A SET OF UNFORCED ERRORS. $99.95 | PS4, XO | www.bigant.com
COINCIDING WITH THE commencement of the Australian Open, AO Tennis is a title with big goals. The sim claims to “set a new standard for what a tennis game can offer”, and while it boasts 10 years’ worth of shot data feeding into its AI system, and photo-realistic depictions of real-life players, the “most advanced tennis game ever produced” has a lot of improving to do.
Firstly, there’s no tutorial, and while some may appreciate this ‘learn as you go’ style, the option for at least a training session would go a long way. The easiest place to start is in Casual mode. Controlling your shot direction is done with the same stick as player movement, meaning placement is a bit tricky. Your player will also show a great deal of lag and moments of downright laziness — allowing easy balls to cruise past without so much as lifting their racquets. Additionally, while you can charge your returns for greater power, this is a bit hit-and-miss, resulting in some wildly-hit balls that go miles beyond the baseline.
Once we figured out that the drop shot was an instant winner, we started to win games, and started to have a bit of fun. We were puzzled to find no ‘smash’ or ‘sprint’ option in the button mapping, though, which haunted us time and time again as our opponent lobbed balls over our heads. This, coupled with the lack of any on-screen indication of a lob shot having been played, means the lobbed ball is your opponent’s equivalent of the insta-win drop shot.
Another issue we encountered was the lack of atmosphere from the crowd. As points stretch out into epic rallys, a natural crowd would begin to get excited and cheer, but it’s very lacklustre here. Likewise, players celebrate as enthusiastically about an unforced error from their opponent as they do about winning the Open! Compared with something like last-generation’s Top Spin 4, AO Tennis is rather soulless. We did appreciate the fact that players will make more noises of exertion as the game draws on, and how realistic those limited licensed faces look, though. The devs have promised to support the game into the future, and there are already patches to download, but at the moment, it struggles to deliver on its bold claims.