Review: Racquet Sports (PlayStation Move)

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To me, Racquet Sports has been one of the more interesting PlayStation Move launch titles to play around with. As a port of a game first developed for the Wii, it is one of the only early Move titles that allows for a direct comparison between the rival motion control technologies. I try to avoid comparing games and products as much as I can, but when you’re dealing with such clear similarities it is impossible to not stack them up against one another.

Earlier this spring I reviewed Racquet Sports for the Wii and found it to be a decent enough outing of waggle sports gaming. However, even with Wii MotionPlus support it lacked finesse and precision, choosing instead to be a more accessible compilation sports game for kids and casual players not picky about realistic 1:1 swing tracking and full avatar control.

Racquet Sports for PlayStation Move is largely the same game, only tweaked to take advantage of the PS3’s higher-end hardware. The game comes with five sports in one, including tennis, ping-pong, squash, badminton and beach tennis, and each sport is playable in singles and doubles exhibition matches, tournaments, championships, training, four-player party play matches and a career mode which is really just a linked sequence of tournaments you complete to unlock new customization gear for the roster of playable characters. The PS3 version also has online play for two players – but I haven’t been able to find anyone else playing the game to be able to test it out.

Also new to the PS3 version are two control options. Basic controls work like those of the Wii version, allowing anyone to jump in and play with the singular focus of swinging the Move controller to have the in-game avatar hit a ball or birdie back and forth with an opponent. The added Advanced controls option, however, provides a couple more options, such as increasing run speed by holding the Move controller to the correct side of your body in relation to the ball position in the game and the ability to hold down the T trigger button while swinging for “Risky Shots” which allow you to hit with more power and create sharper angles at the risk of hitting the ball out of bounds if your timing is off.

The strange thing about the way Racquet Sports works with PlayStation Move is its animation system. Before every serve and return, the PlayStation Eye tracks every movement of your hand with the Move in it, and in turn the game registers those movements in the game in true 1:1 motion – every which way you tilt the controller is directly reflected by your in-game avatar. However, once the ball is in play and approaching, the game forces your character into a canned animation, and in turn you lose that sense of 1:1 tracking.

The funny thing is, the game really does track your swing with noticeable accuracy, and for the most part the way you swing the Move determines the power, direction and trajectory of your shots in the game. You do feel like you are in control of dictating where you want the ball to go, and that is very important. EA Sports’ Grand Slam Tennis is the only motion control tennis game I’ve played with more accurate and realistic swing tracking.

The problem I have with this game is that, like the original Wii version and the Wii Sports games, you have no control over the movement of your racket sportsman. Actually, my problem isn’t so much that you don’t have control over character movement, it’s that you don’t have control over character movement and the AI controlling your character’s movements is almost completely inept.

The motion controls are accurate enough to allow you to construct points like you would playing real racket sports, in terms of being able to move the opponent side to side on the court and mix up spins and speeds to throw off their timing. But in many situations – particularly as the difficulty increases – you’ll put together a smart point, but your character moves in such a scripted manner that certain shots that would be an easy put away if you could control the angle of attack are wasted because your character takes the wrong approach. Thus, you’ll get stuck in extended rallies that only seem to end with you hitting a “Risky Shot” error because you get impatient hitting the ball back and forth with seemingly no way to get the opponent out of position.

Even more annoying is how your character will sometimes approach a ball at a funny angle preventing you from preparing for which side to swing from. From the approach it may look like you should set up for a forehand, but once your character reaches the ball you’ll have to hit a backhand – and since you were setting up on the other side, you end up whiffing the shot and losing the point.

When points get fast, the game also struggles to register quick swing motions. This is most problematic in ping-pong matches against hard-hitting opponents, when the ball is pinging back and forth in rapid succession and quick reflexes are imperative. Sometimes you can be in perfect position and make the swing, but the game doesn’t register the stroke fast enough and the ball sails by.

Inconsistencies like this are common in the majority of games released alongside any new piece of gaming hardware, and because of them there can be no escaping the fact that Racquet Sports is nothing more than a typical just-good-enough launch title that serves its purpose as an introduction to the Move…and that’s about it. What I find most interesting about Racquet Sports, though, is that it may just be the most telling example of how much better the PlayStation Move motion control tech is than that of the Wii. This game doesn’t even put the Move to full use, yet when played next to the Wii version and many other Wii sports titles, the controls are vastly superior in every way.

Comparisons aside, Racquet Sports is an entertaining and accessible game overall, and a good early Move game to toy around with until more substantial software comes along.

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Pros:
+ Swing tracking is smooth and accurate overall
+ Five fun racket sports games in one
+ Sizable selection of modes and options

Cons:
– Poor AI character movement with no option for manual control
– Doesn’t track quick swing reactions very well
– Canned animations break sense of 1:1 motion control

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 (requires PlayStation Move)
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Asobo Studio
Release Date: 9/14/2010
Genre: Sports – Tennis
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-4 (multiplayer supports local and online play)
Source: Review copy provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!