Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Finding myself back on the digital Tennis courts this summer, I found myself competing in Matchpoint: Tennis Championships. Coming from Torus Games and Kalypso Media, this newcomer to the court definitely has some potential especially with how easy it is to pick up compared to some of the others in the stadium.
Having not actually sat down to a Digital Tennis experience since the 2020 releases of AO Tennis 2 and World Tennis Tour 2, I figured I was in for a bit of a tough lesson before things could start to go my way. Making sure to not repeat past mistakes, I went into the tutorials, I learned how to do everything that it could teach me and then I started up my career. From there, imagine my surprise to find a Tennis title that not only felt comfortable to play, but was also comfortable to play with my custom made character that was only starting out in the rankings. I hadn’t even trained yet!
This is where I think Matchpoint may find its niche. Unlike some of the other titles out there with loads of big names, tons of features and loads of player customizations, Matchpoint may not have as much under the hood, but it’s really easy to pick up and get started. Split between My Career, Quick Match, Practice, Tutorial and Training under a Local Mode, there’s also a Ranked Match, Casual Match, Block List and the ability to Invite a Friend under an Online Mode. While starting off with the tutorials and training modes is always a good place to start, you’ll probably want to dive into the Career Mode to really learn your way around Matchpoint’s real learning curve, your digital opponents on the court.
Starting off with a qualifier match to find your overall starting rank, once that’s done, for better or… worse in my case… you’ll start to be able to pick what you want to do out of a running schedule. Training Exercises, Exhibitions, Opens or Championships, each will have its own amount of time that needs to be invested to better yourself and your standings. Starting off with the Training Exercises, these are probably the quickest to do both in terms of time required out of your schedule, and actual time to complete them. Generally coming in under two or three minutes, whether it’s practicing how to perform an Ace Serve or volley the ball back into a specific spot, it won’t take long before your stats increase making you that much better for the next challenge.
From Training Exercises, you can move onto Exhibitions where you’ll face off against a random opponent. This is a bit where you can start getting a real feel for Matchpoint as the AI won’t just sit around letting you pull off dirty tricks over and over again. Your opponent will adjust themselves based on your routine and start pulling off some dirty tricks of their own. The level that this comes about will depend on that opponent’s rank, but this leads into partaking in the Opens for the first time as it can skyrocket your standings.
So for example, after winning my first open I went up 139 ranks to bring me from a horrid 274 to 135. While I did lose another two ranks going back down to 137 by going to a training session instead of an open, this led me to the next open where I really started to find my stride with the mechanics, the computer AI, and my own player AI.
Starting with 6-1 with the qualifications match, the quarter finals would see back to back 6-3, 6-0 before stepping into the semi finals for a 6-0, 6-0. By this point I was sweating from more than looking at the clay court that my player was standing on. Moving into the final match of this Open, I found myself matched up with the number 16 seed making me wonder… how bad is this going to go? With my stats in the 20s and theirs in the low to high 80s, it was going to be a fight to win.
This is really where I started to appreciate Matchpoint: Tennis Championship. While the stats of the opponent far dwarfed mine, it didn’t mean an instant loss. It did mean a constant adaptation to find new tricks, serve and return patterns, but it wasn’t impossible as it often is when playing way outside of your “weight class”. Winning 6-0, 6-0, this would once again skyrocket me another 49 ranks to rank 88 which like the precious 137 would let me enter into the more intensive Championships now that I wasn’t ranking in the 200s.
With this said, and I did on an overall enjoy my time with Matchpoint: Tennis Championships, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows to get there. Like I said above, unlike others in its class, there are some bigger missing options and the gameplay itself when it comes to the AI, opponent and your own, were not always on the ball.
Starting off with character customization, it’s bare bones. You have access to a few different face types, a couple hair styles and one beard. One. For someone like me who’s never been the most athletic, being able to recreate myself had always been a high point but with Matchpoint I couldn’t even get close. Is this a deal breaker? I don’t think so but the options are very limited so you’re basically stuck with whatever is currently available.
Next up is one gameplay feature that I thought was sorely lacking. The ability to call for a review. There are a lot of balls, both hit by the opponent and myself that should have been called out of bounds, or reviewed to declare that they were inbounds. Not having this option could cause some grumbling as it was clear as day that it was inside the lines, yet, I lost the point because it was called otherwise.
Moving into the features that may be deal breakers, is the AI. Perhaps a point of frustration for me at multiple points, sometimes the AI was for lack of better terms, sleeping on the job. A fair amount of your character’s movements will not be entirely in your hand, but that of the AI. This is why Matchpoint may be more accessible to new players as there’s help in how your character moves allowing you to perhaps return a ball you may have otherwise missed by moving in the wrong direction.
The issue with this is that it doesn’t always respond to your input. Oftentimes while in back to back matches in an open, I would miss returning a serve because my character stood there, and then moved once the ball had passed. It’s also like the system knew what had happened because it would again oftentimes offer me up a freebie as it was clear that my opponent should have returned that.
And while I can to a degree live with that as it generally did more good than bad, where things got complicated is in how it affects your court movement. It wasn’t the easiest to move up to the net and play a close style that can stress out your opponent. You really had to force your character up to the net as even the right shoulder (R1) function to play that style didn’t help you until you were close. It’s unfortunate because the rest of Matchpoint, with or without the customization, is fun.
So while the current status of Matchpoint: Tennis Championships could use some smoothing out and a few extra features, such as character customizations and an ability to call for review, it’s still a decent Tennis game and I enjoyed my time with it.Score: 6.75 / 10