After a somewhat strange calendar, AO International Tennis comes to the stores as the first bet for a tennis simulator in many years. The title went on sale in January in Oceania as the official game of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season. The quality of the game, the truth, left a lot to be desired, but since Big Ant Studios was assured that the game would have free updates that would improve the game. Thus, until reaching an important milestone: the international launch of the game.
Although the basis, obviously, is that of the game published in January , the studio has wanted to distance itself as much as possible from this release, including, even, a slight change in the name. From the AO Tennis originally published we now receive AO International Tennis, the final version of the final version of the official game of the Australian Open.
Big Ant Studios have had a lot of work ahead of them to polish the game and the biggest changes we can see in the most important part: the gameplay.
AO International Tennis bets for a tennis that gets as close as possible to a real match . Thus, the studio has sought a gameplay closer to that of a simulator than an arcade to use. As is usual in titles of this sport (or used to be, when they went on sale), we have a button for each type of hit: flat, cut, top spin and balloon , and also some modifiers to make more hits powerful or the always spectacular left. The control scheme offers few surprises and is quite intuitive, mainly due to the null innovation that, on the other hand, is not necessary.
We will have to learn to combine the different types of beats depending on the moment of play . If we want a winning point, it is advisable to use a flat shot with greater power, if we want to put the difficult things to the opponent a topspin so that the ball goes higher or, if we are in a hurry to cut the speed of the game and have an extra time to recover the position. There are few movements and the differences are not always known (probably many players play only with the flat shot), but they can make a difference in key points, although, at the time of the truth, there is a lack of greater differentiation between the different points. different types during matches.
Hitting the ball successfully will not be as simple as touching the corresponding button, since the timing of the hit will be important . The duration of the button press marks the force of the stroke and the moment of releasing the precision. Of course, we have some visual indicators that help us execute the hits successfully. Next to our player we will see a bar and a small circle in between. The strength of the player is shown in the bar , which decreases with the passage of points , but also the force of the blow, once we press the button. For its part, the middle circle will help us adjust the timing of the hit. It will vary between red - amber - green - amber - red. Obviously a hit in the green zone will be perfect, in the area loose orange and a hit in the red zone a bad hit that, of course, does not have to end always with the ball off the track.
As important as the timing in the hitting is the direction of the ball , which combines perfectly with the moment of releasing the button. We can rush to the edges of the track, but if the stroke is not green the risk of the ball going out is high, as well as winning the point if we release the button at the right time and the ball bounces right on the line. Similarly, if we aim towards the center of the court the ball will go inside even if the hit was in the red zone on many occasions. Little risk in exchange for leaving an easy ball to the opponent. Something similar happens with the serves , in which we must release the button at the highest point of the bar and with the circle in green for a perfect execution.
The system, simple a priori, is difficult to master and, especially in the first games, we see how unforced errors accumulate due to synchronization errors. In order to support the player by default , an indication of the ball's pot while we are aiming is shown on the rival track , although it is advisable to deactivate it to gain realism. We have missed the importance of the position of the player's characteristics when executing winning shots, since, if the synchronization is perfect, the ball will always be fully adjusted to the line. Another negative aspect in this aspect is that the player initiates the stroke movement before pressing the button . In fact, always start the movement, even if we do not press the button, which leaves a feeling of the most unreal, since the gameplay is limited to touch the stick in the desired direction and focus, from that moment, on adjusting the beating, so that, in the end, the gameplay is quite limited.
As an official game of the Australian Open , the game allows to dispute the tournament with real format, including the previous rounds. Of course, we also have the real clues of the tournament, with the Rod Laver Arena as the highlight. We can edit the duration of the matches and the rules of the game to adapt it to our liking (or the duration of the game session). Obviously, only one game mode in a single Grand Slam could fall short, so we also have a Race mode .
The career mode
The career mode is the one that, in the long run, should become the main mode of AO International Tennis. The format is quite simple, we start with a tennis player chosen at our whim (created or real) and we advance in the weekly schedule playing tournaments and some exhibition games to improve our ranking and our own tennis player. That said, it sounds like a pretty simplified summary ... but the reality is that there is not much more. Career mode is excessively simple and is reduced to a series of events and games through a calendar, controlling fatigue in a very simple way. Each week we choose a tournament in which to participate (or a rest week to recover strength), for which we must take into account the fatigue of the trip (depending on the current location), the points for the ranking and the economic reward . The matches of the tournament can be played or simulated by a button and, surprisingly, we will also get reward when simulating. This can result in us reaching a good ranking position and a large amount of money without playing any matches.
As an extra, sometimes a real player will challenge us to a game in which to get some rewards for the editor. With the money we can improve the player's attributes by buying skill points from the different abilities of the player. In addition, with the obtained experience we will go up in level. With each level we will obtain some points to, again, improve the player's attributes. Of course, only up to level 50, the maximum possible. Then you have to go through the box (game currency only) to improve the player. Excessively simple and unreal. It is missing some more depth and variety in what should be the main mode of the game, but it ends up becoming monotonous soon. Even reaching number 1 is not too complicated a task. The feeling that we have left is that of a way done with haste and little care. In fact, it is surprising that there is not a single trophy / achievement related to career mode , or even reach the much desired number 1 ranking.
Beyond the two "big" modes, we have the possibility of playing casual games , just for fun, in which, logically, we can adjust the rules and duration. Finally, we can also choose to create our own tournament by editing the desired format and even selecting the winner's trophy (the game has some designs) from "Competition" (yes, the translation is improvable, and it is not the only example). In this mode, in addition, we can play each and every one of the matches if we wish, since before each game we are given the option to simulate it (even the whole round) or to play it. Up to 128 players can participate in each tournament.
As an official game of the Australian Open we have already commented that, logically, the game includes a license for it, but what happens with other tournaments? Well, unfortunately , the licenses will not be the strength of this AO International Tennis , since there are no excessive tracks and they are not recognizable. Something similar happens with the tennis team, which has the appeal of Rafa Nadal ... but little more, at least in terms of top-level tennis players. Other names known licensed are David Goffin or Angelique Kerber, although they miss more names and, especially, better known. Our Rafa Nadal, yes, is exclusive of AO International Tennis , we assume that with the intention that it is the image of the game and have, at least, a face known by all for the advertising campaign. Of course, Big Ant announces continued support to AO International Tennis and they promise to publish more tournaments, tennis players and updates over the next months.
The Stadium Editor
The base of players and stadiums may not be a great attraction of the game, but it is something that can be solved with which, now, can be the main attraction of the title: the complete editor of players , logos and stadiums. In the Academy we find the editors of AO International Tennis. We can create players, logos and stadiums, something that opens up a whole world of possibilities. The player editor is the most complete we have ever seen, with great versatility and options to adjust the player's image completely to our liking. In addition, it includes the PlayFace system, through which we can upload a real photo for the texture of the face through a PC, to further enhance the realism in the creation. Also, of course, we can modify the dress and even the attributes of the player at will (eye, without limit, so we can create the perfect player if we want).
The logo editor , meanwhile, allows you to create 2D objects to decorate clothes or stadiums. It includes a series of elements that we can modify at will to create almost anything that is in our imagination. It is true that the process is somewhat slow and tedious, but with patience, spectacular results can be achieved.
Finally, the stadium editor is somewhat more limited than the others and, beyond the size, the possibilities of customization are not many and the results are usually somewhat generic, although they can be combined with the logos created to give the touch of extra personalization.
The greatest attraction of the editor, without a doubt, is the possibility of sharing the creations in the game community , which gives rise to an almost unlimited number of players and tracks. It's true, there are players who miss each other. How about creating it in the editor and sharing it with the community? Or, simply, look for it in the creations of other players. It is possible that someone has thought this before. In the same way it happens with stadiums. With a good community, the base of players and stadiums can be impressive and, despite the fact that AO International Tennis has just gone on sale in some territories, we have already seen some encouraging examples. Keep in mind that, although the game has no cross-platform game, the community's creations will be available on all platforms . Thus, we can create a player with the PC creation tool (free), upload it to the community, and use it in the console.
Of course, we will not only use the network to exchange creations, but we can also choose the online mode . Here, the options are quite simple, too , since we can only create a personalized game and expect a rival, join a quick game or consult the leaderboards. The games work correctly, without more. We have not noticed input lag at any time, although we have had some delays in communication that have prevented us from reaching any ball. In addition, the time between points increases and while loads we see some unnatural movements of the players. At least some type of online tournament would have suited AO International Tennis very well.
As for the technical section, it can not be said that AO International Tennis will enter through the eyes . Technically AO International Tennis leaves a lot to be desired in general. The models of the players are not overly detailed, including the most recognizable: Rafa Nadal, and the tracks lack details and atmosphere, even the ball boys and the chair-sitting judge are totally static. In addition, we would notice different errors in the animations, especially in the transition of the same and short movements of the player, which can even lead to losing some point.
For example, by taking small steps the player does not react naturally or remains blocked even when the ball passes a few centimeters. The lighting engine has many ups and downs . Normally it looks better on open and sunny tracks, but, with little light or lots of shadows, we see some strange effects, like shadows that disappear. Finally , we have missed a better physics of the ball in certain hits (mainly volleys and balloons), especially when seeing the null differences when varying the different types of surface. It does not usually affect the gameplay, but it takes away realism with some mismatched hits. The studio has promised that the game works to native 4K in Xbox One X, while in PlayStation 4 Pro it remains in 1080p (a pretty poor performance). All versions go to 60fps.
One can not say that AO International Tennis is the dream of tennis fans, but it manages to entertain, especially thanks to a very good gameplay, which combines skill and risk to execute the hits correctly and that gives rise to vibrant and even matches. On the other hand, the game modes seem insufficient to keep the game alive for a long time, and the online mode is quite wasted. This, together with a rather poor technical section and the continuous bugs, leaves us with a bittersweet feeling, of unused occasion. The game has improved a lot since its launch in January, but it still has a big road ahead to reach the elite of sports games, despite a great gameplay.