Big Ant Studios
Credit: Australian Open Tennis 2
There aren’t a ton of tennis games available for the current generation of gaming consoles. In fact, aside from boxing, tennis might be the most neglected of any top sport on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Thankfully, Big Ant Studios has released Australian Open Tennis 2 for PS4, XB1 and Nintendo Switch. AOT2 isn’t an instant classic, but there are some obvious positives.
Let’s look at the good, bad and the bottom line.
I’m a sucker for a strong creation suite in sports video games, and AOT2 has a good number of options available when it comes to crafting the face of a created player for a career, or offline play.
There is a ton of sculpting for every part of the face. You can make almost anyone you want–realistic or fantasy. While the face creation is fully fleshed out, the customization of the bodies isn’t as flexible.
There are changes that you can make that don’t appear to have much of a visual effect on the character. For example, arm sizes and definition are far too understated. Even with some flaws, this is still a positive aspect of the game.
Content Sharing Option
To augment the creation options, Big Ant has supplied an excellent custom-content sharing feature called The Academy. Here you can download community-created players. This kind of option has always been the best way to close the gap left by a lack of licensing for real-life players and venues.
As good as the CAP system is, the venue creation options are perhaps even more in-depth.
AOT2 does have some real stars like Rafael Nadal, and others, but it is missing Serena Williams, Roger Federer and retired legends like Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker.
Thankfully, there are some very talented and knowledgeable tennis fans in the AOT2 community who have already created versions of several players who aren’t currently in the game and available for download. It’s not official, but thanks to the strong creation tool, it is the next best thing.
Gameplay Mechanics Are Strong and Fun
Creation options are one thing, but if the game isn’t fun to play, it’s all for nothing. AOT2 has the core gameplay to make fans of the sport want to play multiple matches in one sitting.
My son and I went head-to-head and found ourselves enjoying an intense battle. I was controlling Stan Wawrinka and he had Nadal. There were so many epic rallies and adjustments made over the course of the three-set match.
The best compliment I can give the gameplay is that my 13-year-old son, who isn’t a huge tennis fan, was fully engaged and trying his best to come out on top. In case you’re wondering, I prevailed 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Layered Career Mode
The previous version of the series didn’t deliver much in the way of a fleshed-out career experience. While there are still some missing pieces, the career mode in AOT2 is much improved overall.
There are press conferences and a personality-shaping concept that helps to deliver the human aspect of the mode.
Essentially, you can choose to develop a Nick Kyrgios-like presence, or you can be a less controversial player like Roger Federer. I’d like to see a little more in this area, but it’s easy to see the strides that have been made.
A Bland Feature Set
Aside from the newly designed career mode, I’d have to say there aren’t a ton of other ways to play AOT2 that have much longevity. In a day and age where sports games have card-collecting modes, and other more arcade-like options to balance the simulation aspects, AOT2 plays it straight.
This isn’t a huge issue, but it does make the game a little too vanilla for the current climate of sports video games.
Loading Times Are Long
I’m playing AOT2 on the Xbox One, and the load times–especially heading into a match–are really long.
It’s been a while since I actually noticed how long I was waiting for a game to start, and unfortunately, a match in AOT2 takes way too long to begin.
There are options to see highlights throughout the match, and overall the visual presentation is strong. On the downside, the game suffers a bit when it comes to audio. There are no commentators. That’s not a major deal in a tennis game because in real life there is no commentary while a point is being played. However, between points the absence of a human voice is noticeable.
EA’s Grand Slam Tennis for the previous generation of consoles had commentators in-between points, and it was horribly repetitive. Perhaps that’s why Big Ant elected not to go that route with AOT2.
Still, improving on that failure would have been ideal.
Graphics are Only Average
I’m used to being wowed by the visuals in sports games, but that quality isn’t there in AOT2. The proportions of the character models are a bit off, and the hues in the skin colors are a little too saturated in multiple instances.
We live in a world where almost every sports video game is gorgeous, and AOT2 is a little under the bar in that regard.
The Bottom Line
It’s hard not to grade AOT2 with some favor as Big Ant is serving and underserved community with this title.
I can definitively say the game has more positives than negatives and feels less raw than its predecessor, but it still isn’t as complete as other sports titles.
Thankfully, it’s only priced at $39.99 which takes a ton of the pressure off the feature set, and makes it a great buy for fans of tennis video games.
- Platform: Xbox One
- Developer: Big Ant Studios
- Publisher: Big Ben Interactive
- Released: February 11, 2020
- Price: $39.99
- Review Score: 7.75 out of 10