I can't stand watching tennis in real life, but for some reason I've always found myself addicted to tennis video games.
And I have to say, EA Sports' new "Grand Slam Tennis 2" is right up there among the most fun virtual versions of the sport I've played.
The game changer? "GS2's" new control scheme that takes advantage of both analog sticks in order to move your character and swing your racquet.
Following the leads of other EA Sports titles like "Fight Night" and "NHL," "Grand Slam Tennis 2" attempts to break you free of button controls for a more fun, more fine-tuned experience, where, with a little practice, you can hit any shot you see in real life with just the flick of a stick.
And while the gameplay experience is far less of a sim as compared to a game like "Top Spin," I find it a lot simpler, and a lot more responsive, and the more I play with Total Racquet Control, the more I prefer it over any other tennis game on the market.
"Total Racquet Control is anything and everything to do with your racquet," producer Liam Millar tells me when I ask about his new game. "While the left analog stick moves your character around the court and gets you into position to setup your shots, the right analog stick represents your tennis racquet. At it's simplest, it's the paddle that you would hit the balls with in a game called 'Pong.'
"But where you finish your flick with the right analog stick, from the far right to the far left to straight up the middle, determines where the ball goes. You have flat shots, top-spin shots, and slice shots, and it all depends on how you flick that right analog stick. Simply flicking forward and to the right will hit a flat shot to the right of the court. But if you pull back, hold back, then flick forward and to the right, you will hit that same shot to the right of the court, but it will hit a top-spin shot. Then your third shot, which is a slice, is performed by holding back on the right analog stick, then almost like a pinball mechanic, you simply release the stick to slice the ball. The only modifiers would be L2 and R2 which help you hit lobs or drop shots."
Add to that a new Adaptive A.I. where computer opponents actually learn from your behavior and attempt to counter the way you play, and you have a game that stays competitive, whether you're playing a human opponent, or against the computer.
Says Millar: "If you're playing against Rafael Nadal, he will sit back on the baseline and wait for you to make a mistake, then pounce on that mistake accordingly. If you start to dominate a player with your forehand, smashing the ball down the line, then your opponent will try to keep the ball away from your forehand, hitting the ball so that you're forced to use your backhand. In tennis, it's all about knowing your opponent's strengths, then forcing them to stay away from those strengths as much as possible, and that's what Adaptive A.I. is all about."
EA Sports even went to various Grand Slam events with boom mics in order to capture all of the signature grunts and groans of your favorite players in the game.
So not only will Maria Sharapova play like her real life self, she'll sound like her too.
"If you're playing the game, Sharapova is definitely somebody you want to go in and listen to," Millar says with a laugh. "She's very distinct."
Talk about the complete package.