two different career modes, one that is offline, and one that is online. The online mode, known as World Tour Mode, allows you to compete against the hundreds of thousands of other gamers out there looking to hold that number one spot. The offline career lets you take your created character and work them from being a no-name chump to a large, life-livin’ champion ready to join VIP lists across the globe. Or you know, just a really good tennis player.

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Make Sure you Ace Your Academy Test

Don’t worry, the “puns” will continue to get worse. As soon as you make your way through the title screen, the game will offer you the chance to enter the tennis academy and learn everything there is to know in the game. What is nice is that it won’t take you hours to get through it, but it does cover a wide range of tennis techniques, which vary from the different shots, to the different playing styles like “Serve and Volley”, but perhaps the most important thing it will teach you is about timing. When you are playing, your character will position their racquet and even begin to swing, but until you push a button, nothing else will happen, so it becomes apparent that it is crucial to get your timing down, otherwise expect to see shots fly out of bounds or be smashed back at you, constantly.


The character creation mode in Top Spin 4 is fantastic as you can be quite comprehensive in how much detail you can put into making your player. The one downside is that the characters will all sort of look alike, even if in the slightest way. To help that, the game will literally let you drag points of your face around until you are satisfied. There is also a ton of officially licensed tennis swag you can wear to start, and even more you will unlock as you progress through the game. I thoroughly enjoyed knowing that I could play in Andy Roddick’s shoes if I really felt like it. I was also a fan of getting to choose when my player would grunt, and while I understand that the list is longer than “Always”, it just seemed right that it was the first option you could select.

As you play the game with your created character, you will most likely see a pattern in the style that you play. As mentioned, perhaps you are a “Serve and Volley” kind of player, but there are also the joys of being a Roddick Style powerhouse, or perhaps a more finesse player who looks for placement over power. As you continue to play, your character will gain XP in any game mode that you use them in. With this XP, you can level up in one of three categories, which really represent the three major tennis playing styles. Of course, you don’t have to focus on one style and try and balance your player, but you might find it a little bit frustrating that you can’t just choose the stats you want to increase like many other sports games.


Tennis Fans Will Love This Game

You may have to think about that one, even if you think “Really man?” Top Spin 4 is a tennis simulation, which means there isn’t much in terms of arcade elements. If you’re thinking about buying this game, make sure you actually like tennis. Tennis fans will appreciate the timing levels and the character animations that really relate to each player.

You will also travel the world playing in both major and minor tournaments. It is amazing to know that in one week, you can play a match at a training facility in Atlanta and then fly out to Barcelona for an Open. Another nice thing is that all the character animations are lifelike, which includes the crowd. 2K does a nice job and not having every person doing the same thing and actually mixing it up a bit in terms of reactions and crowd noise.

One small downside: there isn’t really too much else to do in the game apart from career mode and exhibition matches, which means that the gameplay can start to get repetitive pretty quickly. I definitely found myself using the exact same strategy to win a set, which really was just serving hard to one side and then hitting a power hit to the other side. This proved to be almost too easy, but as stated before, you can always make the game harder to really challenge yourself.


I also found that -- in case you didn’t notice it from before in this review -- timing in the game is crucial. It is a part of everything that you do, which of course means there is a learning curve that you’ll have to power through if you’re looking to master everything the game has to offer. I may just frustrate easily, but I did almost lose a controller in the process of figuring out the game’s “Advanced Serve” system.

That being said, this game is really enjoyable, simple enough for newcomers yet challenging enough to satisfy those hardcore tennis nuts out there. The fact alone that you are ranked in almost everything you do online should prove to motivate that extra hour of gameplay before bed. It’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way from Pong, but knocking a ball back and forth will never get old.