The developers at Big Ant released the original AO International Tennis title in 2018. Now, two years later, AO Tennis 2 feels like weak DLC at best over the original as flaws remain uncorrected in this sophomore effort.
AO, which stands for Australian Open, is a simulation tennis game that lacks detail and options. Upon firing up the game, the very first thing that happens is the player is greeted with one of the creepiest 3D character models ever created. Outfitted with a soulless stare, this rendering of a professional tennis player looks like it should have been placed inside the latest zombie shooter. If this first impression didn’t dissolve all hope for a quality tennis sim then the menu system surely will. Composed of nothing more than blue squares and plain text, the player needs to navigate one of the blandest menu screens of all time. Using licensed music tracks is a distracting attempt at sparking some excitement but ultimately doesn’t help the overall watered down, laughable presentation.
But who cares about boring menus and swollen character models when there is plenty of quality tennis to be played, right? Unfortunately, the same tedious swing mechanic found in the first title remains unchanged here in the sequel. Instead of simply tapping or holding down a button to store shot power, the player must wait for a meter to land on green before swinging, sort of like the active reload feature found in the Gears of War series. This system makes it nearly impossible to accurately and consistently return fast shots. Tennis is a fast paced game so sometimes there simply isn’t enough time to respond using this “wait for green” indicator.
Although the hollow main menu might seem like there are many gameplay modes to select, each gameplay option is essentially the same thing just reskinned. “Play Now” is your basic exhibition match. “Career” follows the player like a real life tennis professional where the player is tasked to perform at media events and manage travel schedules. This feature might sound good on paper to increase the realism of a tennis sim, but managing travel dates and rest time is about as fun as managing your own Outlook calendar. “Academy” gives the player an option to build a venue and logo although neither are fun and worthwhile. “Scenarios” allow the player to prep a match with certain rules and options. The “Competition” setting lets the player set up a massive tournament up to 128 players. All these modes are essentially the same game. Just pick one player against another. No more, no less. There are no RPG leveling systems, there are no mini games, no drills to perform, no rackets to unlock, and there is even the absence of a practice setting although something could be created in the Scenarios option. There is, however, an unadvertised option found in the pause menu to instantly finish a game which is a thoughtful feature but seems random regarding what the outcome will be.
There is the ability to create a player using a number of different customization sliders but like the opening character model, all look rather creepy. Plus, are you really going to care about the size of your player’s nose when your character’s back is facing the camera the entire time? I also encountered what I think is a glitch where my character wasn’t saving and would default to the random initial settings. There is also no option to sort by left or right handed players, the player must suffer through a stupid highlight or replay reel after every single point, and the friendly AI in a doubles match is beyond dumb – they never poach or slam shots away nor can the player provide direction or call real time plays. In fact, playing doubles is nearly unplayable and solo players would be better playing 2-on-1. If this wasn’t bad enough, the load times are ridiculously long. Playing on an Xbox One, load times can easily take minutes to load a simple one game match, meaning players can be in the loading screen longer than actually playing the game.
AO Tennis 2 is nothing but an unfortunately shame. All the problems of the original title transitioned into this sequel along with many new ones. Even if the tennis gameplay was fun and intuitive, the player would still need to suffer through the lame menu system and complete lack of gameplay options. This sequel is the equivalent to losing a game by double faulting four points in a row.
Better Than: Tennis (NES)
Not As Good As: Tennis (GB)
Also Try: Instant Tennis (Switch eShop)