It seems like forever since I played a tennis title on console. The last time I really remember paying was back when Top Spin was out, I used spend hours make my thumbs sore using the duke Xbox controller to get my created player to number one, could AO International Tennis fill the void?
Fast forward many years and I find myself doing the same thing with AO international Tennis which is developed and published by Big Ant Studios.
My high hopes for this game were soon to be dented when I discovered that the only license they seem to have for the game was for the Australian Open (Hence the AO in the title) – You can play on clay and grass, but you won’t get to play for Wimbledon glory. However, the is a pretty expansive edit mode that can let you create more of the world’s professionals to expand the player roster. Rafa Nadal seems to be the one player they got on board as it’s movements and play style that all the other players seem to possess.
Visually though the game looks good, lightning is impressive as are the player models, the tennis courts look impressive and the audio design generates a good atmosphere, especially when you start to build a big rally against your opponent.
AO Tennis, lets you play tennis in whichever way you feel comfortable thanks to the excellent button mapping available. If, like me you are used to using the standard A,B,X,Y to play your way to victory the that’s fine, otherwise you can swing using the joysticks giving you the feeling of even more control of the player. I experimented with both styles, but I found myself favouring the buttons over the joysticks purely because of my lack of ability. If you play doubles matches there are controls that help you communicate with your AI partner on the road to victory. I was impressed with how well the controls worked.
Controlling your shots is a little awkward at first, there is a marker to show you where the ball is expected to land, the marker changes color based on the power of your shot, but if the marker turns red you have overdone it and may end up seeing the ball going out of play. Depending on your players ability, the markers timings change, better players such as Nadl will see the green marker much quicker than a player with less abilities. Over time you’ll learn not to focus on the marker but as you start to learn the game you’ll find yourself transfixed by it, which in turns makes the game feel a little unnatural.
Talking of unnatural, some of the player movements left me feeling a little puzzled. It almost feels as though the players are on rubber bands to a point. You won’t see any spectacular diving shots in this game and rather weirdly players seems to give up on shots rather easily, which can cause all sorts of frustrations.
If you create a player, during their career you’ll be able to improve your stats to help level the playing field. All this can be achieved during AO Tennis’ career mode, where you will play all around the world until you rank as high as you can. There is plenty of tennis to be played around the world across the variety of surfaces. Away from career mode there is a section for training, where you can brush up on your technique, while multiplayer lets you play quick or custom matches, finding a game however is much more difficult.
AO International Tennis certainly fill a tennis game shaped gap in my life, but it’s only temporary. The support for customisation is impressive, the ability to play the game using a using a mixture of buttons and sticks is a big plus for me and he presentation is excellent, but the gameplay is a bit of a let down ultimately.