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Top Spin 3 on Game and Player

Top Spin 3

Jeremy Steeves  //  July 1, 2008

It achieves more than it disappoints.


magine picking up a game you haven't played, loading it into your system and being unable to score a single point, kill, or touchdown. Out of frustration you may have written the game off as mechanically flawed, never to give it another shot. However, had you given it some time and adapted to the control style maybe you would have gotten a few points, and maybe those points would have felt oh-so-good. As you may have guessed, Top Spin 3 just happens to be that game. While there were a few notable reviews in which authors simply couldn't overlook a difficult control scheme, had they spent more time with the game they'd have discovered that Top Spin 3 achieves more than it disappoints.

If you start by losing set after set,
go to 'Top Spin School.'
Most of the time when I pick up a new game I'll head straight into the main section. Training and tutorial modes generally bore me, and they're often unnecessary due to the gradual progression of difficulty through playing. Maybe it was because I was so captured by the beautiful graphics and fluid animations, but after swinging wildly at the ball for a few minutes, and losing multiple games in straight sets, I backed out to the main menu and selected Top Spin School.

To my surprise, the training options were clear and effective. Each section focused on a different skill, and explained the timing involved in order to hit the ball well. You see, the controls in Top Spin 3 are much different than before. Depending on what shot you'd like to play, you hold the corresponding button as the ball comes at you and release as the ball reaches its maximum height after the first bounce. Though this may seem difficult at first, it allows player skill to play an unprecedented roll in matches. Where virtual tennis used to be like a more decorative game of Pong, it now feels like something completely its own. In about thirty minutes I was able to take my newfound knowledge for virtual tennis and reenter Career Mode.

The first challenge in Career Mode is to create your player. At first the creation options seem fairly standard, with only a few distinct styles of eyes, hair and noses to cycle through. What I hadn't noticed at first, though, was a tiny button at the bottom for face sculpting, which when pressed, brought up a bunch anchor points on your characters face that you could push and drag as you pleased. By choosing one of the many preset options and sculpting it a little I was eventually able to recreate myself in all my goofy Canadian glory. After I was satisfied with my outfit, it was time to hit the court once more.

The overall goal for Career Mode is to take your created player from the lowly depths of amateur tennis all the way to the professional tour and an eventual #1 world ranking. After at least my first six matches, I had only lost a combined two or three points. The AI opponent just seemed to react late to the majority of my shots. This trend continued for a while until I reached the next ranking, where things became much more difficult to the point where it felt like my character just couldn't keep up. I struggled through a few more matches and was able to get my character's stats upgraded, but the experience wasn't very satisfying. The Career Mode had little to no depth at all, it was just a series of progressively harder games. Computer opponents, as in many sports games, became too repetitive and predictable — I was ready to test the online crowd.

Career Mode's personalization
includes face-sculpting.
The best way to describe my experience online would be to compare it to a great steak that isn't fully cooked: a few bites taste fantastic, but others simply don't. For ranked matches, you must use the character you created in career mode. This was a great idea that was executed poorly. Though the first match I played was fantastic, as both of us were matched in skill and character development, the next few were incredibly unfair as they had spent significantly more time developing their character's attributes. Essentially, matchmaking disregards the rank or skill difference between you and your prospective opponent. True, matches never took more than five seconds to find, but it rarely took more than five minute before someone forfeited, knowing their character couldn't keep up with one that had invested 40 more points in stamina, speed and power. Fortunately, you gain character experience even when you lose matches, so it will only be a matter of time before the gap begins to close somewhat.

Top Spin 3 offers an authentic game of tennis on console. Venues and character models are detailed. The new control scheme, though frustratingly difficult at times, is exceptionally rewarding. Career mode could be fleshed out a bit, and though mediocre AI and inconsistent matchmaking produce good games as frequently as the planets align, when they do it's sheer brilliance and a whole lot of fun.

Top Spin 3



PAM Development


2K Sports

NA Release

June 23, 2008


Play Mode

ESRB Rating

In Favor

  • Quality visuals, smooth animations
  • Satisfying controls
  • In-depth player creator


  • Inconsistent matchmaking
  • Shallow career mode
  • Mediocre AI

G&P Rating

Articles by Jeremy Steeves

April 23, 2010

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July 1, 2011

June 28, 2011

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