The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
''He not busy being born is busy dying.'' Bob Dylan said that. I'm sure Bob doesn't care about video game tennis, but this quote is neatly applicable to Virtua Tennis 2009. Playing the game, I couldn't help but thinking the biggest change in this game was changing the number in the title from ''3'' to ''2009.'' Is the gameplay solid? Absolutely, but it has been for years. A few new training minigames, some slight improvements to animations and the feel of control, and the addition of the Davis Cup is not going to be enough to make me recommend you upgrade from Virtua Tennis 3 – especially when the career mode is in such dire need of a total renovation.
You could go back as far as the Dreamcast and find essentially the same experience. It's the same rotating globe interface, the same calendar – more of the same in every way. This tedium is not helped by the laborious career progression. It literally takes dozens of matches to move up even 20 spots in the amateur rankings (you start as the 100th rated player). And believe me – these are not challenging. The only time I even lost a point in my early career when I was talking on the phone while playing and forgot that my opponent was serving.
I want the full tennis experience – the ATP tour, all the Grand Slam events, endorsement deals, everything. Sadly, with all the competing interests that run the sport, I'll probably never see it. The players are independent contractors, as are the major tournaments, as are the major sponsors and equipment manufacturers. Negotiating all the contracts necessary to make a real tennis experience might be mission impossible. Still, there's got to be a better way than this. The Top Spin series, despite its gameplay issues, at least made an effort. Virtua Tennis needs to try much harder if it's going to regain its title as the preeminent tennis franchise.
Email the author Matt Helgeson, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.
This series' repetitive nature is like watching a tennis ball go from side-to-side for eternity. The gameplay is good enough that you don't see a lot of funky animations, but the career mode's gulag of slow progress and repetitive minigames made me want to jump ship halfway to Dubai. It's a shame that despite playing well, the game is still almost no fun.