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Top Spin 3
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of this game will be challenging to younger players. The control scheme is quite unlike those of previous tennis games, requiring precise timing, nimble control stick manipulation, and constant awareness of your character's fatigue level. Indeed, it can prove tricky even for older, seasoned tennis video game players. Also be aware that, while the game is free of potentially offensive content, Top Spin 3 supports online play. Common Sense Media does not recommend online play for children under age 12.
What's it about?
TOP SPIN 3 delivers many of the same features seen in Top Spin 2. Players can create a male or female character and take him or her through a multi-year career mode, upgrading skills such as forehand and serve while amassing an enormous wardrobe of clothing and equipment. Alternatively, you can play exhibition matches and one-off tournaments assuming the role of or going up against current and classic tennis stars, from Boris Becker to Maria Sharapova. Up to four players can play locally on one television, while individuals can enter ongoing tournaments online. New and more complex controls up game realism a notch, and a comprehensive tennis school tutorial helps teach amateurs a little more about the game's strategy.
Unlike previous Top Spin games, which incorporated video game conventions like power meters and employed relatively simple controls for making a variety of shots, Top Spin 3 brings a less intuitive interface that takes longer to master, but, in the end, provides a greater degree of control. Rather than simply holding down a button and watching players carry out amazing shots, you must now press an action button the moment the ball leaves your opponent's racquet, move to the ideal return location, then release the button the instant the ball touches down for its first bounce. Making things even trickier, power shots can be carried out if players press a shoulder button at the same time. But be careful; if your timing for a power shot is off even by a split second you'll almost certainly send the ball either into the net or out of bounds. Add to this a new stamina feature, which shows your player's heartrate between rallies -- the higher it climbs, the more likely unforced errors become -- and you have one extremely challenging game of tennis. It would have been nice had the game's makers incorporated an easier difficulty setting that allowed for more traditional controls, but, taken as is, it's a remarkably realistic recreation of tennis mechanics.
Is it any good?
Top Spin 3 sports the best visuals of any tennis game to date. The players are photo realistic and animate splendidly. Don't be surprised if people walk into your living room and think for a moment that they're watching a televised match as opposed to a video game -- especially if you happen to be playing a match featuring one of the 20 beautifully rendered real-world players featured in the game. The attention to detail is marvelous. As matches progress you'll watch your players start to sweat, see their clothes grow dirtier, and marvel as their skin gets burned by the afternoon sun. Simply put, Top Spin 3's graphics are state of the art.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about tennis. How faithfully does the game recreate the sport? Do the athletes featured in the game look and move like their real-world counterparts? Did you learn anything new about tennis while playing? Video game tennis is often considered a solo sport, but you can play with a partner. Do you prefer playing alone or with a teammate? If you have the Wii version, do you like the motion sensitive controls that require you to mimic a real tennis swing, or do you think you would have more control using a traditional game pad?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.