After entering the world of tennis back in 2009 with Grand Slam Tennis on the Nintendo Wii, EA are back with Grand Slam Tennis 2. This time though, they've decided to drop the Nintendo Wii and have decided to focus on the PS3 and Xbox 360 instead. The game is also set to support the PlayStation Move peripheral, but not Microsoft's Kinect.
In a smart move, EA decided to release the game in a year outside of the other two major tennis franchises in Top Spin and Virtua Tennis and they've recently released a demo on the PlayStation Store and Xbox Live Marketplace to showcase what they've been working on and why you should jump ship to their franchise.
The first big thing that EA are showing off is of course the licences. They've got the big "grand slam" name, but everything in the game is fully licenced - that includes the ever illusive Wimbledon.
The second big thing is their "Total Racquet Control", which allows you to use an innovative control system in order to take your shots. As with the majority of other EA franchises now, they've pushed the ability to use the right analog stick. Doing so gives you much more control over your shots, but it does get rather confusing when putting it into practice.
There are three different shot types as always: flat, top spin and slice. Depending on what you do with the right analog stick, it'll perform a different type of shot. So, if you just push forward, you'll get a flat shot, if you pull back and then forward, you'll get top spin, etc. It's not that great at recognising it though. After attempting to get it to work, it was easier to just go back to the generic button controls - although they are a bit annoying too. For some reason, the developers decided to put slice on two buttons, with top spin in the top button slot.
In short, the controls aren't that great. Although, the serving is quite well implemented. Here, you hold the power button down, then have to time your swing down correctly using a visual cue.
Normal gameplay was quite good, but differentiation between shots just isn't there. If you go to the practice court, it'll tell you the power of your shots. However, the difference between a fully charged shot and a quick shot isn't that different - it doesn't make much sense. You'll also notice that while you're charging, your character will automatically home in on the ball. This isn't uncommon in tennis games, but here, it's rather ridged. EA has also implemented timing, but again, it doesn't make a great deal of difference what your timing is - the power doesn't deviate a great deal.
From the demo, the AI wasn't all that great either. After almost every serve, they will always go across court. Then no matter what you do, they will do the opposite. If you go down the line, they will go across. If you go across, they will go down the line. It also highlights how much it doesn't represent the current tennis game, because almost every player tries to rush to the net. And once you're up at net, you've pretty much got the point won. Serve and volley is particularly effective, even against the highest difficulty. After three games, you don't expect a Djokovic/Nadal match to have had 22 net approaches, but that's the case in Grand Slam Tennis 2 - the AI just forces it to the net at every opportunity.
From the demo, it looks as though Grand Slam Tennis 2 does a lot of stuff right, but it doesn't do anything that hasn't already been done by Top Spin 4, a game which also did it better. It'll be interesting to see how reflective of the final product Grand Slam Tennis 2 is, but for now, approach it with a bit of caution.