It's Wimbledon season, which means we'll all treat ourselves to a slow work afternoon every now and then to watch people in better physical shape than we'll ever be hit some balls at each other for a couple of hours.
Maybe that's just me, and in fairness, it does inspire me to at least think about getting up and moving my body around, even if that feeling is a fleeting one.
Once the desire to exercise passes, though, I still fancy a bit of tennis action. It's a fun sport to study, with the balance of power teetering throughout and momentum constantly switching sides. Let's hope Matchpoint - Tennis Championships can scratch this itch.
I Feel Like Federer
Matchpoint Tennis is super simple, for better and for worse. It's nice and easy to get to grips with, each of the four face buttons corresponding to a type of shot: topspin, flat, slice, and lob. You move around and aim with the left stick, and the right shoulder buttons allow you to try a drop shot or a volley.
That's about it! With such a simple control scheme, you'd hope for a bit of depth to it. Easy to learn, hard to master sort of vibe. Unfortunately, at least from the bits I played, Matchpoint Tennis was pretty basic to master.
In my career mode, I had three difficulties available to me. After putting the game on the hardest one, I was still beating opponents 6-0, 6-0 - and these were players with far higher stats than I had. I'm not claiming to be a master of the court. Instead, by aiming for simplistic realism, the game falls into just being an absolute walkover. Hit the ball where your opponent isn't. That's basically it.
Career mode is somewhat tiring to play, too. Even when thrashing an opponent, full-on three-set matches really do drag. The lack of challenge means there isn't a lot to engage you in-game. You need to play multiple tournaments to even get close to a Grand Slam on the calendar, and you'll quickly burn out due to the monotony of the gameplay.
Sure, playing against another human is a lot better - even the lowest-skilled players are able to aim a little dot and hit the ball to the other side of the net more reliably.
There also doesn't seem to be a way to get your character to immediately sprint towards the ball, and the fact that movement and shot aiming are bound to the same stick means even though your opponents won't position themselves adequately on the court, hitting the ball where you want to and moving to different positions feels stilted and frustrating.
It's No Wimbledon
Unfortunately, with sports games these days, licencing is king. The Fifa series does fantastically well through its ability to use the real names and faces of players, iterating on the concept for years and years on end.
Matchpoint has a total of 16 players officially licensed, including Kei Nishikori, Victoria Azarenka, Daniil Medvedev, and Tim Henman. It's rather entertaining to see Henman roll back the years and play against the young stars of today, but it's equally weird to see a world in which the best tennis players of the last few decades never existed.
In addition to this, the quality-of-life issues in-game are pretty prevalent. Letters in some player names are replaced by question marks and other symbols, matches in career mode seemingly randomly start half-way through, and scores don't always carry over correctly from the match to the menu.
It all serves to take me and my horrendously-underlevelled-but-still-dominating player right out of the simulation of being a tennis pro and back where we really are: behind a screen repeating the same actions over and over again.
I wanted to love Matchpoint Tennis Championships so very much. It tried to draw me in, but monotonous mechanics and a lack of things to actually do made the experience stale in the end.
Code was provided by the publishers.