Let’s forget the warm-up and jump straight to the first serve, shall we? Tennis World Tour 2 demands a level of precision from its players that it simply isn’t capable of facilitating. This is a sombre and serious tennis sim that bases its take on the sport around the perfect timing of shots and their precision placement on court. It’s a solid idea with a steep learning curve that should prove satisfying but is instead turned into a frustrating and unrewarding experience by a serious lack of fluidity in the game’s moment-to-moment action, player animations that fail to cover even basic eventualities, dodgy AI and a framerate in handheld mode that isn’t up to snuff.
It’s been a while since we’ve had a truly great entry in the tennis genre and this generation in particular has had to make do with a handful of pretty mediocre experiences, particularly in terms of titles that aim to recreate the sport in a realistic way. The first entry in the Tennis World Tour franchise, released back in 2018, was a rather woeful affair that was easily bested by its nearest competitor, the AO Tennis series, and although what’s here is an improvement, it still suffers from infuriating core gameplay that drains the fun and excitement out of matches no matter how much practice you’re willing to put in.
Before we press on with the various negative aspects of this one, lets talk about what Tennis World Tour 2 does right, for those who are willing to put up with its myriad failings. There are a decent number of modes to jump into, the most comprehensive of which is a career that sees you create your own tennis ace (although be warned the character creator here is basic — we couldn’t even give our poor lad a bit of facial hair) and jumping into a jam-packed calendar where you’ll play exhibition matches for XP, take part in training exercises, hire and fire coaches and agents and make enough money to enter tournaments and purchase new rackets, clothes and gear to pimp out your future world champion.
You can also take part in exhibition matches in either singles or doubles flavour as one of the thirty-eight professional players included in the game’s rather impressive roster, aim for victory at Roland Garros, create your own tournament, or jump into Tie Break Ten mode. Rounding out what’s on offer is a tennis school where you can get down to practicing and an online element with a FIFA-esque divisions component and the ability to play quick or custom matches. It’s all perfectly serviceable stuff, nothing we haven’t seen before in just about any sport’s game we could mention, but there’s plenty to keep avid tennis fans busy here, or at least there would be if the gameplay and performance didn’t constantly let the whole endeavour down.
The main issue we have with Tennis World 2 — beyond the framerate fumbles in handheld mode, beyond motion controls we can’t even imagine trying to play with, and beyond an online component that’s DOA as far as trying to find an opponent is concerned — is the lack of fluidity or finesse when it comes down to its core gameplay. This is a game that drills you in the importance of timing strikes precisely, takes the time to instruct you on the various types of shot you can play and when is best to play them and then cuts you loose in a sea of jank that makes doing any of this in a constant or reliable fashion nigh-on impossible.
There’s a serious lack of basic player animations here, meaning that stuff like diving — or even just leaning over — to reach a shot that’s just out of reach is an impossibility and players feel sluggish and rooted to the spot as a result. Tame shots fired at you by your opponent will whizz frustratingly by as your avatar remains fixed in position and this is compounded by the AI assuming control of your player randomly during games, moving them around the baseline, swinging for shots, and jolting forward towards serves when you haven’t pressed a single button. You’ll choose to lob but the game will slice the ball, you’ll aim for your opponent’s baseline with a perfectly timed banger that inexplicably ends up in the net or line up a meaty, powerful service return that defies the laws of physics as it floats slowly across the court in entirely the wrong direction, ignoring the fact that you just absolutely walloped it.
There is absolutely zero net play here either. The stiffness of player movement combined with that lack of basic animations means that getting in and around the net and taking the game to your opponent just does not happen. Moving in for the kill here will result in the ball flying past your player 100% of the time. Tennis World Tour 2 just isn’t capable of the level of fluidity required to incorporate this fundamental part of the sport it seeks to recreate.
Opponent AI, even on harder difficulty levels, constantly double faults on its serves, hits seemingly easy return shots completely wide of the mark and makes decent rallies a very uncommon occurrence. It rarely feels, even when you’ve got a good handle on the timing required to hit a perfect shot, as though you’re in any sort of control. There’s zero sense of skill or satisfaction here as unpolished mechanics and a dearth of animations constantly derail the action. This is a game that wants you to get into a particular rhythm and, once you feel like you’re just about there, it changes the music and starts writhing around like your drunk uncle at a wedding.
There’s a serving system at play here that — just like that shot timing mechanic — should work well. You need to time your initial ball toss in order to affect placement then time your strike in order to determine the power of your hit. However, no matter how hard you try, no matter how much time you invest in practicing, it feels flaky, never really responding with accuracy to even a perfect lining up of its various parameters. Aces here are pot-luck, as is most every decent shot or point you manage to score during matches that, for the most part, consist of hoping for the best and winning more often due to AI error than skill.
On top of this lacklustre, unpolished core gameplay, Big Ant Studios has decided to add a card mechanic that feels entirely at odds with the attempted simulation style of the action. Players can use accumulated coin, earned here entirely through matches, to grab packs of cards which can then be made into decks of five and taken into games to give you a series of boons you can activate whenever you choose to. There are various rarities of card, some have single uses, some have several, and they affect things like rate of fatigue, shot power, serve return success and so on. As odd an addition as it is, it would be a welcome one if it ever felt as though these cards were making any difference. However, in practice, it’s just another element of Tennis World Tour 2 that feels like it doesn’t work very well.
It’s all so infuriating because what’s here feels like it could have been a decent game. The shot-timing and serving mechanics are good ideas, there are enough modes, a decent roster and it all looks and sounds fine enough. However, when you can’t trust any element of this to work properly, when the AI is incompetent, your avatar has a mind of its own, there aren’t enough basic animations to fuel a fluid and enjoyable match, net play doesn’t exist and, in this Switch port, the framerate can make things difficult from time to time, the whole thing becomes a slog; a game that expects so much from its players but can’t reciprocate with anything approaching the level of competence required to reward their efforts.
If you’re absolutely mad for a simulation style tennis game and have exhausted every other available avenue on Switch, you may be able to put up with the myriad failings here and eek out some sort of mild challenge or limited fun. Otherwise, we’d suggest you either stick to AO Tennis 2 — Big Ant Games’ marginally better Tennis offering — or keep your fingers crossed for something altogether more superior down the line.
Tennis World Tour 2 is a simulation style affair that demands much from its players but doesn’t reciprocate with a game that’s capable of matching their efforts. Flaky AI and a lack of basic player animations leads to core gameplay here that feels rough and unsatisfying for the most part. Matches often descend into a procession of double faults, there’s absolutely zero net play, and no matter how much practice you put in, things always feel like they’re out of your control. There is a decent selection of modes here and the fundamental ideas behind the gameplay could have made for a good time, but a lack of finesse in how these things have been implemented mean this one is best avoided by all but the most foolhardy of tennis fans.