Just as art can occasionally attempt to imitate life, so computer games programmers attempt to do the same thing, but usually with very differing results. One of the biggest hurdles the programmers have to jump is getting human-like figures into games and then getting them to move with human smoothness and fluidity. That is why Palace and Sensible Software have spent nine months developing this 3D tennis game.
There are three distinct sections to the game: single match, Tournament and Season. The single match is obvious enough; you play against either a friend or the computer for a defined number of sets. The Tournament is slightly more complicated, in that there are 72 tournaments to pick from, each with a different amount of prize money to be won, and again the number of sets can be defined. Then there is the Season, which allows you to make a living by playing in various tournaments throughout the year.
There are several skill levels, but the one you will want to get some practice in on is the 'Amateur' level. Here the computer takes serves for you, moves your character around the court to get him in the best position to return the ball and then flashes your character to inform you that he is in range to return a shot. You can influence things slightly by moving your man closer to or further away from the net if you wish and also by holding the joystick in any one of nine positions after you have made a hit, which will influence the direction of your return.
Step up a skill level and you can then start directing serves, but you still get the flashing. Go up another skill level and the flashing disappears. Go to the top level ('Ace') and you can then start adding spin (top and back) to the ball by hitting the fire button again and moving the joystick forwards or backwards.
GRAPHICS AND SOUND
The sound effects, including a digitised score keeper and umpire, are excellent, giving real atmosphere to the game - atmosphere which the graphics unfortunately take away. The programmers have substituted reality for triangular racquets and triangular players in the search for speed and fluid movement. This works to some degree. If you do not like the viewing angle of the matches you have a choice of nine others and there is even one that allows you to position the camera just where you want it.
The graduation of skill levels has been well judged and although it still takes a while to get to grips with amateur level, once you have you will want more control so you can step up a level (the computer players get better as you step up the levels too). One to keep you coming back whenever you fancy a game.
It has got some hot competition from the likes of Ubi Soft's Pro Tennis Tour which, it has to be said, is altogether a better game. International 3D Tennis is good, but the graphics let it down and, although it plays well, it does not play as well as Ubi Soft's game. A nice attempt but not good enough to steal Pro Tennis Tour's crown.