As with French fashion. Gallic software has always been just that little bit more smartly presented than our home-grown stuff. However, whilst their releases often border on the weird and lose out on playability, our French chums nevertheless Know how to breathe new life into a tired format. North And South was a perfect example of this, and now Infogrames have come up with the goods in this revamp of tennis.
Ordinarily, there isn't a lot you can do with the sport itself, but as Sensible Software showed in their 3D incarnation for Palace, simply mirroring the number of shots in the real sport can make for a very good simulation. Thus, by adding some neat animation touches to the odd-looking players, Infogrames have created two gangly competitors who make up in terms of flexibility what they lose in general aesthetics. The court is viewed in the customary third-person perspective from behind the nearest player, and as the ball is played from side-to-side, the screen scrolls to follow its movement. Despite sounding a rather cumbersome system, this adds an almost film-like quality to the proceedings, and, as the screen frantically follows the ball during long-lasting rallies, the scrolling remains perfectly smooth.
These rallies are where Advantage Tennis succeeds over its rivals. In the past, companies have shied away from the fast-paced aspect of the game and, although Palace's. UBI Soft's and Loriciels' games have been adequately playable, it isn't until you've experienced net play in the Infogrames game that you realise the true potential of binary tennis. Another major benefit the game boasts is an instinctive control system, with the player plotting their shots almost perfectly using incredibly simple joystick controls. These allow the player to respond to their opponent's high lobs or sneaky net shots quickly and with pin-point accuracy. In addition, the typically comprehensive Infogrames' option panel also allows you to add particular shots to your capabilities (smashes, through the legs, etc.) as well as tinkering with the many parameters within the game.
Apart from the obvious limitations of the sport itself, Advantage Tennis is a near-faultless rendition of the popular sport. By looking at previous tennis games. Infogrames have taken and added to the graphical style of Palace s game creating dubious-looking but thoroughly controllable players who bob, twist mid-jump, and even stomp on their racquets after a duff shot. Additionally, though, they have completely ignored the playing systems favoured by others in the sub-genre, and their method is far more user-friendly - not to mention accurate and responsive - than any I have encountered before. I have always been a fan of the Tennis genre, and up until now always considered UBI's Pro Tennis Tour and the Palace game as the best on offer. With their innovative Advantage Tennis, though. Infogrames have lobbed those out of the court and are seeded number one as far as I am concerned.
NEW BALLS, PLEASE
From its refined beginnings as a sport for the Gentry, Tennis has evolved into a fast-paced business, far removed from its delicate origins. Gone are the long flowing dresses favoured by the ladies, replaced by short skirts for minimum hindrance, and similarly the pleated trousers have given way to shorts and cycling shorts. Tennis is now given over almost entirely to speed and agility, with new racquets created for optimum shot strength and players given specific training for weaknesses and limitations. In addition, top-seeded players now won't cross the road for the meagre £100 Fred Perry slogged for, with prize money now regularly exceeding half-a-million pounds.
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