Tennis anyone? That’s a tough question for most PC gamers. Yes, most sports games are better suited for a console especially if you want to go head-to-head with your friends but that’s still no excuse for leaving PC gamers out in the cold when it comes to sports game goodness. Canadian-based publisher, Microids gives it a good shot in trying to bring respectability to the game of tennis on your PC, but unfortunately they come up short.Tennis Masters Series is officially licensed by the ATP so you would expect a wide coverage of tennis stadiums and players. Well, the official stadiums are here – from Indian Wells to Paris, but the use of fictional players seems rather odd. The absence of actual tennis pros is not as bad as a rainout at Flushing Meadows but the non-descript players really don’t help to hold one’s interest. After some time at the controls, you want to start playing as Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi. How about an old-timer from their prime playing days such as John McEnroe, Bjorn Borg or Jimmy Connors? I guess we’ll have to live with Pavel Jablonowsky, at least until Microids is able sign up some big names.Gameplay works in one important area but misses in many others. Microids has done an excellent job of integrating the nuances of tennis into this game. You are given four basic shots to choose from – topspin, flat shot, slice, and lob. How you hit the ball is dependent upon your player’s position to the ball and the angle of your swing. Like real tennis, there is a strong emphasis on your body’s position to the ball when you hit it, so anticipation plays a major part to your success in getting off a good shot. The same holds true in terms of the type of shot you choose. A great example is when you try to hit a topspin return to a hard serve and watch your opponent slam the ball right back by you. On the flipside, you can hit a flat return right past a serving opponent if you catch him overcompensating towards the service court.Not all the serves are aces though. Player responsiveness is slower than molasses, regardless of their quickness rating. Balls that you should be getting to fall just outside your reach. It’s as though the gameplay speed has been turned down a notch or two. There are other areas that need work too. One is the ability to alter the strength of your shot. You can vary the speed of a serve but there’s no way of adjusting the strength of a volley shot. You are at the mercy of your position to the ball and the shot that you elect to use. There are times when a nice power shot is needed but sorry – no can do, unless it’s an overhead smash. Speaking of overhead smashes, where’s the ball? The camera view doesn’t pan out far enough to follow the ball’s trajectory on a lob. When you go to the net and the opponent hits a lob, you actually lose sight of the ball at the top portion of the screen so it becomes difficult to judge where the ball is going to land. The problem is that you have to decide what action to take (overhead smash or rush to the backcourt) but this is difficult to do since you can’t judge how far back the ball has been hit. This gets to be frustrating especially if you like to go to the net a lot.Game modes are exhibition matches and tournament play. Exhibition matches are okay for getting used to the controls or to warm up a bit but it’s terrible to use as a quick action game since shots never go out and your opponent has the uncanny ability to hit power shots to locations you can never reach. It’s as though you’re facing a top seed opponent regardless of the match’s difficulty level. My recommendation is to forget about exhibition matches and just go with the tournament play. In tournament play, you go up against lower seed opponents early on and as you start winning, you advance in the brackets to face higher seeds. There is a real difference in the quality of your opponents and it emulates what tennis players typically experience in any given single-elimination tournament. As far as multiplayer is concerned, you can play via a LAN or on the same computer in both singles and doubles (co-op).The game’s graphics are acceptable with nice touches found throughout, such as visible footprints on clay court surfaces and stadium shadows that move as the sky light changes. On the flipside, some of the players’ faces look really bad. One guy’s face was all blotchy and looked like he had spent way too much time in the sun without using sunscreen. I also found some inconsistencies in player shadowing, as the shadows appeared as gray instead of black. The gray was rather distracting but fortunately, I was able to disable the shadow detail option. These aren’t major issues but show some inconsistencies with the graphics.I must admit that Microids’ Tennis Masters Series successfully captures the nuances of the game of tennis but unfortunately it misses in too many other areas that are fundamental to quality gameplay. It might be worth taking a chance if you really want to play tennis on your computer but only forgiving PC gamers should enter this match.

Paul Younger
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Founder of the world's first gaming cafe and Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.

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