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Worthplaying: Top Spin 3 Preview

"Sports games are often considered one of the most mainstream game genres, and yet most truly deep sports titles are as difficult to master as even the most hardcore shooter, fighter or RPG. This is particularly true of 2K Sports' much-admired Top Spin series, which is for hardcore tennis fans what Madden is to ravening sports fans. The controls traditionally have a steep learning curve, but fans of the games would staunchly defend its realism, deep online play, and create-a-player options against the more accessible but arcadey action of a Virtua Tennis 3. If you enjoyed Top Spin 2, there's not much point in reading this preview; you're probably already buying Top Spin 3 regardless of what I say. Those of you who aren't hardcore tennis fans but may still be curious, perhaps after spending quality time with Virtua Tennis 3, read on.

If you've never played a Top Spin game before, then your first stop when you fire up the game needs to be the Top Spin School. This is a series of challenging tutorials that walk you both through the basic controls, and fairly advanced applications of those controls. The basic tutorial covers serving, returning and even volleys. It's not enough to successfully hit the ball (though that's where the tutorial starts). After introducing a mechanic, the game expects you to be able to serve, return or volley such that you hit a specific area of the court. This will seem impossible at first, since the game merely lets you know that you can hit the ball or serve by pressing and releasing the A, B or X buttons. What isn't made clear is that each of these buttons represents a different kind of swing. Later in the tutorial, it's explained that A is used for flat shots, X for slices, and B for lifts. In addition, you can drop shot or lob by using Y in combination with the left analog stick."

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