International 3D Tennis
Copyright/Publisher: Palace Software, Produced by: Sensible Software,
Music by: Richard Joseph, Release Year: 1990,
Rereleased by: GBH (1992), Genre: Tennis, Number Of Players: 1 or 2

Smashing fun!

Tennis isn't simply about getting the ball back into the other person's court - winning demands plenty of smart tactics. Much of the game concerns angling a shot to force the other player far out to one side of the court, so you can bash his return shot into the other side.

But the tactical element of tennis often seems missing from computer sims simply because it's so difficult getting into position and returning the ball. What Sensible Software have done is to have the computer move your player into position.

As soon as your opponent hits a return shot the computer begins to moving your player into line with it, although you still control whether you move forward to hit the ball early, or move backwards to take more time. On low skill levels your man will even flash to indicate when the ball is close enough to hit! How you're holding the joystick will determine what shot you play.

There are four skill levels, with Semi-Pro introducing the ability to aim your serves, Pro removing the flashing when the ball is near, and Ace allowing you to put spin on the ball. Of course, there's a practice option allowing you to try out all the different skill levels and playing surfaces - ie grass, cement, carpet and clay. Different surfaces aren't only different colours, but have their own distinct bounce. You can also set the skill of your opponent (1-15).

Confident of your tennis genius you can now enter one of 79 tournaments. A map shows you exactly where the tournament takes place, as well as how many rounds there are and how many sets. If you want, you can turn off 'real' sets and play just one set to decide matches.

As you progress though the rounds of the tournament you meet different player, there are 100 of varying skill with names such as McEnroe, Becker and Lendl. What's more even the best players can have a bad day, playing below their normal skill level.

How far you progress in the tournament decides how much money you win. If you select the Tennis Season option, your aim is to win as much money as you can in a year. The season is split into 21 1-3 week periods, with a semi-accurate number of real tournaments to enter.

Before selecting which one to enter you analyse which surface it's on, the prize money breakdown and how many rounds there are. Small tournaments offer less money overall, but being beaten in the first round of Wimbledon earns you very little indeed.

What's more, entry into tournament depends on your skill level, only ACE players can enter the really big ones. (But you can increase your skill level at any time.) A Progress Report screen not only shows your winnings, matches won etc, but also allows you to save/load your position.

Very useful since there can be 473 sets in a season! Another unique feature of this game are the ten camera angles, ranging from the normal angled view from behind one player, to a side view, to a close-in shot of a player, and even a blimp view where the men are dots!

PHIL
Using vector graphics is a weird idea, but it works well with beautifully realistic animation. Another innovation is the control system - initially I was worried that this method would over-simplify the action, but it removes the frustration of getting to the ball, allowing you to concentrate on timing and positioning your shot.

This makes winning points more of a strategic battle with long rallies quite commonplace. What's more the presentation is excellent, especially the brilliant choice of in-match perspective. The skill levels are also a welcome feature, Amateur level making hitting the ball relatively easy.

The computer players are pretty intelligent though, so winning even a minor tournament is a major achievement. In short, International 3D Tennis is smashing, ace, and beats the competition to love!

ROBIN
Until now I'd not much clue about tennis, but this issue I've had to learn the rules fast and had a heck of a lot of fun in the process. Sensi have gone all out to get the playability, look and 'feel' of the game just right.

The vector graphics are well animated with a strange swagger about them as they walk, a typcial Sensible 'feature'! It's certainly a surreal experience watching triangular-headed wireframe players hitting a pixel back and fore, especially if you're watching it all from a blimp 1000 feet up!

The attention to detail is excellent and makes the game a true Sensi program. The map of the world venues, the dissimilar skill level facility, the groovy title tune, the Crowd Control sound filter and the superb camera views all come together to make Tennis a tremendously entertaining package. It's immense fun for novice and expert alike and the best sports game I've played for ages!

Sl
All this computer assistance might seem a bit limiting, but in fact it really opens the game up, allowing even me to start making superb passing shots. Once you've got the knack of hitting the ball, you can exploit the angled shots which really forces you to think.

Simply hitting the ball back soon gets you in trouble. The satisfaction of getting Phil chasing almost into the crowd, then putting away the winning shot is brilliant. Two-player mode is great fun, and flexible too - allowing each player to have his own skill level.

In single-player mode the wide range of skill levels for opponents, and the four surfaces which play considerable different for once, mean there's plenty of challenge. But it's the tournament season, picking and choosing where to play for most money, which means there's more long-term depth in the game than in any of the competition.


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 95%
Ten different camera angles, attractive menus packed with info, save/load option, four skill levels, practice and two-player mode.
GRAPHICS 91%
Static screens can hardly do the game justice. Once you play the superb animation works brilliantly.
SOUND 80%
Convincing FX, great loading/intro music and a crowd road adjust feature for different C64 models.
HOOKABILITY 95%
The 'flashing' feature makes it very easy to get into...
LASTABILITY 93%
...but mastering all the shots and tactics takes time, and then there's 79 tournaments!
OVERALL 94%
A superlative tennis sim which should appeal to everyone!


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