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June 2024

TopSpin 2K25

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Publisher: 2K Sports
Developer: Hangar 13
Release Date: April 26, 2024


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PC Review - 'TopSpin 2K25'

by Cody Medellin on April 29, 2024 @ 12:15 a.m. PDT

TopSpin 2K25 is the next must-play sports game in the series, that fully immerses fans into the world of tennis.

Top Spin 4 came out on consoles in 2011, just one month before Virtua Tennis 4 hit both consoles and PC. For many players, that marked the end of the two big tennis games; those new to the sport had to rely on the likes of AO Tennis, Matchpoint, and Tennis Elbow to continue the sport in video game form. After 13 years, TopSpin 2K25 marks a return for the series — and the hope that the magic from the previous game hasn't been lost after all this time.

The game starts off with a match between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, where you take control of Federer in certain parts of the match. It mimics what you would see in any of the recent Madden NFL games from EA, but it does so without any prompts or explanations. You can stumble through this match, and some past knowledge of how to play tennis games in general can get you through, but this unguided approach can be a shock for modern players.

Regardless of whether you win or lose that opening match, TopSpin 2K25 sends you to the main menu and encourages you to hit up Top Spin Academy, where you'll go through the controls and nuances with John McEnroe as a guide. The tutorial videos are very informative and provide a decent idea of what the lesson wants to accomplish, but it feels like some of the lessons, such as different shot types, occur much later than expected. For example, one lesson teaches you about hitting balls in certain zones, but they never tell you that hitting a slice gets your ball closer to the net, which is one of the zones you need to hit in the lesson before moving on. It works fine, but it would've helped to rearrange the order of the lessons.

The control scheme has changed a bit from previous iterations. On a gamepad, the face buttons still control different shot types — slices, top spins, basic lobs, and flat shots — while the Right Bumper allows for drop shots. New to the scheme is the idea of holding down a button and releasing it for accuracy. A new power meter appears whenever the ball is coming your way, and your timing on the button release determines if you'll hit the ball in the spot you aimed for or if your shot will go wider or hit the net.

The good thing about the control scheme is that the learning curve isn't as high as other recent simulation-style tennis games. The presence of a meter at all times can be distracting, but it can be turned off. There's no other cursor to pay attention to when it comes to determining where your shots will land. It is an evolution of the older control schemes that feels just right. The bad news is that the game sometimes won't let you swing your racket when it feels like you have no chance to hit the ball. That may be fine when the ball is at the other end from where you're standing, and you'll never be able to run over in time to hit it, but this effect can also occur when the ball sails close and the power meter moves so quickly that you can't even get off a hit marked as Too Late. It can feel like your button inputs aren't registering, and it's an element of the game that needs fixing. The other thing that can ruin gameplay is the stuttering. We don't know if this also occurs on the consoles, but on the PC, we experienced some moments where the game paused for a half-second before continuing play. Thankfully, it never happened when the ball was about to be hit, and it didn't happen very often, but its presence is very concerning.

When it comes to the roster, you're looking at 25 players from a range of timelines. Newer players like Naomi Osaka and Carlos Alcaraz are present, alongside some legends of the game, like Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi. The dev team chose the bald look for Agassi instead of the mullet, which is a strange choice considering that it went with the McEnroe's classic puffy hair. The roster is decently sized for a modern tennis game, and it matches the number of tennis pros in Top Spin 4, but the promise of more pros for free makes things more bearable. The game lets you create your own tennis player, and while there are very few clothing and accessory options at the start, there are enough options in various physical traits that you can create some reasonable facsimile of real people — and a few monstrosities — within reason. Available venues hit a count of 48, nearly double that of the pros in the game, so there are plenty of chances to re-create any tournament you want, including the majors (Australian, French, U.S., and Wimbledon). When compared to golf games, the experience in TopSpin 2K25 is relatively complete if you're looking to mimic the pro tour.

There are a few gameplay modes. In Exhibition mode, you can play singles or doubles matches of the men's, women's, and mixed varieties. MyCareer ends up being the bulk of the single-player experience, as you take the created character from being a rookie all the way to a tennis legend. You get in some practice sessions, minigames and special matches, and you can enter tournaments. As with any sim of this caliber, players need to manage stamina to ensure they don't get injured at the wrong moment. You might want to skip some events to regain stamina. All progress garners XP to power up several different stats. You'll also get cash to hire coaches that have their own objectives and bestow upon you some buffs when you complete all of their tasks.

Be warned that the MyCareer mode is very long. Making progress is slow even if you turn down the difficulty to the easiest levels. You'll go through quite a number of years before you finally make it to any of the major events. It can be grueling, especially with the lack of variety in the minigames, but at least the mode doesn't come with unnecessary distractions, like maintaining a social media presence, answering to reporters or choosing sponsorship contracts.

There are three online modes, but all of them feature crossplay, a very welcome addition to ensure a healthy online community from the get-go. Aside from Exhibition mode, there's the 2K Tour, where you choose any of the available pro players and complete the daily objectives to climb the leaderboards. Meanwhile, World Tour is exactly like MyCareer mode, with the main difference being the ability to face off against real people instead of CPU players.

That's a fine base to work with, but those expecting anything more are out of luck. For example, you can't create local tournaments, and you can't play any of the minigames from MyCareer outside of that mode. Online play won't let you play in doubles matches, and you can't play directly against your friend, but that feature is scheduled to hit in a few weeks. To be fair, the modes in TopSpin 2K25 are the same ones in Top Spin 4, so it's sure to please those looking to get the Top Spin 4-like experience on a PC. It still would've been nice if the game strived for more, though.

Considering that this is a 2K Sports game, microtransactions exist, but their presence is fairly tolerable compared to their other titles. While you can earn enough virtual currency (VC) in MyCareer to get through it without spending real money, doing a full stat reset on your character requires such a high amount that you'll be forced to pay real money for the task if you don't want to create a new tennis player from scratch instead. The bulk of the game's cosmetics and XP boosts require VC, so bear that in mind. The game also features season passes, with six already planned, with free and premium tracks. The game plans on making season passes evergreen, so you can work on them at your leisure without worrying about it expiring, but their presence still won't go down well with some players. At the very least, the game lacks the trading card element that NBA 2K and WWE 2K have, so things aren't so dire.

The overall presentation is good, but it's not without issues. The tennis pros can be hit and miss with their faces, but cut scenes that show them up close don't look too appealing. There's a shadowing issue with the crowd where their skiing textures can look off, and the blur when clapping is very visible at times. The environments look gorgeous, though, and the game moves at a very high frame rate. Ultrawide support is available but quite flaky, as many of the cut scenes tend to go to the 16:9 ratio before returning to 21:9, and this happens quite often during just about every match.

The sound fares well, but it also isn't faultless. The game doesn't feature too many voices, so don't expect anything in the way of commentary between serves in a match. McEnroe's presence in the training academy is fine, but the podcasters that play after every event in MyCareer can get tiresome. The music is surprisingly good, as it goes for several EMD songs and remixes all with a more relaxed vibe. When it comes to sports soundtracks, this is perhaps one of the better ones.

Steam Deck owners will find that TopSpin 2K25 bucks the trend of many other recent releases in that it just doesn't work on the device. No matter which version of Proton you use, the game will boot up but crash on the company logo sequence. The game kicks the player to the desktop on a Linux PC but crashes the Steam Deck badly enough that it initiates a full system reboot. There's no doubt that a fix will arrive shortly after launch, but prospective game owners might want to hold off on their purchase until then.

TopSpin 2K25 feels like a reboot of the series rather than a proper sequel. The lack of game modes really makes the title feel like it's starting from scratch and trying to nail the fundamentals before approaching more offbeat stuff. Despite the occasional missing inputs and stuttering from time to time, the game remains enjoyable enough that you'll want to master the controls and get in a few matches against others quite often. It needs work for future iterations, but for now, TopSpin 2K25 is solid enough.

Score: 7.0/10

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