Overall Score 86%
Full Ace Tennis Simulator
Sports simulation games fall into 2 broad categories. The first is the simulation of a sport that most players will have never have played before and probably never will. F-1 racing, ultimate fighting, big game hunting and BASE jumping. These games are relatively easy for developers to market because of the attraction of these niche sports and also the fact that since not many players would have experienced them in real life, the ability to be able to judge the sim is made somewhat of a subjective matter. Rest assured though, that as a developer, if you try and release a rubbish football, golf or tennis sim, the gamers will pass judgement based on their own personal experience. Actually, itís a double whammy in this second category, since the players that will be attracted to a tennis sim, for example, will more often than not be tennis players themselves. Who would play a tennis sim on the PC when you could be playing out a WWE royal rumble title fight? Tennis fans - thatís who! And thatís my point right there.
So when Galactic Gaming Guild named their creation ďFull Ace Tennis SimulatorĒ (Iíll just call it FATS from here on), they confidently and deliberately served up this game into the second category mentioned above. Tennis fans will find here the most accurate and detailed simulator of the game that I have ever played across any platform. The level of detail to the ball physics is no less than astounding. The court surface, player position and timing, angle and aggression of the shot, as well as multi-faceted player abilities will all play their part in the calculation of the result. Simply put: a brilliant simulator. As a game however, it does tend to fall short of greatness in a number of areas.
The player can control their avatar by the keyboard or by a game pad. Now usually I cringe at having to use analogue sticks. I really donít like them for gaming at all. Growing up in the 80ís has taught me that a stubborn insistence on digital input can get you through anything gaming can throw at you. The only time Iíd ever even consider even using an analogue control device is for sport games. And so, after struggling for an hour or so with keyboard control in FATS, I reluctantly plugged in the game controller and now have to resign myself to the fact that it does make things slightly easier. If you do have an analogue input device, Iíd recommend it right from the start.
FATS sets itself apart from the competition by the superb and absolute control that the player has over each shot. As the incoming ballís path is analysed, the player must simultaneously position themselves on the court, choose a forehand or backhand response, choose from a variety of different shots and use that selection in combination with aiming and timing to return the ball. If I said that the controls were simple, Iíd be lying. It will take you a long, long time to get used to it. Then it will take you a long, long time to perfect the art of actually getting the ball to go where you want it to. Then itís going to take a long, long time to be able to chain enough good shots together to win a point. Just getting through the comprehensive tutorials successfully took me over an hour. The difficulty of the game is just brutal. Not because of cheating AI or a failed game engine, but simply because I havenít got my brain around being able to control my player the way I know I want to. In this respect, FATS is a tremendously rewarding game. Thereís just so much scope for player improvement in various areas of the game that so closely simulates real tennis. When I do occasionally pull off a screamer up the line or charge into the net and put the smash away in the corner, it feels immensely satisfying. After about 10 hours logged so far, Iím lucky to beat the AI in one measly game over a 2 set match. Iíve got a feeling that itís going to take me at least double that amount of time to even come close to being competitive at all.
Even so, I fear that the difficulty of control will be enough to scare a lot of more casual tennis fans away. You will need a hardcore gamer level of proficiency with the controls as well as a hardcore tennis fan love of the game stick at it. The areas where these two groups overlap is the potential audience for this game, and itís not going to be a very huge one.
The brilliance of the simulation comes at the cost of a very basic set of game modes and no career mode at all. You can play menís singles matches only in a season, single tournament or exhibition match mode. Thatís it. The online community is so small that thereís never anyone online for multiplayer matches, and in any case I experienced a lot of trouble actually connecting to the main server at all. I certainly canít recommend the game for its vibrant online community. FATS needs more front-end features and modes to appeal. Womenís matches and doubles matches would be a nice start, but a career mode too. The player database features over 200 athletes that are based on real life professional players. Due to licensing restrictions, stadium names, player names and equipment brands are all fictitious, even though mostly itís obvious what is intended.
Graphics are super! There are about 40 stadiums that all look unique and showcase a variety of surfaces and stands. You never get the feeling when playing through a season that you are ever playing at the same stadium twice. The player models and animations are a little rough at close zoom, but totally realistic and unique from the standard camera angles used during play. The game looks fantastic, and sounds just as good. Crowds get pumped up and erupt at the completion of long rallies, and react disdainfully to double faults and errors. One feature Iíd like is for the action replays (which occur after every point winning shot) to feature close ups of contentious line ball calls. The default camera angles works well as intended though.
Iíd like to be able to see playerís stats at the player selection screen. As it is you need to go into the editor to check them, but thereís really no need for them to be hidden from a gameplay perspective, in my opinion. The player editor uses a graphical interface and makes easy work of customising players or creating new ones from scratch. Itís simple work to add yourself, family and friends into the playing roster!
The game is advertised as requiring an active internet connection to register which seems reasonable enough, but the review build that I tested required an internet connection EVERY time I started the game to run in full mode. If this is indeed the case with the full version, then I imagine that a lot of players will be instantly turned off. I spend a lot of my gaming time on my laptop away from home, and a game that required a persistent connection would automatically be a ďnever buyĒ proposition for me. In my opinion, this kind of DRM would go beyond what I would consider fair and reasonable.
As a pure tennis simulator, FATS takes all the awards. I canít think of any way to make this aspect of the game better. As an overall product though, the game pigeonholes itself severely by having such a intricate and comprehensive set of controls and reduced set of features. Itís very much a niche offering, but a superb piece of software nonetheless.
Keywords: full ace tennis simulator review, galactic gaming guild reviews, galactic gaming guild games, full ace tennis simulator scores, pc game reviews, indie game reviews, independent gaming.