Here comes another attempt at a tennis game for the PC in the form of Strategy First’s U.S. Open Tennis 2002. Earlier this year, Microids’ released the Tennis Masters Series, which was plagued by incredibly slow-moving controlled players. Does Strategy First’s entry move up any higher in the bracket? Let’s find out.Unlike Microids’ title, U.S. Open 2002 features actual tennis players, which is an absolute must if you want to try to hook fans of the sport. Don’t expect the huge names such as Sampras, Agassi, or Hewitt but the featured players on the men’s side aren’t too shabby (Grosjean, Henman, Kuerton, and Martin). Unfortunately, there are really no big names on the women’s side so you’ll have to make due with a choice of lower tier women players. The rendering of the game characters is decent, especially in respect to the players’ faces. It’s not perfect but it does the trick in visually representing the respective tennis pro.There’s a nice selection of courts to play from – ranging from hard-court surfaces (U.S. Open and Australian Cup) to grass (British Classic) and clay (French Classic). You’ll see marks in the court’s surface from the players’ feet and the ball, which is a nice touch. The stadiums look good and are only marred by the frozen ball boys and line judges as well as the pancake people in the crowd, who for some reason stand during entire matches.One area the developers hit dead-on is the players’ repertoire of shots and the motion of the racquet swing based on the player’s position to the ball. The swings vary from short-hop slices to strong baseline shots. It’s actually pretty cool to watch. It does takes some time to get used to the way your player moves since it isn’t exactly the most fluid but after a few matches under your belt, it becomes second nature to move your player in position to produce a solid swing. One item that’s missing in the game is the explanation of the button a*ignment for the different types of swings. It doesn’t take long to figure out the buttons on your own for each swing (topspin, flat, slice and lob) but not having this immediately available is sloppy game interface design.There are other deficiencies in the game that are also irritating especially considering that the gameplay is so good. The lack of user-controlled instant replay is another big-time bummer. A major part of tennis is the instant replay due to the speed of the game and the limited area of play. Not to be able to use instant replay to see if a close shot was in is weak. There were times in practically every match where I could have sworn the ball hit to me was long. How could I really know? Without an instant replay feature, I couldn’t. I hope somebody doesn’t give this game to John McEnroe since his computer monitor will be in a world of hurt after he plays a few matches!Speaking of matches, there is also no in-game save so once you start a match, you have to play all the way through, otherwise you lose all of the finished sets. The Career Mode is just as bad in that you have to play through all the different types of games (Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles) in order to advance. This is a huge problem if you’re not into doubles and let me tell you – no one should be buying this game for its doubles matches. Why? Because your doubles partners play the game like like Jekyll and Hyde. There are times when they hit everything that comes their way, but then they go into Mr. Hyde mode and will just stop and watch the ball bounce right by them. Didn’t McEnroe also play doubles? There goes another monitor!Another area that’s fortunately not quite as deficient as the ones listed above, but could still use some improvement is the variable camera distance. There are only two camera adjustments and you’ll find yourself using the long view since you lose sight of a fair number of wide shots with the close view. The camera should really move laterally on wide shots but again, this is one of the small details that U.S. Open 2002 double-faults on.There is supposed to be online multiplayer capabilities but every time I gave it a shot, the game would freeze and I would have to re-boot my computer. Hopefully, a patch will be released to fix this since the quality of the tennis play would make this game worth playing online, as long I don’t have Mr. Hyde as my doubles partner.If you’re just looking for a tennis game with some solid gameplay for your PC and you don’t mind the deficiencies listed above, then I can recommend U.S. Open 2002. But if you’re like me and want a tennis game that meets the requirements of an all-around good computer game then you’ll have to wait for a different match.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.