Sport games are generally made to appeal to a particular market. Rugby games are made for those who enjoy watching sweaty men grope each other whilst searching for a ball, for instance. But what market do tennis games appeal to? Who plays these things? Other than obsessive Agassi fans, of course, I just can't see who the target audience is supposed to be. It's not as if it's training you how to play tennis. And with games like Agassi Tennis Generation 2002 (ATG2002) on the market, I think even Agassi fans are going to give up and go watch the Grand Slam on the telly, thank you very much.
Why? It's not because ATG2002 is necessarily "bad" as much as being just plain mediocre. It doesn't even try to excel in anything other than the animation, and if the gameplay is bad, than even the smoothest of animation won't save it from the horrors of the bargain bin.
When you install the game, and load it up, you are confronted by the fact that the interface text and graphics are blurred and pixilated, even at 1280x1024, and that the options are restricted to just altering the controls and the volume.
From the word go, you can see that you're in for something really horrible. To be quite blunt, it feels cheap and nasty, like a McDonalds toy. (Turns to face Aqua Pacific, the developer) In 1992, we were used to this level of service, but that was almost 11 years ago. The year is now 2002 and we, the gamers, who buy your games, expect a better level of service than this (turns back to the audience).
When you see ATG2002 in motion, you have to seriously wonder if it was even play-tested before being released on the unsuspecting public. The tennis ball seems incapable of actually interacting with the players. It never touches anything other than the court; when players serve, the ball is a good 2 feet away from the racket and the players themselves. The collision detection is some of the worst I've ever seen. It seems to be a matter of chance and complete luck as to whether you hit the ball or not, despite how good your position and timing may be. To make matters worse, if you do actually succeed in hitting the ball, then you've got to get down on your knees and pray that it goes over the net. This could have something to do with the fact that the tennis ball appears to be roughly 20 inches wide.
Strangely, the AI seems to have no such troubles with hitting the ball and is capable of acrobatic maneuvers that leave you wondering if you're somehow being screwed. Not that the AI deserves the aerial talents that have been so unfairly deposited upon it, because the CPU behaves like Pete Sampras would if he'd been belted over the head with a lead pipe repeatedly and then run over by an 18-wheeler before being released onto the court.
Your opponents frequently take flying leaps directly away from the ball, then will get up and act as though they've just aced you three times in a row. This is the least extreme example of the total stupidity inherent in the AI programming. I could document some of the crazier AI antics, but I'm already depressed enough by this game as it is.
The gameplay, the gameplay... What to say about the gameplay? Hmm. It's basically nonexistent. You can choose from Quick Match, Arcade and Agassi Tournament modes, and all of them are virtually indistinguishable from each other.
In Quick Match, you can choose the court, while in Agassi Tournament and Arcade, you can't. Here the differences end. You get to pick an avatar from roughly 20 professional tennis players and, while the game tells you that they have different specialties and statistics, I have yet to see any noticeable differences between the players.
You can play against a friend if you want, but...how can I put this? Ah, I've got it. Do you like your friend? If so, than asking them to play ATG with you is akin to asking them if they want bamboo slivers inserted underneath their fingernails. The fewer people that play this game, the better.
Now, if you're an optimist then you are probably hoping that this game can redeem itself somewhat graphically. Sorry to burst your bubble, but that's not going to happen. Apart from some ray-traced shadows and the animations, the graphical quality of ATG2002 is quite average. The models have relatively small polycounts and the facial textures are quite stretched, resulting in some ugly-as-sin tennis players. If you want a good laugh, have a look at Agassi's "face". Ugly, ugly, UGLY!
Aurally, ATG2002 is nothing to write home about, but there is one aspect in the sound department that grates with me particularly. The commentators. If I was a kind man, I could call them slightly annoying. But I'm not a kind man, so I'm going to call them the most utterly painful pair of irritating nut-jobs on the face of the earth.
They consistently make you want to reach for a hammer and bash in the speakers until there is nothing left but a few fragments of formerly-magnetically-shielded-and-no-longer-impact-resistant plastic. I have never seen such convincing proof of Hell's existence as these two muppets desperately trying to pass themselves off as commentators.
If you like to look at copious amounts of animation frames, than this game is for you.
People who downloaded Agassi Tennis Generation have also downloaded:
Actua Tennis, Virtua Tennis, All Star Tennis 2000, Fila World Tour Tennis, Tennis Masters Series 2003, Actua Soccer 3, Hardball V Enhanced (a.k.a. Hardball 5 Enhanced), Aaron vs. Ruth
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