Sega offers a new perspective on the Virtua Tennis series for its next outing, a new title that touts two key PlayStation 3-specific features, stereoscopic 3D visuals and PlayStation Move motion controls. So, how's that work?
A lot like Wii Tennis, actually. Going hands-on with Virtua Tennis 4 for the PS3 at Gamescom today, I was surprised to see the game stripped down to Wii Tennis-like bones. Gameplay was purely Move-driven in the Gamescom demo. Matches started by flicking up the Move controller and swinging realistically at the tennis ball. There was no controlled movement around the court, an important consideration in Virtua Tennis games. There was simply swinging.
Serves and volleys were controlled by the angle and direction of the player's swing and, after a few losing rounds to a virtual Roger Federer, I started to grasp the intricacies of angling that swing. After losing handily to digital Federer, I came back in the second set, outlasting my opponent in fast volleys.
One aspect of Virtua Tennis 4 that took some getting used to was the switch from a third-person serve to a first-person swing, a disembodied translucent hand and racket representing the angle and rotation of the Move controller onscreen. It was slightly disorienting, as the camera panned toward that hand when the ball approached.
On the plus side, Virtua Tennis 4's controls felt accurate, the virtual racket mostly doing what my muscles were asking of it.
The game's 3D aspects didn't interfere with the gameplay, but they didn't add a whole lot either. It was a feature that I largely tuned out after powering on the 3D glasses, perhaps a good thing.
Clearly, Sega's latest arcade-style tennis game is still early and has plenty of room to improve. Virtua Tennis 4 will be ready to serve on the PlayStation 3 sometime in 2011.