AO Tennis 2 (Switch) Review
There’s the foundation for a great tennis game in AO Tennis 2, but its technical performance on Nintendo Switch holds it back from achieving the grand slam – for now.
As with many of Big Ant Studios’ sports games, AO Tennis 2 places the focus firmly on gameplay. It’s easy to jump right into one of many game modes, whether it be on grass, clay or otherwise. Most notably, AO Tennis 2 features a career mode packed with light narrative elements, where you can create your own athlete, or choose from a range of real-life stars such as Ash Barty. These story components include events such as press conferences where you can choose from different responses, or brief cutscenes commemorating milestone wins on the pro tour. While these sections don’t rival the quality seen in several EA or 2K franchises, I applaud the ambition and hope to see Big Ant Studios continue to improve in this area.
Pleasingly, AO Tennis 2 does a largely terrific job of emulating the titanic nature of tennis, with epic rallies and satisfying smashes a recurring highlight. Controlling your athlete feels intuitive, and there’s a solid tutorial section to demonstrate how to play different types of shots. Once you hit the court, playing tense rallies and thinking your way through points is a continually rewarding experience. The satisfaction in winning a point after executing a strategy to perfection rivals that of any other sports video game. In short: AO Tennis 2 genuinely feels like tennis, which is no small feat.
The main exception to AO Tennis 2’s tight controls is less a case of your input, and more a case of the game’s input. One of the settings you’ll want to tinker with is the auto-run feature; it automatically moves your athlete to the ball-drop, but occasionally doesn’t kick in when expected. It does work reasonably well most of the time, as you need the left-stick to aim shots while moving across the court, but the auto-run causes frustration when it fails.
It’s also worth noting that AO Tennis 2 is tough. Even on lower difficulty settings, expect to get schooled by AI competitors early on. Particularly if you decide to play as a custom-made character in the career mode, you’ll really need to grind out matches to come away victorious. I found that because of the low physical attributes when starting with a new character, it’s difficult to close out rallies with winners, due to the lack of shot speed and penetration. Compound this with the need to play conservatively, as mistiming shots (shown by the on-screen indicator) with low attributes leads to plenty of unforced errors, the early career sections feel like a baptism of fire.
Additionally, I feel like the career mode’s skills and money economy needs tweaking; I slogged out a close match over 45 minutes of play-time, only to be rewarded with a comparatively paltry amount of experience points and cash to upgrade my low-levelled player. To help the initial slog, perhaps the career mode could adopt a more guided approach. For example, your career could commence on the junior circuit, where winning is slightly easier, equating to a higher experience point yield early on. This way, it would feel like you’re not spinning your wheels for ages and can actually be competitive sooner on the pro tour.
Comparatively, playing with a new character on the Xbox One version felt more approachable – whether it was due to better balancing, a more stable frame rate, or another factor, I’m unsure. In the meantime, I recommend playing as an established star while learning, as you’ll still be challenged, but you’ll feel better equipped. This may diminish the sense of accomplishment in conjuring a rags-to-riches story with a custom character, but it will alleviate plenty of frustration in the process. Take solace in the fact you’ll be more capable of ripping a forehand winner down the line.
There are a couple of bizarre bugs worth mentioning. Firstly, AI opponents sustain a comical number of injuries during matches. They just seem to rack up torn rotator cuffs just for fun! Often, opponents will cop the same injury repeatedly, with no discernible difference to their performance. Secondly, AO Tennis 2 did not like it when I swapped from handheld to docked mid-match. When connecting a Pro Controller to the Switch after docking it to a TV, it would not let me proceed beyond the missing controller input screen. This required exiting and rebooting AO Tennis 2, after which I was told the autosave data was corrupted. Fortunately, I was able to pick back up from just before the match, but it was an odd bug.
Unfortunately, when compared alongside AO Tennis 2 running smoothly on an Xbox One X, the Switch version’s technical shortcomings are disappointing. The reduced quality in visuals is a given, as with any Switch port – no worries there. However, when playing in handheld, even following the day-one patch, frame drops and stutters are common, as are awkward character model animations. Considering the timing-heavy nature of tennis, these issues aren’t so easily dismissed. Thankfully, performance is stronger when docked to a TV, but two main issues remain: it’s still not yet at parity with the more powerful platforms, and AO Tennis 2 is currently a hard sell for anyone sporting a Switch Lite. Big Ant Studios are well-known for their post-release support of games, so there’s little doubt we’ll see improvements in the coming weeks and months.
When everything works as intended, AO Tennis 2 is a contender for one of the best tennis games on Nintendo Switch. Closing out tense rallies and the satisfaction of winning from a losing position is immense. However, various performance issues on Switch limit its full potential in comparison to its beefier console counterparts. Updates will come, but the Xbox One and PS4 versions of AO Tennis 2 are much easier recommendations right now.
+Superbly recreates the sport of tennis
+ Plenty of content
+ Solid tutorial
- Performance issues and bugs
- Career mode feels unbalanced early on