In the stage of the first Tennis World Tour, Matchpoint: Tennis Championships ignores timing and puts everything on power. But unlike Breakpoint’s title, Typing like a Bully doesn’t allow for angled typing or playing with lines. Indeed, to put the opponent in difficulty, it is necessary to target the zone of the court where one wishes to return the ball, an approach already tested in AO International Tennis and which had proved to be counter-intuitive. If this system always requires a certain number of exchanges before mastering it perfectly, it is however more permissive in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships since at no time do you have to worry about the timing. It’s only when you get overrun that the trajectory of the ball is less clean, but otherwise you’re in a chair. We have never left cross courts so easily. We just have to place the cursor just behind the net in an impossible corner, and it’s almost folded. Naturally, one would think that if one puts on a big praline, the ball will therefore come out of the court. Well, no, ladies and gentlemen. As long as the target remains within the limits of the field, the linesmen do not flinch, at least very rarely. The game even encourages you to send missiles in all directions, because when you receive the keystroke long enough, the reticle then turns yellow, a sign that a comet is about to be unchecked. In short, zero finesse. Anyway, it goes hand in hand with the absence of a stamina gauge.
The timing, the effects, the impact of the surface of the courts, fatigue: these are the bases around which a simulation worthy of the name must revolve. The problem is that Matchpoint: Tennis Championships does not take into account any of these four fundamentals, in addition to depriving itself of the double.
No need to rely on effects (flat, lift, slice) to implement any strategy: they have absolutely no impact. It’s even more obvious with the slice which, in theory, leaves time to reposition itself in the axis of the court, which is not the case in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships. Moreover, speaking of movements, we notice quite quickly that they are assisted, whether it is lateral races or climbs to the net. It probably starts with a good intention, but in the end, it interferes more than anything else, especially with such heavy inertia. The developers at Torus Games would have done better to include the ability to sprint, a feature sorely lacking as essential in a tennis simulation. As for the influence of the surface of the courts, whether you are on clay – where there is no way to slide – grass or a hard surface, the height of the rebound and the speed of the ball do not not move. It goes back to what we said about effects, namely that without a physics engine at the level, it is impossible to vary your game. As a result, we end up with monotonous, tasteless, soporific exchanges from the baseline , the winner being the one who hits the hardest. You can always try a climb to the net, but there is a nine out of ten chance that you will get pierced behind so much Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is bad in this area. Same for the cushioning that falls too far from the net to be effective, even barely effective on the button. Depressing.
NOT DONE, NOT TO DO
Over time, we realize that we are dealing more with an arcade game that tries to integrate some simulation elements without the slightest conviction. Honestly, when you look at the characteristics (forehand, backhand, serve, volley, power, conditioning), you don’t feel any difference from one player to another. We even tried mixed matches to see the result: Heather Watson, with her weak forehand and sparrow power, easily outrun Andrey Rublev; and all that, on “Professional” difficulty. It’s just surreal. Since we are talking about the cast of Matchpoint: Tennis Championships, it should be noted that we are entitled to 14 stars of the little yellow ball (9 men, 5 women) who are not known to the general public. Obviously, we do not present Benoît Paire whose escapades have toured social networks more than once. Maybe Kei Nishikori or Carlos Alcaraz – who is often seen as Rafael Nadal’s successor – will conjure up something in the layman, but that’s not certain. In truth, there are no big headliners likely to speak to anyone such as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Gaël Monfils, or Serena Williams. Even when you take a look at the two players contained in the “Legends” pack (5.99 €), namely Tommy Haas and Tim Henman, they are not the most famous. André Agassi in Top Spin 4, people knew right away who he was. Afterwards, when we know how complicated it is to obtain the rights of a player, we imagine that Torus Games had to give up on a few stars. Maybe other paid extensions allow the studio to straighten things out.
Billed as a straight-forward tennis simulation, Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is actually just an arcade game that doesn’t even match the illustrious Virtua Tennis.
Apart from the tutorial and the exercises to perfect your game, there is the “Career” mode which is appallingly poor. The objective is the same as in any other tennis game: to become the world No. 1. After creating your character using an editor with limited customization options – no matter how hard you look, there is no way to have your head shaved – you have to take part in different tournaments to earn points MPT, and thus improves our ranking. We don’t just chain competitions since training sessions are also set up by our coaches to boost our attributes. Of course, each coach is specialized in a well-defined area (baseline, counter-attacking, serve and volley among others), hence the interest of also participating in special events thanks to the possibility of unlocking additional coaches in addition to fill our wardrobe. If the game is unlicensed, purists will have no trouble recognizing the Grand Slam tournaments (French Grand Masters for Roland-Garros, London Grand for Wimbledon, Australian Grand Slam for the Australian Open, International Series of America for the US Open), especially since the dates stick more or less to those of the originals. Ditto for other competitions such as the Marseille Open (Open 13), the Elite of Monte-Carlo (Masters of Monte-Carlo, or the Elite of Rome (Masters of Rome). On the other hand, there are some absurdities such as having to go through the qualifications when one is one of the 30 best players in the world.
ONE MORE DISAPPOINTMENT
The “Career” mode of Matchpoint: Tennis Championships can be very long in the sense that the developers have chosen to impose the actual configuration of the tournaments. More concretely, it will be necessary to stuff at least three sets in Grand Slam, and two in the smaller competitions. Unless we missed a parameter in the options, we do not understand why it is not possible to reduce the duration of matches. Progress quickly becomes daunting, especially without any side effects. We are not talking about the scripting efforts that Torus Games could have made, but about the management of player fatigue, contracts with sponsors, resistance to treatment, press conferences, etc. It’s not the ideas that are lacking to get out of a scheme used to the rope. The only positive point of the “Career” mode – because there is one – is the fact of discovering strengths and weaknesses in the opponent according to the course of the match. For example, some will tend to tighten the game in a break point situation, others will be able to keep up the pace during long exchanges, still others will make more unforced errors if on the baton with aces. Unfortunately, it’s too badly done to give both a tactical and unpredictable dimension to the encounters. Matchpoint: Tennis Championships never departs from this austerity that we find in the dressing: it really does not make you want to drag on the menus.
As for the graphic rendering, we don’t know if we should laugh or cry about it. Clearly, it’s unworthy of the PS3 and Xbox 360. The facial animations are non-existent – it’s not far from disfigurement – and the rigidity of the animations gives the impression of attending retirement games.
It’s extremely bland, just like the courts which look like giant dormitories because the atmosphere is so flat. We would have had the same result with plots instead of the public. For his part, the commentator tirelessly repeats the same sentences, and the cries released by the players at each big strike are frightening. As for the graphic rendering, we don’t know if we should laugh or cry about it. Clearly, it’s unworthy of the PS3 and Xbox 360. The facial animations are non-existent – it’s not far from disfigurement – and the rigidity of the animations gives the impression of attending retirement games. And as if that weren’t enough, each close-up is a tearing nest, not to mention the summary modeling of the players, and the linesmen who all make a funeral face. Despite its countless shortcomings, Matchpoint: Tennis Championships has the merit of offering cross-play, which allows you to compete against users who have the game on another machine. Given that the network code is strawberries, you understand that we did not wish to prolong the torture beyond ten matches.