Developer / Publisher – Fishing Cactus, Decathlon / Perp Games
Price – US $34.99 / CAN 44.99 / EU €34.99 / UK £27.99 (PSVR 2)
Release Date – October 20th, 2023
Input – 2 x Motion Controllers
Play Area – Standing
Store Links – PlayStation, Meta
Reviewed on – PSVR 2
While having an original release for Meta’s headset isn’t a red flag, it does have me approaching these types of games with some trepidation as, when it comes to the expectations of the PSVR 2, they often disappoint considering what the PS5 powered headset can give us. Unfortunately, it appears that very little has been done to improve or upgrade the game from that stand alone version.
Right away you are placed in the menu which offer avatar and player customization, single player games, multiplayer games, tournaments and practice session as well as a tutorial. Avatar options are limited to a few face types and other minor alterations but seeing as how you’ll only see your player pre-game during 1 of 2 cut-scenes, at the opening coin toss or during the tiresome replays, it’s not a big deal…and they don’t look that good regardless. If you don’t want to dive into a match 1st you can practice, which lets you try out various forms (volley, backhand and so on) against ball machines or AI foes though I found these sessions to be monotonous and figured it would be better just to practice in some single player sessions instead, which it was.
Any of the modes in here can be played with arcade or realistic physics with the latter making it much more challenging to direct the ball where you want and the former making things a bit easier, allowing for more natural play and less fouls. You can choose teleport, transitional or manual movement via thumbstick which works quite well when in combination with the guide system, which tells you where you should move on the court when the ball is coming your way. In realism mode, that helpful hint system is removed, making it much more challenging though this probably isn’t the games’ fault as I have played other Tennis games with a similar movement system and they were a challenge in those as well. I think translating the real word movements of Tennis to thumbsticks creates an odd mental break in how the game should be played. This leaves the 2 automatic movement options which are, in my opinion, the easiest and least frustrating way to enjoy the game as they place where you need to be to rally the ball…most of the time. On a few occasions, that automatic system let me down, moving my player nowhere near where the ball was landing, causing me some frustration as it’s not clear until it’s too late that the game had failed me.
Serving was fine, my backhand was solid but my forehand swing always curved too much to the left causing a lot of balls to go out of bounds. I think this is due to how the PSVR 2 controllers feel in-hand as they do not feel like tennis rackets, and to the offset of the racket being off and unfortunately, there is no option to adjust the racket offset forcing me to bend my wrist uncomfortably to ensure my swings stayed in play. I also had the ball hit the netting and fall to the ground on my side and stay in play which was weird. A day 1 patch seems to have addressed some issues as I haven’t seen that happen again, but it’s not exactly an easy shot to replicate and in reading reviews on the Quest store, it appears that some of the jankiness I found has been noticed by others in that version as well.
You can play in single player bouts against bots using 5 different difficulty settings and I found the differences between the easiest to the hardest to be minimal, adding some variety in their return shots, but with automatic movement in play (when it worked) it seemed to mitigate the difficulty. Tournaments consist of 5 matches and should you lose any of those matches (best 3 out of 5) than you’ll have to restart that tournament from the beginning. What’s annoying is that once I started a tournament, I couldn’t find any option to quit it as doing so just kills any progress, forcing me to start from scratch and with each match consisting of at least 3 rounds, these tournaments could take some time to get through.
That leaves the multiplayer which allows for singles or doubles play but still suffers from all the issues I have mentioned. I couldn’t test out the doubles play as there doesn’t seem to be a substantial player base post launch, and also doesn’t support cross-play with the Quest version. Still, hopping on for some ranked matches did add some fun as now both of us were enjoying the game when it worked, and lamenting it when it didn’t. Ranked matches force manual movement which, as I said, works and in the few matches I did find, I didn’t experience much lag though it seemed like my European opponents might have. You can choose to play with friends or randoms in unranked matches but if you want to climb those global leaderboards, you’ll want to play those ranked matches which do allow you to play in arcade or realistic modes with leaderboards broken up in the same way, though there appears to be a glitch on the score boards that seems to place everybody’s location in Belgium despite having separate scoreboards for different continents.
So with much of the game being disappointing up to this point, it’s unfortunate then that the presentation here doesn’t do the game any favors as it looks more like an indie Quest 1 game with barren visuals, almost no lighting effects, poor characters models and arenas that lack much in the way of detail. I don’t like slamming smaller teams and their smaller games for lacking in this department, but when you factor in the asking price and all the promises of the PSVR 2 HMD, what’s here is nothing short of unimpressive and something I would never show off to friends or family. Player animations can be janky, which is admittedly typical from games of this ilk, and while the AI can sometimes look more natural, they also slide around the court, stand perfectly still once they are in position waiting for their animations to kick in and don’t look great up close anyways. You’ll play in various arenas around the world with each looking unique but without any natural lighting effects, very basic textures and terrible looking crowds, they look unrealistic and not very immersive. There are Umpires and linesman as well, though they may as well be statues as outside of the Umpires head barely moving to follow the ball, no one else does adding more unnatural elements to this disappointing experience.
Accompanying that less than impressive presentation is an underwhelming audio package that consists mostly of crowd noises when someone scores and the sounds of the action on the court. I know when the game is in play the crowd is supposed to be silent, but when they kick in seemingly out of nowhere and cut off just as quickly, it’s a bit jarring especially during the coin toss when the crowd is visibly cheering, but no sounds are heard. There’s a singular music track that plays during the menus and player customization room, which is fine but does still add to the bare bones nature of it all with the only commentary coming at each matches opening, whenever a point is scored or when there’s a fault
Ultimately, that’s what this comes down too as this is a bare bones Tennis game offering up minimal single player content and what can at times be a janky experience. I’m not going to say it doesn’t work, it does thanks in large part to the day 1 patch, but considering how this looks and the lacking content, the asking price for this is crazy. Questies can get this for $10 cheaper but even that is too expensive for what is at best, a serviceable tennis experience.
Perp Games provided The VR Grid with a press code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!