Top Spin 3 Preview

This week I had a chance to head down to Miami and take a look at the new edition of Top Spin tennis more than a month before its release, Top Spin 3.

The first thing folks are going to notice about Top Spin 3 is the new graphics and animation. While many felt the last version didn’t live up to the next gen standard, that case certainly will not be made for this version.

The stadiums, players and animations are all very well done and smooth – with several different swings and serve animations visible. According to Creative Director Francois Giutini, the development team really tried to give players the feeling of being on the court and actually playing.

One very cool feature they added is players getting visibly sweaty and hot as the match progresses. If you’re in the fifth set on a sweltering US Open court, your player won’t look like he just stepped out of the locker room.

While I didn’t get a chance to see this the players also get dirty on grass and clay courts as the match goes on according to the developers.

The players clothes also move naturally as do other things such as their hair (when he’s warming up you can see Federer’s hair bouncing as he whacks a forehand). A new heart rate indicator also shows how composed a player is which impacts game play. This feature really adds the ebb and flow to the matches momentum.


Tennis Pro's James Blake and Maria Sharpova take a swing
at Top Spin 3 on the Wii.

Game Play
Another of the Top Spin team’s goals was to put more control in the player’s hands.

One big change from Top Spin 2 is the ability to move while holding the swing button. Those who played last year will remember once you started to hold down one of the swing buttons, your player couldn’t move around any more.

This time around you can use the diagonal stick while holding a button, letting you get to a ball and be prepared to hit it at the same time. It’s a much better system this time around that helps the game flow more realistically.

Also gone from the game are any form of meters (this is in the 360 and PS3 version – the Wii still does have a meter for your serve). The strength, speed, direction and effectiveness of your shots and serves are based on timing, positioning and your diagonal stick.

This time around the game also has a number of real tournaments and stadiums. Many of us were trying the game for the first time on the court of the Sony Ericsson Open, taking place just a few miles away. The stadiums are all very impressive to see, with great crowds and stadium announcers.

Maria Sharpova once again playing Wii Top Spin 3,
this time against pro Svetlana Kutsenova.

Career Mode & Online
The career mode has also been completely revamped. This time around you create an amateur rated at 30 overall and try to make your way to the top of the professional ranks.

Players are almost infinitely customizable, and as in years past you can use your hard earned cash to buy different outfits, equipment and accessories. There are also a number of different animations available for you to customize your player with. These are not only for your serve, but for your forehand and backhand as well.

You can also customize how often your player shows emotion on the court. Perhaps the greatest feature is being able to choose from a number of different grunts and yells, and to dictate how often and in what scenarios you can be heard.

Like year's past, as you get better you earn more points to put in one of eight skills (serve, forehand, backhand, power, etc.). Unlike games such as Tiger Woods, players are capped in how many points they can assign. So you really need to take the time and figure out what strengths and weaknesses you want your character to have.

Want to be a banger, hanging on the baseline wearing out your opponent? Or do you want to be as agile as a cougar, rushing the net after serving the ball deep into the far corner? In each case where you put your points will be drastically different.

I could give more details, but I honestly couldn’t advance out of the first amateur stage of the game.

The development team also made it a point to expand the games online offerings. One feature which sound very interesting is regularly reset worldwide leaderboards. Unlike other games where getting the game early can give you an advantage, in Top Spin 3 all standings will be reset every two weeks, with a new “world champion” declared.

The game also has support for downloadable content, with the ability to have new players, accessories and other features offered. However, at this time no plans have been finalized for downloadable content.

James Blake plays Gael Monfils. Monfils had such a good time playing
the Wii version he was there well after many had left.


Top Spin 3 will also have a Wii version that makes full use of the console’s unique controls. Instead of mashing buttons, players use the stick to move around and swing the controller to serve or hit the ball.

While aimed for a more casual audience, and intended for players to be able to pick it up and play with a much smaller learning curve, the game looked very fun to play from what I could gather.

Case in point, tennis pro Gael Monfils was having so much fun playing the Wii version he stayed at an event 2K Sports held well after all of the other athletes, reports and many of the staff had left.

Look for more info from Operation Sports on Top Spin 3 as the release nears!

Top Spin 3 Videos