Virtua Tennis 4 Hands-On Preview -- Taking the Court with Motion Controls and 3DBy Adam Rosenberg - Posted Mar 09, 2011
Sega recently brought an assortment of its upcoming games to New York City for a seasonal preview event, and among the offerings were demos for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Virtua Tennis 4. The publisher tailored each of the high-def console releases to take advantage of their unique features, and so the demos were focused on highlighting the motion control elements in both versions and the 3D display capabilities that are exclusive to the PS3 release.
The 3D effects work in both the standard controller input mode and Move motion control mode. The standard format offers a birds-eye view of the action from behind your player in typical Virtua Tennis fashion. The visuals lean away from photorealism, going for the series’ more colorful, almost cartoony appeal, but the visual effects overall are impressive, from courts that show signs of scuffing to the 3D playing space as a whole, which appears to extend deep into the recesses of your television.
Move motion controls instead drop you into a first-person perspective, with the actual Move controller serving as a stand-in for your racket. The game will actually measure your distance from the console and the direction you’re moving in, adjusting your tennis avatar’s position accordingly. It isn’t a perfect reproduction of your movements; those looking for more precision have the option of using the Move Navigation controller to get around.
The Move controls as a whole offer a decidedly more casual player-oriented twist on Virtua Tennis. Anyone who has played Wii Sports will immediately get a sense of déjà vu. You swing your “racket,” observe the ball’s path across the court and back, and swing again. The controls feel pretty imprecise, though it’s fair to say that it might be difficult for a non-tennis player to judge how accurate the Move controls really are. The Sega rep who was on hand at the preview event said that the way you twist your wrist/tilt your hand and how hard you swing determines the way the ball is hit, but each swing we took seemed to produce a variety of effects, and very often unintended ones.
On the Xbox 360 side, Virtua Tennis 4 of course features built-in Kinect support. It feels exceedingly strange to stand in front of your television and swat at the virtual ball with your open hand. Or, alternatively, closed fist—it does not matter. That said, the actual motion controls feel much more precise than the PS3 version’s do. Transitioning between lobs, volleys and the like feels perfectly natural, though the window of time you’re given to hit the ball might be a little overly generous. Not that we’re complaining. Like the PS3 version, the Kinect controls force a first-person perspective on the action. Also like the PS3 version, players can also always opt for a more traditional control scheme.
In short, the new motion controls certainly seem to complement the core gameplay in Virtua Tennis 4 well. Players who take their virtual tennis seriously will probably appreciate the novelty of being able to physically mimic the sport, but it’s no replacement for the more nuanced set of options offered by a standard gamepad and distant perspective on the action. Ultimately, the impression we walked away with is that, as is so often the case, the new control features on offer in Virtua Tennis 4 are going to be best served in party settings.