Review: Smash Court Tennis 3 (XBOX 360)
by Richard Vach | August 20th, 2008, 3:27 pm
  • 11 Comments

If you are looking for a tennis game simulator for the XBOX 360 video gaming platform, check out Atari’s Smash Court Tennis 3 which just hit store shelves in North America this week.

Smash Court Tennis 3 (SCT3) follows in the footsteps of two successful earlier releases, and it joins Topspin 3 as the latest entries in the XBOX 360 tennis genre.

Developed by NAMCO BANDAI Games, SCT3 has a lot to offer any serious tennis or gaming fan. Unlike its primary competition, SCT3 goes to great lengths to simulate the pro tennis world, and it does a good, if not great job.

The game allows users to choose from a curious assortment of 16 present-day and retired tennis pros. Among the men you can pick Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, James Blake, David Nalbandian and even Andreas Seppi (Has to be his biggest PR moment. Was there an Italian on the development team?). The women are equally an odd mix with Justine Henin, Maria Sharapova, Amelie Mauresmo, Sania Mirza and Michaella Krajicek.

As advertised, the game is quick and easy to learn, but you still should undergo some training to get accustomed to the controls and play style, something I didn’t do at first.

Instead, after I opened the box I just jumped right into a match. I selected “arcade” mode, picked Roger Federer and next thing I knew I was facing Andreas Seppi on a clay court in a stadium resembling planet Andor from Return of the Jedi. Apparently the court was in really in Canada, or at least that’s what the screen said.

Turned out an Ewok would have done better than me. The match to three games didn’t last long as, playing as Federer, I was quickly destroyed by the backward-hat wearing Seppi.

Time for some training.

Like most sports games or simulators SCT3 has a simple yet effective tutorial/training mode that allows you to quickly get your bearings on your groundstrokes, serves and movement. After about a half hour of getting my game into shape, or somewhat into shape, I felt confident enough to get back on the court and have another go at the computer after my dismal opening effort.

SCT3 boasts a number of venues and all four playing surfaces from which to choose. While it’s not licensed to include actual pro events by name, like the Australian and French Opens or Masters events like Cincinnati, it does have reasonable facsimiles of each Slam along with numerous events from other cities around the world, including a stunning Dubai sky court, similar to the helipad on which Andre Agassi and Federer memorably hit a few years ago.

But I’m scared of heights and I needed as an easy win to get my confidence up, so I picked Nadal to play computer Federer on a clay court at the French Open arena clone. “I can’t lose this, can I?” I thought.

The game features some stunning visuals and terrific audio. The shadows on the court actually move as the match goes on. And the stadium renderings are all very well done.

Though somewhat blocky, the players are nicely portrayed, wearing their manufacturer clothing — you can actually select from three different outfits for each player — and up close I think most tennis fans would be able to pick the player by looking at the face.

The crowd in the vast stadium clapped and cheered as the PA introduced each player — my Nadal and the computer’s Federer — in French. Each player walked out of the tunnel, waved and then went to their benches. Game on, only this time I was ready.

Federer to serve.

On the very first point, Federer pulled a serve-and-volley against me. He hits a wide serve to my Rafa’s backhand and then deftly deposits the volley winner into the empty ad court. I was stunned and rattled. Absolute perfect execution.

On the very next point we get into an actual rally until, about eight strokes in, computer Fed hits a short backhand slice to my forehand (yes, that same one Roger abuses people with on the real court), draws me in and then lasers a forehand pass right by me. Ha! I couldn’t believe it. Fed playing Rafa just how he should play him on a clay court. Amazing.

Fed didn’t show much of that variety the rest of our match as he really didn’t need much to win. It was over quickly. We had a lot of long rallies but I found it very difficult to get anything past Roger, and I wound up never winning a game and just a handful of points. But I was just starting out.

Overall, the game really is true to the pro game in many ways and in some ways not so real. I love how fluid the strokes, movement ad serves are. The players really glide around the court and they slide just like they slide in real life on the clay.

The swings and mannerisms of the pros are also nicely duplicated. Sharapova’s pre-serve routine is in there, Federer forehand follow-through can be seen, David Nalbandian’s two-handed backhand is legit and James Blake breaks out that grunt of his.

I even tried to be Tomas Berdych v. computer Feliciano Lopez on grass. Another bad idea as computer F-Lo served/volleyed me and my slow Berydch right off the court.

While keeping the ball in play is fairly straight forward — on an XBOX 360 you just move your player via the left directional stick to the ball, select your shot (X for flat, B for topsin, A for slice/dropshot and Y for lob) and then aim — it was difficult to hit acute angle strokes and down-the-line winners like my computer opponents were able to do, and as I did in training. Then again I’m just a beginner, so maybe with a month or two more of seasoning I’ll have it down.

Serving was also tricky and something I still have yet to come close to mastering. Aces are a rarity in this game as are big serves, which according to the on-court speed gun sometimes top out around 110mph on first serves. So if you are looking to dive and smash winners from all around the court, crush serves and light up the screen, this probably isn’t the game your you. But if you like to work the points, get into long rallies and employ tactics and strategy this might be your ticket.

As the name implies, though, the key of the game is really getting into the net and putting away the volley or smashing the overhead. That’s where points are won and lost and in SCT3 strong net play really is rewarded.

The game also offers plenty of playing options. In addition to a tutorial, you can play in exhibition mode, which is a quick one-on-one or one-v-computer match, or in arcade mode which puts you into a short five-match circuit.

If you are really into it, you can test your skills by embarking on a pro career. Through pro career mode you create and customize your own player, choosing his appearance, clothing, playing style and skills. You start out on the circuit ranked No. 250 in the world with a goal of working toward No. 1. There’s a lot to it and too complicated to get into in full detail here, but you have to select your playing schedule and accumulate points, prize money in hopes of improving your level/ranking which in turn allows you to purchase/acquire more playing skills like more power or accuracy.

Once you build up your player level, SCT3 gives you the ability to compete against other gamers online, provided you have an XBOX Live subscription of course.

There are also several on-court features that stand SCT3 apart from its competition. The game incorporates a challenge system you can use if you feel you got hooked by a bad call, though when you win a challenge on a shot that’s a clear-cut winner evidently the point must be replayed.

As points conclude you can press a button and have your player throw his racquet or give a fist pump or even taunt your opponent. I even noticed that after I, playing as Henin, beat computer Sharapova, the handshake, if you could even call it that, at the net was exceptionally cold! There was no pat on the back like I saw at the conclusion of Rafa/Roger. Intended or not, it was a good touch!

And in addition to singles play you also have the choice of playing doubles.

All in all, Smash Court Tennis 3 is great fun if you are looking for a quality tennis game simulation that features easy gameplay without all the crazy, unrealistic special effects.


Click here to purchase or to find out more on this Smash Court Tennis 3.


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11 Comments for Review: Smash Court Tennis 3 (XBOX 360)

JCF Says:

“Smash Court Tennis 3 (SCT3) follows in the footsteps of two successful earlier releases, and it joins Topspin 3 as the latest entries in the XBOX 360 tennis genre.”

Ugh… The first game (on PS2) sucked balls. The timing had to be so precise to be unplayable.

The second game was much better, but still slower than a real match, and it was hard to hit winners.

Then they released Roland Garros 2005, which I thought was as good as the series was going to get. The speed was just right, and the ball required more precise timing than other games like Virtua Tennis or Top Spin, but not so much as to be difficult.

Then they released SCT3 on PSP, and that game was really really slow. Take Hamburg tournament, and slow it down by a factor of 3-5, and that’s SCT3.

I have no idea what they’ve done with SCT3 on Xbox 360, as I don’t own a 360, but if it’s anything like its PSP namesake, I’m going to have to pass on it.

My impression from your review Richard, is that you’re not a gamer. Forgive me if I’m wrong on that, but all your glossing could have applied equally to numerous other tennis games that came before it.


sensationalsafin Says:

I only have SCTPT2 and JCF I have no idea what you’re talking about. Slow? What? Hard to hit winners? No offense but you must suck. I hate how easy it is to hit winners, aces, drop shots, lobs, the whole nine yards. I could beat the computer with my eyes closed.


JCF Says:

You must be playing a different game. SCTPT2 for me, you could have rallies lasting over 50 hits as the norm. The ball is not as fast as a real game. Aces are definitely hard to hit, or rather, it’s hard to get aced by the AI.

Roland Garros fixed that. Perhaps the reason it doesn’t seem slow to you is because you never played RG. After RG, going back to SCTPT2, you could really notice the difference. It doesn’t change the fact that rallies took forever (though I am playing female vs a male player). You run them from side to side and they still retrieve everything.

And by the way, I win 6-0 6-0 6-0 on hard against any AI player. Justine is my main player, but I can beat the men with her as well, not dropping a game.

Even on grass it feels slower than clay, and your stamina drops into red so damn quick because of all the rallies, then it gets even more boring because all your shots are weak.

To be sure it’s the same game, I remember the roster had Hewitt, Ferrero, Safin, Roddick, and a few other guys. On the women it had Henin, Hantuchova, and a bunch of others than I’m not sure about because the roster was changed in RG.


sensationalsafin Says:

I’ve never heard of Roland Garros. I’m gonna look it up. The only time I have rallies that last 50 shots is when I wanna make it a little interesting and hit the ball back to my opponent everytime. Otherwise, if I wanna hit a winner, bam, I hit a winner. It’s damn near impossible to be aced or passed by the computer because the computer plays like and idiot and it pisses me off. I don’t like playing with the women because I hate the women’s tour but I have and they hit even sharper angles than the men do. Idk how Justine Henin is able to produce an ungettable shot against Marat Safin who’s three times her size but it’s really easy to do.

I kinda know what you mean by the game being slow. The computer sucks but I never have any trouble getting to a ball. And it’s not like other games where you dive so I’m not making ridiculous gets. I’m always ready and in position for the next shot no matter what. Imo the game isn’t very realistic. It kinda downplays real life unlike other games that overexaggerate real life. I love this game. But VT3 is the best there is.


NachoF Says:

My comment is “awaiting moderation”???… I cant believe this…. every day we get a bunch of spammers whose only contribution is “tH3 K!nG iz De4dz! F3der3r sukczz!” and I’m the one who gets the “your comment is awaiting moderation” message??….. please, give me a break… the truth is this is not a gaming site and that review clearly proved the author’s lack of knowledge on video games


Richard Vach Says:

JCF – I am not a gamer, nor a gaming expert, that’s true. I am also not familiar with the other versions, but like you say this game is indeed slow. Rallies can and do extend for a very long time (had one rally go 87 strokes) especially if you don’t rush the net or hit a winner, which I still cannot seem to do with men’s players.

NachoF – Correct, we are not a gaming site, but we are a tennis site so what’s wrong with reviewing a tennis video game? Regarding your moderated post, you call the game a “true disaster” pointing to a negative review, but have YOU actually played it?


NachoF Says:

Well, I was just stating my opinion that this site should not cover video games because there are professionals for that who, IMO, do a much better job… but you can still do it if you want to… regarding my comment about the game being a “true disaster”, I still don’t see why its getting treated differently than all the other comments like “Fed sukz ballz” and such, I dont see any moderation in those cases…. it was an opinion, that I at least backed up with links to reviews from professionals…. and NO, I have not played the game…. but that does not mean I cant tell if its a true disaster or not


sensationalsafin Says:

How can you tell if a game is a disaster without playing it? That’s just ignorance. Richard don’t pay any attention to these haters. I appreciate you giving this review. When it comes to tennis games, I never listen to the gaming “experts”. Tennis games suck compared to real video games, but they’re pretty much the only games I play so I know a thing or two about tennis games. If this game is that slow than that sucks but if I have the chance I’m definitely gonna play it.


Blah Says:

Roland Garros 2005 was only released in Europe, wish I could play it but can’t because of the ps2 region thing (plus I can’t find anyone selling it anywhere)

Tennis videogames- There’s topspin series, then virtua tennis series, then smash court. I haven’t played topspin 3 yet but from the reviews it sounds like that’s the game that comes closest to being a simulation. Virtua tennis is arcade and too easy. The first topspin game has all the shots, but the court positioning prevents it from being a real simulation. And you can win in straight sets once you get the hang of it (even with the strongest opponent in the game, in this case, Blake, pulling off ridiculous and unrealistic shots.
I love the first smash court tennis game though. It’s so hard it’s fun. You can’t lose any concentration at all or take one false step toward the wrong direction, everything has to be timed perfectly, so it’s actually a challenging game and any time you enter a match with the computer on hard difficulty it’s pretty much up in the air. If there was more of a noticeable difference with topspin and slice shots, and they let you hit aces or allowed you to use a flat/power shot more often, It would definitely be close to a simulation (and if they tweak with swing timing/animation a little). But I definitely liked the difficulty of the game.
If I were looking for a next gen tennis game though, I would probably get topspin 3.


NachoF Says:

sensationalsafin,

Ignorance is talking about video games and calling people ignorant on them in the same paragraph where you admit you dont even really play that many video games…. just cause you are not capable of telling if a game is good or not without playing it doesnt mean people with a little more experience on the subject are also unable…. I can tell when a game is a true disaster without playing it… just like I can tell my grandmother is a true disaster at tennis without ever actually watching her play and just like I can tell a bed without a mattress would be uncomfortable without trying it etc etc etc (just like I can tell McCain would be a terrible president?? nah, thats stretching but Im sure you get my point)…. so next time try to think before you post ;)…. and still, no one has told me why my comment deserved to be moderated while all the other ramblings on this site are overlooked.


sensationalsafin Says:

It’s not that I haven’t played other games, I just prefer tennis games most of the time.

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