A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that VirtuaTennis 4 is a fairly straightforward pro tennis simulation. The only minor concern is a minigame that has players playing tennis with a small bomb that you don't want to explode on your end of the net. The graphics and animation are very cartoon-like when the bomb explodes, so there isn't blood or gore. Parents should also be aware the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 version of the game lets you chat online, if desired, with other players -- potentially with strangers. Common Sense Media doesn't recommend online chat for anyone under age 12.
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What's it about?
Fans of tennis video games no doubt have played Sega's Virtua Tennis games in arcades or at home over the past decade, and the latest offering for consoles -- VIRTUA TENNIS 4 -- doesn't stray much from the formula. Play as or against your favorite male or female professional tennis star -- from Federer, Nadal, and Murray to Sharapova, Williams, and Djokovic -- in a number of authentic courts and competitions from around the world. Along with quick pick-up-and-play games for when you want a quick fix, the game offers a lengthier career mode and online support (all consoles) for head-to-head play. Also back are mini-games for quick (and sometimes silly) digital diversions. The PlayStation 3 version features support for 3D graphics (3DTV required) and PlayStation Move, while the Xbox 360 supports the Kinect for Xbox 360 motion-sensing accessory.
Is it any good?
Virtua Tennis 4 is a decent tennis simulation game -- but it doesn't add anything substantial to the series. In fact, it seems like the developers "dumbed down" the controls to make it too easy to hit, lob, or spin the ball. Some of the advanced shots will be performed automatically based on where you are on the court (e.g. near the net). The game's graphics have been improved but it's hard not to feel like this game has been rehashed from previous versions -- even with the tweaked Career mode, online hub that makes it easier to find opponents, and a couple of new mini-games. We tried the Kinect feature and it wasn't very accurate or fun, so it didn't take long to switch back to the controller. Virtua Tennis 4 isn't horrible -- it's a mediocre tennis game that seems to have lost its mojo, especially in the wake of games like 2K Games' feature-rich Top Spin Tennis 4. At best, this is a weekend rental. Note: All three versions of the game are the same except for 3D and Move support (PlayStation 3), Kinect play (Xbox 360) and Wii MotionPlus (Nintendo Wii).
Online interaction: All three versions of the game -- PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii -- let gamers play online against one another. Except for the Wii version, players can also chat via headset microphone at the same time, if desired. Kinect play isn't supported online.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether game makers should release new versions of an older franchise when there wasn't been much added to it? That is, if the game feels like its decade-old predecessor but has improved graphics and some minigames, does that justify release yet another version of the same game? Do gamers care?
Why are active games, like the Kinect and Move version of this game, good for you to play?