Virtua Tennis 2009 REVIEW

Virtua Tennis 2009 Review (Xbox 360)

I played Virtua Tennis for the first time nine years ago, and I ended up falling in love with it. I would play it in various arcade rooms, spending all the change I had to serve or keep getting served. My addiction only grew when the first console version was released on the Dreamcast. Now, almost a decade later, does Virtua Tennis 2009 still deliver an ace, or is the game marred by unforced errors?

The answer lies somewhere in the middle, but Federer, Nadal or Roddick level this game is not.

On the Court

In the past, easy-to-play mechanics have been key for this franchise, but Virtua Tennis 2009 (VT 2009) suffers because of the game’s lack of depth and overall inaccuracies. For starters, the game is far too easy. Before you know it, you are hitting topspin cross-court shots past your opponents. In addition, the game still only gives you three main shot types to choose from: the slice, lob and the aforementioned topspin. While these controls are simple, they also lead to a shallow gameplay experience; there is no sense of accomplishment after a sweet drop shot.

The serving mechanics are also unchanged. You hit the slice or topspin button to fill up the meter, then hit the button again right at the top of the meter for max speed, which more times than not results in an ace. Thankfully most of the acrobatic diving shots that would unrealistically keep rallies alive in previous versions of the series are gone, but it’s still almost impossible to hit the net or stroke it out of bounds. These little things all add up to a gameplay experience that’s fun at first, but gets old faster than Andy Roddick’s serve.

My main gripe with VT 2009’s gameplay is the player movement. Way too many times the player you’re controlling runs around in circles when attempting to return a shot. When caught in a bad position and left scrambling in real world, only a few tennis players have the proper amount of composure and hustle to successfully return a shot. But in this game, such returns happen frequently during a match.

World Tour

The variety of things you can do in the World Tour mode is a bright spot for the franchise. However, the mode gets repetitive once you have done everything.

You start the World Tour mode by creating your own pro, and then you tweak things like the player's physical appearance, stance and stroke forms.

Then comes practice matches, tennis lessons at the hands of British great Tim Henman and amateur tournaments. Your player gets to work on different strokes, footwork and serving skills with Henman, and although it’s not as engaging as other practice modes, it does add to the variety. The goodness continues with the mini-games that help improve your player’s skills -- at the expense of stamina. These mini-games are by far the most entertaining aspect of the World Tour mode and perhaps the whole game. From feeding animals to destroying pirate ships, these unorthodox and silly training methods help improve your player’s stroke power, foot speed and shot accuracy.

Things begin to tale off into the repetitive realm when you start tournament play. At the beginning, the tournaments are extremely easy. But the real problem is that the tourneys get extremely tedious, because you have to play through a ton of them to rank up.

Luckily enough for World Tour players, you can take your created player online and square off against others around the globe in ranked matches.


Sadly, online play is plagued by heavy amounts of lag. Everything may seem all right on your side of the court, that is until you see your opponent return a ball that appeared to be past him down your baseline. In some cases, the ball is still in play even after appearing to have bounced twice. These nuisances create very frustrating and never-ending rallies. Even when you think you’ve won a point with a deadly smash, the ball hangs in the air for a split second, which allows your opponent to stay alive. Ranked matches for singles and doubles are pretty much all there is to do online; there is no option to start a user-created or round-robin tournament.

Artificial Intelligence

Besides the amateur tourneys in the World Tour mode, the artificial intelligence (AI) plays as realistically as you would expect in an arcade-style game. CPU-controlled players do a good job reacting instinctively and covering the open space, and they make reasonable adjustments to your style of play if you get too predictable. But there is one problem that persists with CPU players on the easier levels: They tend to stand and stretch to hit a return in their vicinity, rather than getting in better position before firing a return –- this makes for an unbalanced gaming experience that places emphasis on power rather than placement.

Graphics and Presentation

There are enough crisp-looking courts to impress a first-timer, but gamers that are familiar with this series will be disappointed by the lack of progress made in the presentation department. The menus and the soundtrack are as generic as they are unimpressive, and the player models make you question why a current-gen version was ever made in the first place. From afar the players resemble their real-life counterparts, but when the camera gets closer, the player models literally pale in comparison. Even in 1080p, the player textures are underwhelming, and hotshot Maria Sharapova looks more like a zombie than a camera model.

VT 2009 also still lacks commentators. So instead of listening to commentary, dreadful music plays throughout a match.

Final Thoughts

Virtua Tennis 2009 does have some good things going for it. The basic mechanics are solid, and the game's controls will not intimidate any gamer. But the repetitive gameplay, along with the lack of depth and visual improvements, make this look like a very outdated tennis title. The franchise needs an overhaul if it wants to regain the number one spot on the tennis rankings.

On the Court: Easy to understand, but not enough variety to keep gamers engaged for long. A lack of shot selection keeps the gameplay experience very limited.

Graphics: The courts look good, but the character models are ghastly.

Presentation: The menu music is generic, and the sounds in the game are made for the arcade room. There are also still no in-game announcers.

Entertainment Value: Within the World Tour mode, mini-games, training sessions and online ranked matches add variety to your created player’s rise to the top. But tedious tournaments make this mode feel stale fast.

Learning Curve: The controls are simple. The AI is a bit slow to react on the easier difficulties, but realistic placement and the AI's instinctual reactions are a rare bright spot for this title.

Online: The online portion of the game makes the World Tour more fun to play, but there are not enough online options overall. Either way, the lag ultimately diminishes any fun you may get out of the online mode.

Score: 6 (OK)

Virtua Tennis 2009 Score
Easy to pick up gameplay.
Good looking courts.
Very arcade type of experience.
Gameplay isn't deep enough.
Lack of commentators.
Game is too easy.
out of 10
Member Comments
# 1 TreyIM2 @ 07/03/09 12:03 PM
I actually WANTED to take this game back. The devs of this game have really done nothing much worth anything to improve this game. I bought the PS3 version and have owned each iteration of VT, even still owning VT2 for my Dreamcast, and I have to say that I was insanely disappointed with this game. The character models don't even look as good as VT3, imo. I swear that they cut back on the textures AND this game is NOT 1080p because VT3 made my jaw drop with how crisp it looked on my 1080p TV. This one, not so much.
I think if 2K does a better job with the visuals and get rid of the skating in their next Top Spin iteration, I will have to get on board. I've only played the TS3 demo and really started to get into the gameplay but couldn't stand how it looked and how the players glided across the courts. I think I am done with the VT series. And, yes, this game is waaay too easy, on top of it all.
# 2 statum71 @ 07/03/09 07:15 PM
No commentary? Again?

Thanks. You helped make up my mind. I think I'll wait for another Top Spin.

Maybe they'll get the TV thing right.
# 3 jyoung @ 07/03/09 07:41 PM
Yeah this game was a huge step back. VT3 is still the best game in the series by far.

Just goes to show that nothing can be taken for granted when handing an old series over to a new developer.

I still prefer Top Spin 3 as the best tennis game on the 360/PS3, but VT3 is a nice arcade game for those who just want something fun and accessible to play with their friends.
# 4 texbuk84 @ 07/04/09 02:02 AM
thanks for the input. won't purchase this one. looking for a good tennis game to get. could someone pm me with details on a good tennis game.
# 5 Tico Da Great @ 07/04/09 11:25 AM
I went and bought this game twice for my xbox the first time it was ok but grand slam was better then i took it back. I went back and bought it again and it really sucked more. Same lame game so I returned it for Punch Out in Wii and the gloves vt 2009 garbage tennis game of the year my main thing Lack of characters You gotta have serena she won wimbeldon wtf?
# 6 Avii @ 07/04/09 11:16 PM
Wonder what happened to Top Spin, and when we can have the next one?
# 7 jyoung @ 07/05/09 01:15 PM
I am wondering the same thing.

There has been little word from Pam/2K about Top Spin 4, so I doubt it would come this year, since we just passed the best time on the calendar to put out a tennis game.

If they could just get a better crowd and more TV-style presentation, it would be the tennis game to beat, hands-down.
# 8 BrownsFan72 @ 07/06/09 11:48 PM
I used to love this game...but this version is garbage.
# 9 Duece @ 07/15/09 05:21 PM
Thanks for letting me know that VT3 is the best in the series...I managed to pick up VT3 for $4 the other day...I'm having alot of fun with it, but soon I'll be looking for something that is alittle more realistic soon, so I'll be checking for Top Spin or EA's tennis output in the fall or early next year
# 10 Methlab @ 07/17/09 08:37 AM
Next Gen gaming sure has suffered for a long time. We have no great tennis game or football game and we just got Hockey back on track. These are video game staples...Tennis is my favorite sport and I would love to have a realistic and fun version to play.
# 11 Sausage @ 07/25/09 10:43 PM
Has anyone played this game, Smash Court Tennis 3?

# 12 jyoung @ 07/31/09 04:24 PM
Interesting that you mention Smash Court 3, as I notice it is only reviewed--and scored high--for the PSP.

Maybe a belated review is in order, now that the 360 version of the game can be had for $5-$10 just about anywhere you look.

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