We had a chance to preview Matchpoint: Tennis Championships a while ago, and have now been able to play the full game for our review – which we did on a PlayStation 5.
The launch of Matchpoint: Tennis Championships couldn’t have been timed better. The Wimbledon tournament is in full swing , and cover athlete Nick Kyrgios has never done better in any grand slam tournament, finally delivering on his undeniable talent and not just making the headlines with “bad boy” behavior on the court.
Tennis also doesn’t have a franchise with annual releases and seems to be welcoming to new IPs, so after AO Tennis and Tennis World Tour we have a brand new contender that we can try out – to see how it lives up to our memory of the Virtua Tennis and Top Spin games. At the end of the day it has elements of both, while ultimately falling short as well.
The actual tennis gameplay, and that’s great news, is mostly solid and quite fun. Matchpoint seems to favor rallies, and in that back and forth you can really start to build pressure with your shots, or try to relieve it when you’re being backed into a corner. Depending on how much risk you’re willing to take, this results in some wonderful exchanges and points, and with some practice and you can master entirely different gameplay styles – though offensive ones where you serve and charge the net feel a bit rough around the edges.
As we also pointed out in our preview, the excitement over a point well played doesn’t really carry over in the game’s presentation. The crowd doesn’t go wild, players don’t have animations to show their excitement and the commentator doesn’t say anything, unless it’s to point out that ‘the next point is important’ – commenting on the scoreboard rather than the level or flow of play.
The AI opponents might be a tad emotionless, but they play a good game of tennis – sometimes hitting a double fault or unforced error even when they’re a highly ranked player. The players are well animated too and the view with default camera is gorgeous, almost as if you’re watching tennis on TV. Once the players head up to the net they’re a little stiffer, but as long as they stick to the baseline this is one of the best looking tennis games you can get. The player models aren’t the most realistic ones out there, but the animations (though lacking in terms of signature moves for individual players) are excellent.
If you’ve played other tennis games before, then you’ll probably get the hang of the gameplay within one or two matches, and chances are that you’ll master them very quickly too, at least to the point where the game isn’t challenging enough anymore – even on the harder difficulty setting. You won’t win every single point, but you can usually stay away from some of the riskier shots (running cross-court winners are hard) and still walk away with the set.
While this can be tweaked in an update, it does make the game’s career mode lose some of its shine, as the stakes aren’t that high when it comes to training and picking the right events for your current career stage. We like that it’s not a massive grind where you don’t stand a chance against the top players for a few seasons, but the climb to number one can feel like a bit of a drag when you know pretty early on that that’s where you’ll end up.
For a game that you can just fire up to play a few tennis matches, Matchpoint: Tennis Championships is quite good. Virtua Tennis 2 filled that same void two decades ago as well though, so we’re hoping for a bit more from a 2022 title. The gameplay can be tweaked, but we’d also love a roster upgrade for a potential sequel. Kygrios is doing great right now, but we’d love to play with some iconic players through Matchpoint’s tennis engine, and just as Kyrgios is no Federer, Nadal or Djokovic, Haas and Henmen aren’t Sampras, Agassi, Becker or Lendl. And Matchpoint isn’t Virtua Tennis of Top Spin just yet, but there’s a fun foundation here.