Tennis games probably don't rank too highly with a lot of gamers who would prefer a tactical warfare game, frantic first person shooter, or high speed car racing title - but Top Spin has that special something which makes it appeal, even if it's not the sort of game you'd usually consider.
Like most sports titles you've got the standard range of gameplay modes - you can practice to get your skills up to standard, and then take part in a few exhibition matches to get a feel for things before progressing in to a full career mode, where you can take part in training with coaches at various places around the world, and earn money by taking part in competitions, getting sponsored by companies and working your way up the ladder to become the worlds number one.
One novel feature is that you can customise the looks of your chosen character by sculpting your player - select the eyes, nose, ears, hair, accessories, clothing, skin tone - the list is almost endless, and although you'll probably not be able to get a totally accurate representation of yourself, it'll not be far off.
There's no doubt that tennis fans will love the realism such as different surfaces sounding as they would in real life, so trainers squeak on the indoor courts, and make a dusty noise when your player drags their feet across the clay court.
Sounds in general seem very good, with realistic sounding grunts and groans from your players, and good racket noise - something which previous tennis games haven't always pulled off too well. There is the occasional loss of sound and stuttering of picture when the replay changes camera, although it isn't bad enough to cause a real problem.
Online play via Xbox Live is where Top Spin really excels, although you'll need to get your player in good shape before going head to head with other gamers who have already worked their way through the ranks. The addition of XSNsports support also gives Top Spin that added edge of competitiveness, and should help keep the interest level going for some time to go.
It's not all perfect though, and one really frustrating aspect of Top Spin's online Xbox Live play is that after a match it dumps you back out to the match searching screen - it simply doesn't give you an option to play against the current players again, which results in you either playing lots of random gamers or having to spend a lot more time and effort between each match setting up your own game and having to send invites to people on your friends list just to get them back in to the game.
If Top Spin had of allowed Xbox Live doubles matches with only one player per console, didn't dump you out to the Xbox Live lobby on completion of a match, and didn't have the problem with occasional sound glitches, then it could have scored top marks as it really is one of the better tennis games that we've seen for a while. Unfortunately though the few small glitches take that slight edge off of what could have otherwise been a nearly perfect game.
No matter if you are a tennis fan or not, Top Spin is a game which you simply must have in your collection, and it'll even go down well with people who aren't much of a tennis fan, but after you've played Top Spin you'll be counting the days to Wimbledon.Overall score: 8 out of 10
Recommended Price: £39.99
Available: November 2003Buy Top Spin from Amazon