What a broken mess was AO International Tennis in 2018! It is important to mention this because the developer Big Ant made some incredible post-launch updates to make the game playable and fun, that doesn’t mean we can forgive the launch state but at least they tried to fix it. Now AO Tennis 2 is available for Xbox One and it is a much better game than the first one. Does this mean that we finally have a worthy tennis game like the good old days with Virtua Tennis and Top Spin? That’s a very convincing no, sadly enough. While decent AO Tennis 2 is nowhere near the quality of other sport games and some of the Xbox 360 tennis games.
What we liked!
- Impressive creator tools: AO Tennis 2 has an incredible deep creator mode that allows you to make your own logo, venue and even players that other players can download. Instantly solving licensing issues and giving an almost endless amount of useable characters.
- Career mode: While the cutscenes in this mode have less budget than an actual tennis racket I still surprisingly enjoyed the career mode. While the press talks and sponsorship feels a little hollow it still helped to flesh out the experience. Choosing what tournament to play, inviting a double partner, knowing when to take a rest day and improving your player made the career mode fun and engaging.
- Slick ideas: Big Ant made sure to add some nice touches, for example, the option to challenge a referee with a call or adding some personality with a morale-system. Pressing up or down will result in a positive or negative reaction, this even influences your sponsorships in the career mode. So if your opponent makes a double fault you can laugh with him or comfort him to do better.
- Licensed players: I am from Belgium so it was neat to see David Goffin but the low amount of licensed players is really disappointing for a simulation sport game. They halfly solve this problem by having the community character creator, so, for example, Federer or Andre Agassi can be downloaded. Now if someone would please make me a decent Kim Clijsters… you have my thanks! (I simply suck in making characters) Anyway, the roster of players you can download is pretty huge as all content from the first game is available. Imp
- Visually outdated: Presented players like Kerber look good at first but the total lack of facial expressions really kill any buzz and realism. The venue’s and crowds really miss detail and are extremely blurry, I literally wouldn’t be surprised that tennis games from the previous generation do a better job with that. It isn’t what you expect from a sports game in 2020.
- Clunky movement and unresponsive controls: Your player automatically moves towards a spot where it can hit the ball, so you can focus on the timing of your swing. Depending on the difficulty you will have to time your hit with a green, orange or red aiming bar. This reads a lot easier than it actually is, I honestly think that some of my tennis balls will be discovered by the next humans (or aliens) that visit the surface of the moon. This mechanic never felt reliable, especially with how the CPU opponents managed to return some impossible balls, it is frustrating to play against a teleporting Demigod. Not really realistic either! The main issue is that humans can’t multitask that well, you have to position your player, time your hit and aim where you want the ball to go. It just doesn’t work that well, and if you don’t know tennis, hitting the moon doesn’t win you matches!
What we disliked
- Dreadful sound: Yikes, double yikes. No commentary while playing and a very basic sound loop that glitches regularly and some out of place music tracks in the menu is what AO Tennis 2 has to offer with sound and music.
AO Tennis 2 is as disappointing as Kim Clijsters delayed comeback due to a knee injury. It just fails on too many things to really recommend, even with the big drought in tennis games. It is not responsive enough to really shine and it has too many broken tennis strings to be fun. Maybe Big Ant will make some improvements again, like last time.
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