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Virtua Tennis 3 review
Virtua Tennis 3
* Developer: Sega (2006) * Testers: Sophie & Nomax

Virtua Tennis is one of those mythical series you know that each new episode will be a hit. Here's an evidence with this third episode powered by the brand new Lindbergh system. Put on your nicer shorts, tighten your racket's cords, the match's gonna start.

In 4/3 ratio on Naomi cabinets at ATEI 2006. And in 16/9 on the new Lindbergh cabinet.

* Play.
The different game modes.The first thing that hits you is the quality of the graphics: characters are so realistic, it's never seen before in a tennis game. But let's start a game. There are now several solo game modes: in addition to the traditional "Tournament", a new "Challenge" mode appears. In "Tournament" mode, you compete with the world's best athletes to become the number 1, each match is played in 2 winning games (default setting).
On the other hand, in "Challenge" mode, your goal is earn a maximum of money by winning several challenges becoming more and more difficult as you progress. Challenges are by example to manage to hit: 4 serves at max power, 4 forehands in a row, a winning return, 3 lobs in a row, ... To go to the next level, you must succeed in 5 challenges. Of course, there's a time limit but the time you save is kept for the next challenge.

All tennis moves appear in challenge mode. Here, you must hit 4 forehands in a row.
A nice volley but it's not what's asked. Save a maximum of time.

In multiplayer, you can choose between simple 1-on-1, team double or versus double.

An explosive double! Team play...

Whatever game mode you choose, the next step is to select your player. The first thing you can see on the selection screen is that the women got dashed. An interesting but perfectible line up.That's bad because it would have been fun to play with Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin and Amélie Mauresmo. At the same time, it's not a big loss because frankly, who was playing with female athletes in Virtua Tennis 2? So we'll have to do with these man: Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, David Nalbandian, Tim Henman, Tommy Haas, James Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, Mario Ancic, Taylor Dent, Juan Carlos Ferrero and Sébastien Grosjean. Each player has his own characteristics matching the reality. We'll however note some strange choices in the line-up: Taylor Dent is there but famous russian players as Marat Safin and Nikolay Davydenko are not. Probably to match tastes of the american audience...

The courts are numerous and varied: you switch from giant stadiums featuring many sponsors adverts to simpler courts with all the traditional surfaces: clay, hard, grass and carpet. Unfortunately, big chelem's tournaments don't have their real names. For example, Wimbledon is called "England Tennis Classic" in this game surely for licensing reasons.

A used court. Stadium atmosphere is realistic.
Tournaments have strange names. Find the ball...

* 15-30.
Learn basics with Federer.The handling didn't changed since Virtua Tennis 2, you still have 2 buttons, press A for a top spin, B for a slice and press them both simultaneously to hit a lob. These commands combinations allow you to reproduce all tennis moves. Service is always crucial moment in a match: placing well is the key and correctly setting the power of your shot allows you to surprise your opponent. For more experienced players, it's also possible to choose precisely where you want the ball to land and then line up the aces! The provided power gauge make things easier...

During the game, the player will hit a normal shot, a volley or a smash depending on his position relative to the ball, that's why anticipate his opponent's shots and the ball's path is 80% of the work. Add to this the earlier a player finds his place to hit the ball, the stronger his shot can be. Indeed, the longer you keep your finger on the button while hitting the ball, stronger the shot will be. This is what makes the diffrence between Virtua Tennis and the other tennis games.

Ready to hit. A powerful smash.

Once well placed to catch the ball, the player will have to choose from 3 shots types to try to score: the "top spin" (a fast ball moving in a high arch with a high bounce), a "slice" (a slow ball moving in a low arch with a low bounce) or a "lob" (a ball flying in a high arch over opponent's head).

A hard catch. A well prepared backhand.

Mastering the placing, the shot types and the power determination allows you to earn many winning points in a match. But beware, it's important to carefully stick to the selected player's style: don't choose Tim Henman if you rather like to play on the back of the court!

The impact is visible. Indoor lightning is well rendered.

* Deuce.
A nice serve by Federer.Virtua Tennis 3 features today's trendy accessory in arcades: the IC card. This one records your results and allows you to enter the worldwide ranking according to your number of victories. It also allows you to customize your player by changing his playing style (quite useful when you've not found your own way), his outfit and his racket. Once you've bought the card, insert it at the selection screen and choose your favourite player (this can't be changed afterward). After that, enter your name and choose your starting outfit. The card can be used in all game modes and keeps all the medals you win. These are of three kinds (gold, silver, copper), you earn them by meeting certain conditions like serving at max power for the first time. At "game over" screens, messages will appear to nocice you what you just unlocked. You can check your statistics at the beginning of each game. The card can be used 200 times and when the counter reach 0, you must buy a new one to transfer your data.

IC card's advantages...

* Advantage Lindbergh.
Nobody likes to lose.Virtua Tennis 3 is the most beautiful game at present on the market. In fact, it even exceeds other Sega games both on modelization and details levels. It suffices to watch the close shots on players to realize it: faces are faithfull to their real-life counterpart and display very convincing expressions; hairs move in a very realistic way following head's movements; the human anatomy is faithfully reproduced, you can even see veins on players' necks; materials are also well rendered especially the clothes that stick to the athlete's body. But the work has not only been made on the players, stadiums are also very detailed. Without being perfet, the public is better realized than in the previous episodes, the referees, the linesmen and th ball collectors are also well represented and behave realisticly. The care to stick to reality is expressed in the most little details: as the match goes, you can see more and more footprints on the ground according to the court material. In indoors stadiums, the lightning coming from several spots cause multiple shadows to appear. This game can work on regular Naomi universal cabinets and on the brand new Lindbergh cabinets. On Naomi, the picture format is 4/3 in a 640x480 resolution. On the other hand, on Lindbergh, the resolution used is of 1360x768 pixels (so logically in a 16/9 format). Of course, the game is even more beautiful on this last cabinet but whatever the screen is, there's not a single pixel of aliasing and it's unfortunately too rare not to be pointed out. On the sound side, everything is immerse you in the atmosphere: the ball's sound change accordingly to the way you hit it, the audience screams in reaction to what's happening on the court, the referee and the linesmen shout higher the one than the others...

It really looks like a real court. Juan Carlos Ferrero is dubitative.
Mario Ancic is happy to have won. Close shot of Roger Federer.

* Game, set and match Sega.
Despite some negative points (no tenniswomen, questionable line-up), Virtua Tennis 3 pass the test hands up and becomes the new reference in sport simulations genre. The handling is perfect even if the gameplay is full of subtilities. Therefore, this title is aimed at both neophytes and tennis professionnals. The difference can be especially felt on the graphics level at the point we wonder how Sega will be able to do better next time. We can only advise the operators to upgrade!

Players stand up faster after a dive than before. Traditional after match statistics.
Of course it's not real money. Come on hit the ball!

* Score

Attract 15/20
Players introduction, how to play, ... Basic.
First impression 17/20
You feel like coming to a know place but you're yet impressed by the graphics.
Originality 15/20
The new Challenge mode and the IC card support are this game's only originality.
Addictiveness 18/20
A timeless video game classic, you always want to play once more. What's more, this title is very well realized.
Graphics 19/20
It's on this level that Virtua Tennis 3 breaks free from its predecessor but also from all other games on the market today.
Sound 18/20
The pleasure to hear the ball's impact sound, crowd shouts: a successfully done atmosphere.
Gameplay 18/20
Easy to handle but lots of subtilities offering multiple possibilities. Once mastered, one can land the ball where he wants.
Overall 19/20
A tennis game could hardly be better, everything is there: effective gameplay, top atmosphere and over the top graphics. The best tennis game all sytems included.

Clay keeps footmarks. It's hot!
Ready for match point. Ball speed is displayed in km/h.
Another successful challenge... The lob was countered.

Text/Pictures: Sophie & Nomax.
Thanks to

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