AO International Tennis

Published by Big Ant Studios and Tennis Australia team up for AO International Tennis. This PlayStation®4 version (also available on Xbox One and PC via Steam) offers strong graphics, decent movements and solid controls (though no PS Move) in this tennis simulation. cross-platform feature available for PS4 and XB1.

The Australian Open tennis tournament began in 1905 and is the first of the four Grand Slam tennis events of the year – the other three being the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. It features men’s and women’s singles; men’s, women’s and mixed doubles and junior’s championships; as well as wheelchair, legends and exhibition events. In 1988 hardcourt surfaces were added to the grass courts.

Access to players and venues from the other three tournaments would have been great here, but likely much more expensive for developers to produce. No real difference in physical gameplay between clay and grass courts, which is disappointing.

The graphics make the 18 licensed players, including cover stars Rafa Nadal and Angelique Kerber, look great. The PlayFace™ visual editor lets players take their own photo and superimpose yourself onto an in-game character for true photo-realism. The Stadium Creator feature also impresses with a nice building element mixed into the gameplay, but mostly for aesthetics. Players can change the court surface (again, mainly for aesthetics), add logos and alter several elements inside the venue.

The visual meter system and button schemes for striking the ball have a low to medium learning curve depending on player skill. Visual indicators by the racquet let players know if they hit the ball early, just right or late. Then there are the angles, power, speed, and, well, just getting to the ball. I got that same anxious yet exhilarating feeling that I get in football games when I’m the cornerback just hoping that the wide receiver I’m guarding doesn’t burn me for a long pass.

The incorporation of the PS Move could have let players jump right in and play instead of the mediocre controls, which need work on responsiveness. The CPU opponents are fairly challenging, the options are plentiful and the customization is deep. Players can design customized decals and logos for the uniforms and equipment.

The comprehensive career mode is the main appeal here. Players often have the option to simulate through matches, but after some practice players will enjoy playing through the Australian Open tournament. Players level up in money to get more skills, venues, and money.

Players can also take on opponents online, with full online leaderboards. Players can always work to perfect swings and serves (highly recommended to master the meter system and movements) to have an amazing tennis experience, which can make tennis novices into high powered fanatics. The casual mode is a bit easier and the tutorials can help with the learning curve then academy mode take the learning one step further.

Stamina is a key element in gameplay and is fairly realistic. Stamina really comes into play when in career mode or going through a tournament. It would be great to see special bonuses or mini-games where players could earn for a stamina boost when you’re really in a pinch. Instead it’s a numbers game where players look at how much each match takes out of them and estimates how much the next one will.

Special events, gear stores, fan signings, and rest stops throughout career mode (with a skip option) would have been great additions, but sponsor choices and other functions add nice appeal to the main gameplay.

Sound includes minimal commentary between points, scorer calls, and the occasional player sound of effort (e.g. grunt, yell, etc.). The music doesn’t really enhance the gameplay, but was likely chosen to save money on buying licensed songs. There really aren’t many tunes out there that specifically define tennis, so a generic sports mix would have sufficed here.

The long loading times slow down the excitement and other additions like the “Hawk Eye” challenges don’t work well because the line umpires rarely make a mistake. Overall, game developers work in courts pretty well while only requiring approximately 20.4 hard drive space.

Developed by Big Ant Studios, AO International Tennis had a good enough base to build one with the career mode and cool customization as the updates have notably improved physics issues, which make returns easier (*** out of four stars, rated E).

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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