Considering Virtua Tennis was once the king of tennis games, its latest iteration is particularly disappointing, doing little to keep up with competition from 2K’s excellent Top Spin 4. The graphical tweaks are nice, and the new minigames are fun, but at its core, Virtua Tennis 4’s position-based shot mechanics are essentially identical to those in the 1999 arcade original. They’re easy to pick up, but they feel dated and unrefined by today’s standards, giving fans of the series a distinct feeling of deja vu and making you crave greater control over the ball. It’s not as if there’s fun content to play through either. The career mode is inherently flawed, the online options limited, and the Move implementation is terrible.
Most of your time in Virtua Tennis 4 is spent using the standard controls, which are very easy to pick up; so much so that there isn’t an in-depth tutorial to teach them to you. There are three main shot types to learn–top spin, lob, and slice–each of which is mapped to the face buttons while the left analog stick directs your shot. Performing more skillful moves, like drop shots and power shots, depends on your position on the court and around the ball. If you get close to the net, you’ll perform a volley. If you get right underneath a high ball as it drops, you’ll perform a power shot. Too far away from the ball when you hit a shot button? Then, your return will be weak. It’s an easy system to learn, but it lacks depth and is far too forgiving; if you make contact, the ball is all but guaranteed to land in play. This removes much of the excitement from the game, as well as any scope for advanced tactics, making it frustrating when you want to perform a risky drop shot from center court but can’t simply because of your position.