Tennis heh? Not the sort of game to make the hearts of the yeomen of England swell with pride. Let's face it there are small creatures crawling round on the bottom of the ocean that are better at tennis than any of our home grown 'talent'. Ubi Soft's Pro Tennis Tour was as impressive a sim as England are inept a Davies Cup team. A year or so later the sequel is here with more options, more competitions and even more playability than its predecessor.
The game allows you to choose your surface, your competition and even your gender (rather confusingly the manual says "you can only choose between a masculine or a feminine player. In the future other players will be waiting for you..." Yikes! Pro Tennis Tour III - the first hermaphrodite tennis sim).
There are also two levels of difficulty. On 'Junior' you only have to worry about the timing of your shot, the computer will make sure you're pretty much in the right place at the right time. On 'Average' things are somewhat more tricky. Fear not though, before throwing yourself into the trials and traumas of a fully blown competition you can come to grips with the game by playing a friendly or even using the ball machine.
The more practice you have, the better you get. OK, so that/s a bit of a truism - however, in Pro Tennis Tour III, it's not only your playing ability that improves, it is also the ability of your player. (Oh, if only my tennis was as smooth as my writing. Sigh.) The computer records all your successes whether they be beautifully timed forehand volleys or immaculate, sweeping, back hand smashes. The more of these high class skills you pull off, the higher skill rating you have.
Once you've mastered the skills of the game, you can play your way through a whole year of tennis selecting those tournaments that you want to enter from your year card. If tournaments are not your kind of fruit then there's a two, three or even four player head to head(s) option. Three player option, you ask? What's the point of that, you ask? Well, it's so you can put all those "Come on I'll take two of you on at once," sort of people in their place and serves 'em blimmin' well right.
Paul: I'm not one of the world's great tennis fans. I'm not really one of the world's lesser tennis fans. In fact to be honest I don't really like tennis at all. Which doesn't explain why I keep sneaking into the games room for another bash at Pro Tennis Tour II. It's like Wimbledon all over again. "I'll go and do some work after this set. Well perhaps after the next one. Good heavens, is that the time?"
Well it's not exactly like Wimbledon. I only keep watching that when the alternative is something less pleasant, rubbing lard on the cat's boils for instance. I keep playing Pro Tennis Tour II because... well, I really enjoy it. Al-right I confess, call me Boris if you like.
Without beating about the bush Pro Tennis Tour II is the best tennis game I've seen on the 16-bit. The graphics, sound and animation are all very good, though falling slightly short of excellent. However, it's when you stop looking and start playing that Pro Tennis Tour II really comes into its own. It gets the balance between challenge and playability just about right. Although serving takes a while to get to grips with, you're soon able to get involved in fierce contests. (Though it's a time before you actually win them). The more you play the more you learn to control the direction, height, and power of your returns. This particularly hots up the 2, 3 and 4 player options where there are more rallies than in a Uncle Bloggo's 'Hot' Bike shop. (That's 'Raleigh' fool. Ed.)
As well as the multiplayer option the other impressive option is the change in playing surfaces. Although not the first game to offer this choice, it is the first in which the different surfaces noticeably affect the play of the ball. Pro Tennis Tour II has all the excitement of tennis without having to wear a crap T-shirt or shake hands with Pricess Michael of Kent.