I’m normally pretty good at getting my reviews out on time. Normally. In the case of AO International Tennis, I’ve done a bad job in getting the review out in a timely manner. I’m not solely to blame, though, as the developers have been churning out updates since the game released. Like, literally every time I sat down to write the review I’d get a notification that there’s a new update available for AO International Tennis. So I’d play it again in the hope that this’ll be the update to bring the game to a decent level.
After eight updates, it’s still a sad story.
Initially I was impressed with AO International Tennis (AOIT from here on it, because sod writing that over and over) with its simple, no frills approach. Getting into a quick exhibition match was a breeze, but then things went tits up. Admittedly it was partly my fault, but I can’t say that the game was completely innocent either.
Setting up a game is easy enough, but once you’re on the court you’re not only facing your no-name opponent; you’re also in a content against the game’s dodgy controls. Everything relies on timing, much like in real tennis, then. Wave your racquet at the wrong moment and you’re losing points. This happens far too often, especially when it’s your turn to serve. Despite my best efforts, I still to this day cannot pull off a perfect serve on the first attempt. It means I lose more than I win, and that’s no fun.
It’s fiddly, then, but not completely broken. It normally takes me a couple of tries to get a decent swing to start a match, but it still means I’m behind from the offset. When a decent rally gets going, however, things can be fun. Can be. That’s important to note. They can be, but more often than not it’s a pain in the neck.
AOIT maps its controls to the face buttons or, if you’re a weirdo, you can use the right analog stick. I suggest forgetting that right stick exists for AOIT as it’s basically useless and I found that it just doesn’t work. Stick to the face buttons and your frustrations will be, well, they’ll still be there but at least with a proper button press you won’t be second guessing yourself when you miss an easy shot.
Now, I do have to say that AOIT is intended to be a sim of sorts. So yeah, it’s going to be tough. But after an hour each evening for almost a month, I’m still not doing any better than on my first day. The difficulty is just too damn high. There’s no “gitting gud” here – it’s more about having patience and good fortune on your side.
Timing really is everything in AOIT, but there’s more to it than just timing your volleys right. Unfortunately the game’s animations disrupt gameplay far too often, and to the point that I was left screaming at the TV. I could have sworn I’d pressed the “smack the fucking ball” button, but as my forgetable player was already in the middle of a moving animation, he decided he’d finish what he was doing before moving on to swinging his racquet. Only problem is that by the time he was ready to start his next task, the annoyingly loud umpire was already shouting his mouth off. Not good.
There are moments when AOIT shines and really does play out fantastically, but they’re few and far between. It doesn’t help that the game’s presentation is uninspired to say the least.
Player models are serviceable, for the most part, but the courts are lifeless. There’s no commentary and the umpire only pipes up when either you or your opponent win a point. In all honesty, I couldn’t tell one court apart from another. I know it’s not a massive thing and, when in the heat of the moment, it doesn’t really matter, but it’s more about the lack of care given to the end product. Heck, I couldn’t even name ten stadiums in FIFA, but I appreciate the different aesthetics and atmosphere when playing in sunny Barcelona after spending a season in the rain with Accrington Stanley.
While the game has very few officially licensed players, there is a pretty robust creation kit. Here you can recreate your favourite tennis players and even assign them commentary names, though you’ll rarely hear them. Or, if you’re in a self-loathing mood, you can recreate your self in the game and scream at your avatar when he stops to scratch his nose instead of hitting the god damn ball. Damn you, Digital Chris, you utter bellend!
AO International Tennis PS4 Review
AO International Tennis is not a terrible game, it's just not a very good one. It has most of the ingredients to make for a decent tennis experience, but it just hasn't been cooked well enough.
Hardcore tennis fans will get the most out of AOIT, so if you're just a casual follower who refers to Murray as British when he wins and Scottish when he loses, this isn't for you.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a copy of the game provided by the publisher. For more information, please read our Review Policy.
Reviewed using PS4 Slim.