The Sports Desk – Flirting With Unforced Errors In AO International Tennis
AO International Tennis from Big Ant Studios released in Australia earlier this year (as simply AO Tennis) to less-than-stellar reviews. The game seemed to be rushed out to capitalize on the Australian Open grand-slam tournament, with the developer promising modes and content after release. While I can't speak to all the changes that have been made for the upcoming international release on May 8, looking at the game's official forum, updates have been occurring, including the addition of a tutorial mode. I recently got some hands-on time with a pre-release copy of AO International Tennis, and found a positive aspect of the game amidst the changes.
Many gamers will like the title's customization options, which allow players to make and share the creations of tennis legends (like the Boris Becker I downloaded, in the video below), as well as make-your-own career-mode players and stadiums.
I, however, like the title's groundstrokes – specifically the stroke meter. Now, AO International Tennis at the moment is far from perfect. Players can warp into animations, the drop shot is overpowered, the net game is erratic, and higher difficulties and doubles play can be simply too hard to play. In the latter case, there are numerous shots that come back too fast or are at unplayable angles.
Despite these flaws, I liked getting into volleys due to the way the game makes you time your strokes to a color-coded shot meter. The face buttons (there's also a right analog swing option) naturally correspond to shot types like a flat or topspin shot, but getting a nice, bright green indicator telling you that you've timed your shot or serve right is what feels satisfying.
It's usually not difficult in the game to get your player in a good position and return the ball back to sustain a volley, but ending the point on a down-the-line rocket or a well-placed shot is harder to do. That's what makes getting the timing down fun. Your shot timing changes when you have to get off a quick ball or chase one down just to stay alive, and while it's not hard to place a ball near the line, it can be to put one just on it. Thus, flirting with unforced errors – odd as it may sound – is why I liked playing AO International Tennis, flaws and all. Because while an almost-green shot will stay safely inbounds, it's the perfectly green one that will hit the line and possibly be unreturnable by your opponent.
There's also variance due to your player's overall skills, which feels good as your created career player (you can also start with a licensed star with static abilities) gets better and better.
You can check out the game in the video I put together below, which shows off everything from customization and your career to various gameplay sequences – including some of the higher difficulty encountered in singles and doubles play.
I hope developer Big Ant continues to work on the title before and after release, because it's not without its merits.
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Konami may have just dropped the Champions League license, but the company is definitely not turning away from the series. A rumored leak from Sony's Hong Kong online PlayStation store seems to indicate that the franchise is, in fact, picking up more official licenses.
A post at Evo-Web has a picture of the store page (which has since been taken down) along with details such as an August 30 release date and a description that listed a "huge addition of licensed leagues" for the game. The series currently has league licenses such as the top two French leagues and the Dutch Eredivisie, as well as team licenses for individual clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool, and national teams. If the page information is correct, at a minimum players will get a chance to see more official leagues. Some screens with the leak show off current MyClub legend David Beckham and Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho, so these licenses should return for PES 2019.
Currently any unlicensed teams or leagues can be imported and/or edited on the PS4 and PC.
Rival EA has an exclusive partnership with the popular English Premier League that runs through next season, and I fully expect this to be renewed. However, Konami's practice of signing other leagues and splashy deals with individual clubs and teams will clearly continue. Getting Germany's Bundesliga (which doesn't appear to be exclusive to EA) or Italy's Serie A (which also isn't) would be a nice prize for PES.
The leaked product page also mentions Master League career-mode changes such as the inclusion of the pre-season International Champions Cup (which Konami signed last year) and an "in-depth transfer system." Elsewhere in the game, MyClub is reportedly getting an overhaul, players are getting 11 new skill traits and visible stamina, and more.
Check out the rumored details and more screens over at Evo-Web.
A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week
Free World Cup Update For FIFA 18 Announced