AO Tennis originally came out in January in Australia and New Zealand only, but sadly it seemed like an early beta title at the time. The game crashed a lot, the physics felt off and the game lacked a lot of content. Thankfully over the last couple of months, developer Big Ant Studios has released lots of update patches adding in more content and changing the gameplay. Now the game is out now in more countries around the world being rebranded as AO International Tennis. Have the new patches been a big improvement?
A lot of gamers had trouble learning the physics of the original AO Tennis game as the game was difficult to master. Not to mention the original release of the game did not even have a practice mode or tutorial. Over the last couple of months, Big Ant Studios has reworked the gameplay entirely that it feels like you are playing a completely different game altogether. Another commendable thing Big Ant Studios did is finally add a tutorial to the game too!
However, the new physics is polarizing to say the least making the game much harder than it should be. I remember Big Ant Studios made the gameplay faster and fun prior to patch 1.15. My brother and I enjoyed the game lots when it was this patch. Sadly though, people that play AO International Tennis will never experience this because all they will get to play is the new gameplay physics.
The main problem I have with the new physics is that is makes you need to time the ball perfectly while at the same time you have to watch where you position your feet too. Before patch 1.15, I was able to play the game in Legendary mode difficulty quite easily, but now I struggle to keep the ball in play. If you don’t time your shots correctly, you are going to hit a lot of faults.
Another thing that has not been improved much is the difference between the court types. In other tennis games, the ball acts a different way depending if you are playing on a hard surface, grass surface or clay surface. Here in AO International Tennis, the ball acts the same no matter what surface you play on. Not to mention you don’t see the players create footprints on the clay courts like in other tennis video games as well.
That said, one thing that is commendable about the new gameplay is that the animations have improved a lot since the game’s original launch back in Australia and New Zealand. When the game first came out, every player had the same looking strokes and everyone ran like robots on the court. Now you can see much more varied stroke animations that mimic the real life players as close as possible. The animation is more than just a cosmetic change because each player plays differently too depending on their own respective strengths and weaknesses.
Even though the animations have improved, the graphics still don’t look that great in my opinion. While it’s great to see that Big Ant Studios manages to recreate the arenas from the Australian Open grand slam tournament, it’s the character models that still look bland and fake. It’s hard to explain, but the visuals look more like a PS3 game compared to the photo realistic graphics we get in other sports games released by EA or 2K.
Speaking of characters, casual tennis fans are going to be disappointed with the lack of star players available in the game. Rafael Nadal and Angelique Kerber are by far the most recognizable names on the roster, but no other big stars join them. People like Roger Federer and Serena Williams are missing and the game lacks stars from the past too. You can however create your own characters, and you can even download characters online if you are too lazy/unskilled to do it yourself.
While the lack of stars and average graphics are disappointing, I will give Big Ant Studios credit for finally fixing the Doubles gameplay. If you did not know already, the original release of AO Tennis was infamous because the Doubles gameplay was entirely broken. Your partner would glitch out or freeze for no reason and there was no chance of winning. Thanks to lots of updates, I can safely say Doubles matches are now playable and AI partners are very responsive.
The game is also less buggy than it was before. I remember playing the PS4 version of the game and it would crash lots of times for no apparent reason. Well now I have played the game for several hours on a PS4 Pro and I have not experienced any crashes whatsoever. The only glitches you may have is some lag when it comes to online matches, but that’s about it.
In terms of game modes, there’s your standard Career Mode, Australian Open Mode, Online Mode, Casual Mode, a Creation Mode and a Tutorial. The create mode is pretty fun because you can customize your own tennis courts and give it a name. Not to mention the aforementioned ability to create your own people to play in the game.
Overall, AO International Tennis is far better than when the game was originally released for gamers down in Australia and New Zealand, but it’s still far from a perfect game. The lack of stars and mediocre graphics are sure to displease many while the actual gameplay is too complicated making it hard for casual gamers to enjoy what it offers. This game would have been much better if Big Ant Studios kept it as patch 1.15 because the new gameplay style just makes the game unnecessarily harder than it should be.