Top Spin 3 PS3 / Xbox 360

Top Spin 3 PS3 / Xbox 360
Sports titles may be among gaming’s most popular genres, but in the summer it can be hard to justify sitting inside to play them. This is particularly true of a tennis simulator like Top Spin 3. Given the steep learning curve of its revamped control scheme, TS3 is so not pick-up-and-play that one might be better off putting the required time into learning the actual sport.

But with this summer’s record rainfalls, you may already be inside — in which case, the question is why play a tennis game on a PS3 or 360 when you could be whacking virtual balls with your Wii (hmm… that sounds dirtier than intended). The high-def console versions boast a sweat-soaked realistic look and all incorporate many of the sport’s biggest players, including Federer, Sharipova and legendary grunter Monica Seles (but no Venus or Serena and only Sony shelled out for Wimbledon champ Rafael Nadal).

The courts are a globe-hopping collection (Dubai, Buenos Aires, Seoul, Sydney) that run the surface gamut from grass and clay to hard and indoor. In other words, Pong’s come a long way, baby.

But though the simulator game is fun enough on the hi-powered consoles once you get the hang of the control’s split-second timing requirements, Nintendo taught us that tennis is really purpose-built for motion controls. But Nintendo’s packed-in title amounts to little more than a software demo so folks want a better, more realistic experience. Alas, Top Spin 3 is not the Wii Sports-killer that tennis fans have been waiting for.

Top Spin 3’s Wii version scores plenty of points on that end. The controls are more accessible than the higher-end versions and use the nunchuk for player movement instead of letting the machine do half the work like Wii Sports. But by eliminating much of the depth found in the other versions — no create-a-character, crappier graphics, no online (though they do have multiplayer party games) and not sensitive enough motion-sensitivity — it still doesn’t quite win the match. (2K Games)