By the time 2K Sports releases Top Spin 4 on March 15, 2011, it will have been almost three full years since the launch of its predecessor, 2008’s Top Spin 3. That game was well-received, but drew criticism for being somewhat impenetrable for novice players.
Top Spin 4 (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [previewed], Wii)
This ties into the implementation of 2K Sports' Signature Style in TS4. Each of the 25 athletes in the game's roster will play like their real-life counterparts. Guys like Andy Roddick and Pete Sampras will blow you away with a powerful serve and attack the net, whereas someone like Michael Chang will stay on the baseline and play defensively. If you want to up your game, it's in your best interest to study players' attributes to figure out their strengths and weaknesses so you can use that information to your advantage when you play. Just like a high-level Street Fighter player understands the roster well enough to adjust his tactics to suit both his character and his opponent, the best TS4 players will want to learn the skill sets of the game's tennis stars.
One of the complaints I had with TS3 was its lackluster presentation. The crowd never really got into it, and there was no commentary. Plus, while the game looked beautiful, its no-frills statistical overlays gave the impression of a less polished product. 2K Czech has really amped up the crowd interaction in TS4: expect the crowd's excitement to build during a long volley before exploding in loud cheers at the conclusion of a point. Sadly, there's still no commentary. That's disappointing, especially since commentary isn't difficult to implement in a tennis game -- there are only 25 athletes on the roster (as opposed to thousands of players in a football game), and in tennis, commentators only speak between points.
The commentary aspect of a television broadcast is missing, but 2K Czech has included pre-match cutscenes (for example, you'll see players walking out onto the court through a tunnel) to add some TV-style flair. So far, though, there don't seem to be a great deal of major improvements or additions to distinguish TS4 from TS3. I was expecting something more drastic from a game that will be launching nearly three years after its predecessor.
Don't get me wrong: it's looking great so far, since the tweaks that I noticed improve on what was already a very good game in TS3. I was told that 2K Sports will be showing off more in the near future -- including Move support for the PS3 version -- so I remain hopeful that TS4 will offer more than what I saw this week.