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Virtua Tennis 3

The world's favourite tennis game sparkles like a Sharapova smile.

Virtua Tennis is one of our top two Desert Island Games. VT along with Pro Evo are the two games it's impossible to get bored
of - especially if there's someone else on the desert island to play against. Preferably someone else who's slightly worse than you, so as you win almost every time. But while Pro Evo has got more and more complicated over the years, Virtua Tennis remains the same. There's a topspin button, a slice button and a lob button for when your opponent meanders too close to the net.

It's only a minor step up from Pong, but that's all you need in terms of buttons. Virtua Tennis is about sheer tennis skill. You don't mindlessly return the ball, you plan, you out manoeuvre, you work each and every point so that your opponent is gradually forced out of position. Then you smash the ball so hard it bounces out of the stadium.

The play is simple. The longer you hold the button down, the harder your return shot flies off, and if you've made your player stand near the ball you're rewarded with a nice super-hard shot or a smash if you're close to the net.

That's all you need to worry about. As a two-player game it is, like we said, pretty much without equal. And definitely without equal if you can't stand football.

When playing on your own, there's a load of stuff to do. The entire World Tour game is yours to explore. Here, you start off as a rubbish tennis beginner, then play loads of training mini-games and tournaments until you get better. Your stats automatically upgrade themselves as you play mini-games and events, until you're more than half-decent. World Tour is huge, the mini-games ridiculously varied and enjoyable, and getting to world #1 ranking is a gigantic task.

The only slight downer about VT3 is what we're not getting - there's no online play. For reasons known only to Sega and Sony and the tea lady who eavesdropped in on the meeting, the online play featured in the Xbox 360 version is missing in PS3 Virtua Tennis 3. Still, there is simultaneous four-player action, both in matches and the Court Games collection of mini-games, so if you can get together enough people and controllers there's load of fun to be had.

What PS3 gets instead of online play is Sixaxis motion control. At this point we start to feel very sorry for the developers, designers, testers and staff that put so many hours into creating and honing down to perfection a
feature precisely zero people will ever use. As in other skill-based games like Tony Hawk, it's simply easier to play the game by pressing buttons. Why risk messing up your shot by getting the movement wrong, when you can be 100% certain your button press will register correctly? Yes, if you spend hours practising, you'll be able to play VT3 perfectly well with motion gestures, but we'd rather spend those hours actually playing the game and having fun.

Ignore the fancy motion control, just use the buttons and VT3 is tennis perfection.
In a PS3 launch line-up that's not exactly packed with Triple-A gems, Virtua Tennis 3 stands out. It's timeless. It plays the same as the arcade game we loved nearly ten years ago - and this isn't some half-hearted . The gameplay that made Virtua Tennis 2 special remains untouched. VT3 is pure, unadulterated genius. It was everyone's favourite Dreamcast game for a good reason.

The verdict

Sega hasn't fiddled, leaving us with the finest and purest VT of all. A PS3 launch essential!

  • Literally perfect tennis play
  • Huge World Tour mode
  • Incredibly smooth in motion
  • No online features
PlayStation 3