Virtua Tennis 4 for PlayStation Vita first stepped onto the court at E3. Even at that early stage in its development, the game showed signs of ambition. It seems that Sega is taking great care to adapt the tried-and-true gameplay for PS Vita by extensively leveraging the handheld’s hardware strengths, all without dumbing down the series’s winning formula.
Now, at gamescom, I finally got to see some of these game modes in action.
Virtua Tennis 4’s core experience is nearly identical to its recently-released PS3 counterpart; you can create a character, start a career, and participate in tournaments while enhancing your skills through all kinds of bizarre tennis-related skill tests. Likewise, you can jump into the shoes of Andy Roddick, Roger Federer, or other real-world tennis stars.
What PS Vita brings to the court is a new, yet optional way to control the main serve-and-volley action, plus a series of “VT Apps.”
The core gameplay opens up considerably thanks to the PS Vita touch screen. Tap on the screen and your player will run to that spot. Once in place, you swipe in the direction you want to hit the ball, utilizing different gestures for topspin shots, lobs, backhands and more. Multitouch is employed to launch a lethal power shot – just swipe using two fingers to add an exclamation mark to a long volley.
Of course, you can still use the traditional stick-and-button controls, but here’s where it gets interesting: since both types of controls are always enabled, you can use a combination of the two. After a couple of games, I was navigating around the court with the left analog stick, and directing my shots with my right index finger on the screen. You can leverage any mix of touch and traditional controls, even in the middle of a point.
You might not always have enough time to power through a five-set marathon match, and so Virtua Tennis 4 for PS Vita includes a number of “VT apps” which are exclusive to the platform. My fave is called Touch Vs – a top-down mode for two players to compete on a single PS Vita. By turning the PS Vita on its side — air-hockey style — each player gets an analog stick and some screen real estate to shoot. It should prove to be a fun way squeeze in some two-player competition (and start a few conversations, too).
Additionally, Virtua Tennis 4 takes advantage of the Vita’s gyroscopes with the first person VR match (see the video above), and skill-building Rock the Boat, where you’re controlling your player as well as a ship you can lean back and forth. Virtua Tennis 4 also plans to take advantage of the system’s cameras through use of augmented reality, though Sega wasn’t yet ready to show that off.
Virtua Tennis 4 will be ready for launch when the PS Vita goes on sale. Tennis game aficionados should probably plan on taking it home with them the day they pick up a PlayStation Vita.