Wimbledon is almost upon us, so what could bo more likely among this month's crop of software than a tennis game. Admittedly most software houses this year don't seem to be interested in sports sims unless the constituents include two teams of 11 men, a leather ball, several thousand trouble-dogged fans and a spot of politics. So I suppose it is a bit of a blessing.
Although the instructions for Tennis Cup are a little on the spartan side, there is quite a lot to do before you start strutting it on the court, so to speak. There are six modes of gladitorial racket combat to chose from: Exhibition matches, tournaments, doubles, Davis Cup... virtually every avenue of permutation is ruthlessly explored.
You must also design your player. This takes the form of adjusting up and down his statistics for forehand, backhand, smashes, lobs and service. Points can be subtracted from one statistic and added to another until you like the look of them. The programmers must have picked up a few tips from the Minister for Employment here. Among other things you can decide is their nationality, which determines which terribly rendered national anthem is played before the match.
I was very upset to find there was no Irish option. There wasn't an English option either but that's understandable since England doesn't have any tennis players. Different venues can be selected from clay courts, indoors, grass and hard courts. Personally I didn't notice any behavioural difference in the ball, but maybe I'm just not in tune with these things.
The graphics are, as you would expect from a French game, excellent. Animation is well done, as is the scrolling in the split views. The automatic service machine is a nice touch. The most impressive thing about the Tennis Cup though is the sound. Excellent ball effects, the temptation is to think that they may have been sampled at some exclusive world final or something.
Likewise the grunts that accompany some of the more adventurous plays could almost certainly come from Connors on one of his good days. Even the score is read out in traditionally officious speech-synthesis. Depending on your position on the court and the style of shot your opponent plays, you have a limited vocabulary of returns. Spins, lobs, smashes, volleys and the like are all catered for. The game will automatically assume you wish to play backhand if the ball is behind you - very clover of it because half the time I accidentally ran too far. It can be a little difficult to get into, but there is a training option and you can slow down the ball speed. Training forms an important part of the game in tournament mode. Training before the match can improve your statistics in the areas selected, as does experience throughout the match.
A whole series of vicious opponents will give lasting challenge, especially in the championship and Davis Cup scenarios. If you think you're so much better, you can always get a friend to play. That should makes things a bit harder, particularly if you play a doubles match with both of you on the same side. Players won't actually collide, but the confusion is as profound as in the real thing.
One of the only decent tennis sims around, so there's not much competition, especially as everyone and his uncle is concentrating on Linekar simulators at the mo. Full of nice touches, like the line judges heads following the play and the ball boys running out. The only thing missing is the rain.
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