Virtua Tennis is easily the go-to game for any tennis enthusiast and while I can't say that I'm one myself, or that I was waiting to try this version of it with burning anticipation, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by how un-gimicky it was. Finger swiping in a game has never felt so intuitive as it does in Virtua Tennis 4 for the PlayStation Vita.
Virtua Tennis didn't have that much of a presence at the Vita booths. At least not nearly as much as games like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and LittleBigPlanet. Regardless, until you actually play it, it's really easy to simply pass it off as just another handheld port of a sports game. The thing is, it's anything but that. The controls are surprisingly intuitive and you aren't forced to stick to one control setup either. You can mix and match according to your play-style.
Moving with the touch screen isn't that great. I had to touch and hold the position where I wanted my player to go. It's slow and it feels clumsy. However, let's not forget about the analog sticks. These little doodads make it easy to run around the court and it's far more responsive anyway.
Serving and swinging is a pretty simple affair. To start the serve, just tap the screen once and a strength gauge will appear. Tap the screen again to actually serve. As for swinging, all you have to do is swipe in the direction you want. It's tricky at first as you'll have to predict and swipe early, otherwise you'll just end up missing the ball. There are different types of swings as well. Swiping forward gives you your standard swing, swiping backwards will put a backspin on the ball and if you've performed enough backswings, building up a special gauge, you can swipe with two fingers to unleash a powerful smash.
Touch controls aside, you can still play the game with more traditional means. The face buttons are used for serving and swinging while the left analog stick is, as mentioned earlier, used for running around the court. In addition to the touch controls, Virtua Tennis 4 also makes use of the Vita's Sixaxis sensors for some interesting setups. How, you ask? Players can turn the Vita around in multiplayer so that a player is on either end of the D-pad or face buttons. It's a simple, yet clever way of bringing local multiplayer to the table without having a second device.
Even from what little was shown, Virtua Tennis 4 seems like a pretty solid title. The touch controls are surprisingly intuitive and the game itself is quite responsive. Fans of the series will already know what they're getting into, but the implementation of touch controls and Sixaxis ought to bring something fresh and new to the table. Look out for this when it comes out swinging alongside the Vita by the end of the year.