Virtua Tennis 2009

You see, I originally had Virtua Tennis 2009 as the lesser of our two MotionPlus tennis games. It doesn't help that I'm not a huge fan of Virtua Tennis 2009 on other console formats - it's a disappointing upgrade to the superb Virtua Tennis 3, and it seems to sit in an uncomfortable halfway position between Sega's arcade school of sports games and EA's pseudo-realistic franchises. Wii VT2009 looks like a low-resolution version of the Xbox 360 and PS3 game, and the loss of direct control of the player - unless you can handle swinging the remote while using the Wii nunchuk - compromises one of the central mechanics of the game; predicting where the ball will fall so you can get to it quickly and have time to charge up your next shot.

The more conventional viewpoint and televisual style of the presentation makes it harder to see and track the ball on smaller screens and, without the fantasy match-ups and old-school players of EA Grand Slam, the game can feel a little staid. Sure, you get a wider selection of modern players, but what advantage the game finds in realism there, it loses through not having the official names of several major tournaments - including the one that matters most on these shores: Wimbledon. Throw in the lack of commentary and action replays, and it seems EA's game has things sewn up.

There's also no getting past the fact that the MotionPlus enabled version of Virtua Tennis 2009 takes getting used to. Early on there's a good chance that you'll make regular double faults, while it seems impossible to place shots with any real accuracy. This hit me hardest in the main World Tour career mode, where you can choose to interleave major tournaments with special arcade mini-games that boost your skills in the key areas of Groundwork, Footwork and Technique and Serve and Volley. How are you meant to hit pirate ships moving left to right across a rolling sea if you can't get a bead on them? Why is hitting blocks of a particular colour so damn hard? True, you can also boost these stats through sessions with your celebrity coach, Tim Henman, but wouldn't you rather dodge balls while grabbing shopping than practice your groundstrokes against the ‘Tiger'? It's also very irritating that the game asks you to select MotionPlus controls manually before each match, then calibrates the equipment before each serve by asking you to point at your player for a few seconds.

Give it time, however, and it's Virtua Tennis 2009 that turns out to have the deeper, richer control system. It recognises slice and drop shots, and does a slightly better job of replicating your forehand and backhand swings on the screen. Even more than with Grand Slam, there's a real feeling that what happens on court is directly related to what you're doing with the remote. It's not perfect. Some simple shots will get past you because your player fumbles crazily at the ball coming slap bang straight at him, and there are still some cheap shots played that your player struggled to get to, but overall Virtua Tennis 2009 plays the more satisfying game.

More satisfying, that is, provided you a) practice and b) have some vague understanding of what makes a decent stroke in real life. This was what divided my own household, with those of us who could just about play tennis in the real world preferring Virtua Tennis, while those of us who - like me - struggle to return one ball, weighing in on the side of Grand Slam. Overall, I'd say that Grand Slam is the more approachable and casually enjoyable game, but Virtua Tennis has a deeper career mode and will give you more long-term rewards. Either game, however, makes a great advert for MotionPlus.


The MotionPlus controls take getting used to, and VT2009 doesn't have the licensed tournaments or immediate appeal of its EA rival. Give it time, however, and this is the Wii Tennis game that you'll come back to.

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