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I always knew Grand Slam Tennis looked the business. But it wasn't until I played some in my front room that I really had a clear idea of how it played. The short answer is that this takes Wii-Sports tennis, adds gloss and precision and turns out a confident, accessible and analogue tennis experience.
I was a little skeptical before playing the game proper. It seemed that the MotionPlus block was more about adding precision than the looping movements of a tennis racket. But playing the game and plugging in the MotionPlus makes a distinctive difference.
Without the MotionPlus block, the game is a nice looking confident update to Wii-sports. New and classic Grand Slam champions are included, as well as hopefuls such as Andy Murray. Each player, from Sampras to Everett to Hewitt to Federer to McEnroe are all easily recognisable. The same is true for the Grand Slam stadia, of which Wimbledon is the best looking.
With the MotionPlus block though there is an immediate extra connection between you and your on screen player. Waiting for serve and holding the Wii-mote ready for a backhand is mirrored by your player on screen. As is the height and pitch of the racket head. It's not a magical one-to-one, and looks like some tweaking will improve it over time, but it is enough to get you playing the game very differently.
The biggest difference is that you can now direct the ball with the racket head, not just your timing as in Wii-Sports. Follow through and you can push the return cross court. Drive down the line to keep the return straight. Even just hit a stabbed shot for a flat central return.
My four year old plumped for the Wii-mote alone and consistently beat me.
You can also apply a topspin by rolling over the ball and slice by cutting the swing under it. These are less reliable that the direction motions, but then they are also harder to pull off in real life.
The result is a game that genuinely feels like tennis and can be played with just the Wii-mote by all abilities and ages. Those wanting a bit more can use the D-pad to adjust their net and baseline positioning as well as press B to pull a drop shot or A for a lob.
If that's not enough you can also plug in the Nun-chuck to control your player's movement as well as shot selection. This final configuration is the one I settles on, although my four year old plumped for the Wii-mote alone and consistently beat me.
This is a hugely confident first outing for a new Tennis franchise, and also for the MotionPlus block.
As you get used to the play you can adjust the difficulty to suite - I found medium more than a challenge. You can also plug in and remove MotionPlus and Nun-chuck controller options on the fly with no menus involved. The game simply detects your configuration and tailors itself to suit.
It's no surprise that this comes from EA, who have been revolutionising the Golf experience with Tiger Woods on Wii. Like that game though it feels like (although very good this year) it may take a few years to perfect the delivery.
As it stands this is a hugely confident first outing for a new Tennis franchise, and also for the MotionPlus block. I can't wait to see what Wii-Sports Resort is like when it is out a little later. Thankfully I have plenty of tennis to play between now and then. Between watch Andy Murray win Wimbledon that is.
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