So with a new year comes the prosperity of new, awesome games that will lift our spirits from the post-Christmas blues. With the likes of Resident Evil 3 Remake, Marvel’s Avengers and Final Fantasy 7 Remake; we’re sure in for one hell of a year. But before all that, we have January. The worst month possibly for anything. But maybe AO Tennis 2 will change that.
Yep, January is the dump month where everything and anything that could do with forgetting quickly lands here. But maybe that will change. We had RE 2 Remake last January, didn’t we?
Swing and a hit!
Okay so AO Tennis 2 is the sequel to one of gaming’s most infamous tennis games. AO Tennis released in 2018 and was met with a highly polarising response. This was mainly due to there being a day one patch that needed to be downloaded before the game would perform “correctly”.
This is nothing new and we’ve seen this type of thing in sports games and other genres in gaming. Thankfully AO Tennis isn’t WWE 2K20 and showed little signs of bugs, animation glitches or poor performance. My time with AO Tennis was pretty smooth for the most part.
As a tennis game certain things have to be covered, ball physics beings rather important (yes I said ball physics, Hehehe), visuals, content and an engrossing campaign. But this doesn’t mean anything if you’re not a tennis fan or are just rubbish at it generally.
Credit to the developers for making sure that any amateurs or even a complete noob can learn the ropes, brush up on their skills and do their best in an intense game of whacking a small green ball across a court. It’s great to see developers take the time to flesh out their tutorials without it being overbearing.
RPG elements in a tennis game?
I will also give the developers praise for their attention to detail and the decent amount of content on offer from the campaign to the venue builder and everything in between. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the campaign mode as my initial thoughts being “this is a tennis game, what can it offer?”
But I embarked on a glorious career and was introduced to some neat dynamics which meant small things could change. While not fully fleshed out as it could be, I did see that being either a nice guy or a complete douche on the court meant I could lose sponsorship and have a bad rep in general. This ties in with the “Ying/Yang” system which again is not the most advanced mechanic and can come off a little cheesy. Yet it can offer a dynamic twist in your career making it more compelling.
Think of it as the moral system that was in Mass Effect. While not completely original it’s still neat, has some impact on the journey and overall, is a good addition.
Speaking of RPG stuff, the developers have gone all out with the character customization tool. They’ve nailed the level of detail needed for visually interesting characters. It was truly impressive to see that your characters can even have scars! There are adventure games that don’t have some of these features so credit to the developers for adding in plenty of features in this tool.
The same goes for the level of customization with the venue builder, allowing players to build their dream courts and events, playing out epic custom made tournaments. This is defiantly the main highlight and will keep the game alive for many years to come.
Important ball physics?
So while the gameplay is solid, physics being pretty decent and the amount of content is quite satisfying, there are some problems. AO Tennis 2’s presentation is lacking for the most part from its venues to the players on the court.
Some animations look fine but players move in an almost uncanny valley manner compared to the balls near organic physics. Why can’t sports games now days improve on the animations and make characters feel more human?
They look bloated, sweaty (even when they’re not moving) and the lack of detail for the environment just feels uninspiring. We have an unflattering game to say the least and a little silly at times with budget cut scenes, weird editing to make the experience a feel a little more jazzy and often very quiet.
AO Tennis could match the decent array of content and gameplay with decent enough visuals. I draw your attention to a game like Rockstar’s Table Tennis. Something that shouldn’t have worked as well as it did but ended up being a rather enjoyable game with great visuals and immense physics.
It was something to celebrate and even now, many AAA sports games just don’t match this. AO Tennis 2 does well to incorporate responsive gameplay but lacks the polish needed to make it’s truly amazing.
The best tennis game ever made?
But what we have is a lot of fun, even to a non-tennis fan like me. AO has that sweet and memorable tennis gameplay where the physics and level of skill make it immensely engaging. The level of content is great with customizable aspects, neat game modes with even mini-games to keep you invested long term.
Then, there’s the career mode which has some interesting dynamics, a moral system and even some neat management systems that make the experience feel more personal and structured. But the lack of polish, odd animations, clunky controls and the feeling the developers came up with some great ideas but didn’t flesh them out more leaves AO Tennis 2 feeling a little empty.
But overall, a satisfying experience that improves the formula compared to the first game and will leave any tennis fan happy. Fun, engaging but just needed some more fine-tuning to make it truly great.