Final Glimpse: Federer owns the ATP Tour? Virtua Tennis owns the Gaming Tour.
Sega's Virtua Tennis has owned the competition the same way Federer has his competitors. Virtua Tennis 3 is set to hit shelves for Xbox 360, PS3, and PSP (and for the PC in Europe). Oddly the three versions are being handled by different developers; Sumo Digital is at the helm for the Xbox 360 and PSP versions, while AM2 is heading the PS3 version. But regardless, the two console versions are essentially identical.
Virtua Tennis 3 is set to include a battery of top-ranked players from the WTA and ATP. The men's side includes such household names (in the tennis world) as Roger Federer, Lleyton Hewitt, Tommy Haas and Andy Roddick, as well as Federer's Achilles heel, Rafael Nadal, young American hopeful Taylor Dent, and James Blake, arguably the most well-rounded American player. The women's cast is just as replete with big name players: Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Hingis, Amelie Mauresmo, Maria Sharapova--the list goes on. The complete lineup is 20 players strong. And of course, the players bring with them their real-life tendencies and abilities, not to mention they convincingly resemble their real-life counterparts.
Fans of the series should feel right at home, since the game is built around much of the formula that made the prior titles in the series so successful. World Tour and Create-a-Player return, as well as two previous minigames. Not everything in VT3 is recycled, though, as 10 new inventive minigames are to be included. Now players can vie in a best of five-set match, the way any major ATP tournament is scored. Also, you can command your computer-controlled teammate in doubles, whether that's to play aggressive at the net or to cover the baseline. As a result players have more ability to strategize during a match and utilize their teammate's abilities.
World Tour is again the focal point, and you start this 20-year career by creating a player or editing an existing character. The main goal is to reach the top of the mountain by attaining the number one ranking in the world. To do so, you'll have to manage your health and build up your skills via real-life activities. You can build your player's individual statistics by training at the Tennis Academy, which features minigames and training drills. But it's not all about the drills. Overworking your player can lead to an injury (and temporary leave of absence from competitive play), so players will be tasked to find a fine balance between rest and work. Your rapport with other players will come into play as well. You receive messages, presents, and challenges from others on the tour, and you can establish friendships and rivalries as a result. A number one ranking will ink your name into the hall of fame and allow you to continue beyond your 20 year journey, giving you a chance to unlock more of the game's 500 hidden items, including new rackets, headbands, and additional tennis gear.
Beyond World Tour, there is the multiplayer-friendly Court Games, which lets players delve into the game's inventive new minigames. Each one focuses on a different aspect of play, but not without a unique twist. Avalanche tests your footwork by forcing you to dodge enormous tennis balls, while Feeding Time tasks you to flex your volleying skills by hitting alligators. However, not all the training is so outlandish. The Tennis Academy in World Tour features your more basic drills: Serve and Volley practice, Groundstroke practice, etc. You can manipulate the development of your player with how much you devote to a particular facet of your game. If want to be apt at serving and volleying, then you'll want to spend more time in Serve and Volley practice. Or you might want to work equally on all aspects of the game to ensure your player is well-rounded.
The game is very similar on both consoles in the way it looks and plays, although the PS3 version will implement the Sixaxis controls, a good explanation behind the game's two separate development teams. Instead of using the face buttons, players can instead tilt and move the controller to hit shot with distinct spin. PS3 owners aren't stricken to Sixaxis controls, however, so no need to worry if you prefer using the face buttons.
Both versions will have online compatibility at launch and feature ranked matches, friendly matches, a TV option (watch other online matches), and a leaderboard. If the developers reach their goal of a constant 60 frames-per-second, look for the same intuitive controls and fluid play found offline. Different goal-specific achievements will be available to 360 owners, although there are no set plans for what achievements are to be included in the PS3 version, if any.