Also on: PC, PS4, Switch
Publisher: Bigben Interactive
Developer: Big Ant
Early on during my time with AO Tennis 2, my wife happened to walk by as I was playing. ?This is basically Pong, right?? she said…and now that?s all I can see.
I mean, that?s kind of par for the course with most tennis games. There are only so many ways you can play around with the basics of the sport, after all, particularly if you want to offer players a true-to-life experience, as AO Tennis 2 does. So, for better and for worse, if you want to get really reductive about this game, then yes, it?s basically a flashier version of Pong.
Mind you, given how poorly-received the first AO Tennis was, ?a flashier version of Pong? represents a huge step forward. It works in all the ways it should, in that you can hit the ball back and forth without any major issues. In fact, you even have a range of shots at your disposal, which, judging from reviews of that first game, counts as a big innovation.
Not only that, you have a decent amount of features here. There?s the Australian Open, of course (which makes sense, since that?s the eponymous ?AO?), but there are also single matches, a scenario generator, and a full-featured career mode. None of these things are mind-blowing, but again, they work as they?re supposed to, which, all things considered, is nothing to scoff at.
What you might scoff at, however, is how bland AO Tennis 2 is. The presentation is pretty basic, outside of the quick cuts of the match intros, and it all feels sterile as you rally with your opponents. Likewise, the character models here are all on the wrong side of the uncanny valley, and none of the created players looked remotely lifelike (then again, neither did any of the pre-rendered real tennis players either).
Worst of all, though, is how much is missing here. Sure you have Nadal, but there?s no Federer, no Djokovic, no Williams Sisters. As a Canadian, I was a little disappointed to discover the game doesn?t even feature Raonic or Andreescu. It?s hard to buy into a game that promises the best players in the world — let alone one where you can try and take your created player to the top of the world rankings — when you don?t have some of the best-known and most accomplished competitors.
But just because AO Tennis 2 has some clear weaknesses, that doesn?t mean it?s necessarily a bad game. It may be missing some of the biggest names tennis have to offer, and it may feel a little sterile, but at the end of the day, it works as it should. If all you?re looking for is a current-gen tennis experience, it?ll do, even if you won?t be blown away by it.
Bigben Interactive provided us with an AO Tennis 2 Xbox One code for review purposes.