Xbox 360 Review: Smash Court Tennis 3

Can the third Smash Court Tennis game take on the likes of Virtua Tennis and Top Spin?

The first in the revered tennis simulation series for the new console generation, Smash Court Tennis 3 for Xbox 360 tests the player’s skills against 16 of the world’s finest international tennis players. From established stars such as world number one Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and Martina Hingis, to rising talents including Italy’s Andreas Seppi and Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic, each player has their own strengths and weaknesses which come into play on the game’s painstakingly rendered courts.

Making the most of the power of Xbox 360, Smash Court Tennis 3 boasts enhanced graphics including improved player animations, realistic shadows, skin shaders and High Dynamic Range rendering which combine to deliver a greater level of realism and immersion for the player. A host of customising options allows players to choose rackets, shoes, hairstyles, skin tone and clothing to create their own unique star of the courts. New gameplay includes a system which lets all players, no matter what their skill level, benefit quickly from the powerful shots and finely honed skills of the star players.

Gameplay modes include Tutorial, Arcade, Pro-Tour, and Exhibition mode where up to four players can go head to head offline. The game also features an Online mode allowing players to play online via the Xbox Live online game service. In addition to Xbox Live voice chat and rankings, players can take on opponents in online tournaments and in a range of different matches. Online doubles matches let players team up side by side for a long distance match against another pair, bringing the action and interaction alive like never before.

I’m not a bad Tennis player…on videogames, that is. I have the full 1000 gamerpoints from Top Spin 2 and enjoyed its sequel immensely. Smash Court Tennis 3 is the latest to enter the arena, but it serves up a double fault almost straight away.

Having played the other tennis games on the 360, PS3 and Wii…I was expecting something similar and while that’s true, the game is almost impossible to play due to poor hit detection and slow tennis players. I played 2 full matches and didn’t win a SINGLE point, that’s how frustrating it can be. You can’t even put extra power in a swing, it just goes straight to the AI who shoves it back at you and you are too slow to react, even if you think you’ll make it.

The game claims to have a lot of licensed players and while it has the likes of Federer and Nadal, it lacks other stars like Murray and Roddick, instead they put in players like Andrew Blake. There are also only a handful of players, but they all seem to feel the same…and it’s still impossible for me to score a point. Even playing as Federer against Blake, how bad is that? Even Federer is dreadfully slow; he can’t react fast enough to hit the ball back even though you can. I began shouting at my TV something that I can’t repeat in this review without labelling it an 18+.

There’s no commentary during matches, no music or anything. The sound quality is incredibly poor and disappointing. Character animations are fair enough, but they lack the same quality like they have in the Top Spin series, ultimately that and Virtua Tennis remain the leaders of tennis titles and Smash Court Tennis 3 becomes the outcast that nobody wants to play with. It’s not that the game doesn’t have potential, it has a career mode, you can design your own character but the controls just let it down to the point where it could be classed as being unplayable. Ok maybe it is playable, but when you realise it’s near impossible to beat the AI…even on easy, you’ll throw the towel in as I have.

The Verdict

Smash Court Tennis 3 had a chance to take on the big boys of the tennis genre with licensed players, but the controls let it down too much to be enjoyable. The AI is relentless and your players are always outclassed, even by the worst ones. Stay clear of this one and play Top Spin 3 instead.