(2K Sports for PS3)
By Mike Delano
You have to applaud game developers for taking a chance on a new concept, even if it doesn’t quite work out. That’s the kindest way to view Top Spin 3. Abandoning the accessible, arcade-style controls of the previous titles in the series, and those of its main competitor, Sega’s Virtua Tennis series, the game’s creators decided to switch to a harsh hold-and-release shot mechanic that requires careful timing and planning. With so many tennis titles spread over various consoles and console generations, a new entry into this crowded field has to have a hook to stand out – even moreso in 2008, since Top Spin and Virtua Tennis have both already made appearances on next-gen platforms. Top Spin 3‘s hook is this new gameplay technique, and quite simply, it’s a huge mistake. It slows down matches, reduces accuracy, and makes approaching the net for aggressive play an exercise in futility. It’s very possible to get used to the new control scheme through practice and completing the various training exercises, but no amount of proficiency shakes the feeling that it’s not much fun. That crippling design choice overshadows the game’s strengths, like a deep character customization system, eclectic soundtrack, and online multiplayer tournaments. Chalk this one up to good intentions.