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Top Spin 2K25 Hands-On Preview: The Great Tennis Sim Returns

I might be one of the most excited people in the world for Top Spin to return with Top Spin 2K25, because – and I know I’m showing my age here – Top Spin and I go way back. I reviewed the original back in 2003 when I worked at Official Xbox Magazine, and gave it a well-deserved 9 out of 10 (IGN thought highly of it as well, giving it a 9.3). It proved to be a riveting tennis sim with both real-life tennis stars to play as and an excellent create-a-player career mode that let you rise through the ranks, battling for global leaderboard supremacy against other players. But Top Spin disappeared after the fourth entry in the series back in 2011 – so long ago that there hasn’t been a new Top Spin in the 12 years I’ve worked at IGN. Thankfully, though, that retirement has ended, and Top Spin is back with 2K25. I played an hour of it and quickly found that while it lacks the top-shelf presentation its predecessors had in previous console generations, it still plays fantastically.

Top Spin 2K25 delivers a lot of tennis’s biggest stars as playable athletes: recently retired legends like Serena Williams and Roger Federer, ‘90s stars like Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf, and new top-ranked players like Carlos Alcaraz and Coco Gauff. 2K and developer Hangar 13 promise 20 real-life pros in total, and this is where I’ll levy my primary criticism of Top Spin 2K25 so far: presentation. While the build I played wasn’t final, with the April release date fast approaching, it’s unlikely too much will change between now and then in the graphics and animation department. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of expression in the faces of the players that I saw, which is disappointing but not a deal-breaker since, of course, you’ll button through the intermediate mini-cutscenes to get back to the action after you’ve seen them each a few times, spending the bulk of your time playing from the familiar TV-style camera view.

And that playing? Oh, it seems like it’s going to make fans of the previous Top Spin games very happy. I confess I hadn’t played any Top Spin since 4 came out, so I was rusty. I started working my way through 2K25’s tutorials – narrated by a surprisingly calm John McEnroe – before jumping into an exhibition match as Andre Agassi. It took me a couple of games to get my sea legs back underneath me – the serving mechanic in particular threw me for a loop, as you have to press the corresponding face button harder and hold it down in order to get your meter going. But once I got locked in, I didn’t drop a game after that, settling into my familiar strategy of crushing pinpoint baseline returns to either outright win the point or set my opponent up to have to deal with a big shot on the next volley.

Perhaps the reason Top Spin 2K25’s gameplay felt so familiar and comfortable is that one of the developers told me during my demo that the team went back and looked at Top Spin 4 on a programming-code level.

Perhaps the reason Top Spin 2K25’s gameplay felt so familiar and comfortable is that one of the developers told me during my demo that the team went back and looked at Top Spin 4 on a programming-code level, bringing over everything they could to the new game on the new engine. If my playtime is any indication, they did so successfully.

The real test of Top Spin 2K25’s longevity, though, will be its MyPlayer mode, where you’ll earn XP, improve your athlete’s skill points, and take on other players online to try and become the top-ranked player in the world. I didn’t get to try or even see any of that, but previous Top Spin games shined here, so hopefully that will also prove true with 2K25.

To say I was surprised by the announcement that Top Spin was coming back after all these years would be an understatement, but I couldn’t be happier about it – especially after getting the chance to play it for a little while. I can’t wait to spend even more time with it.

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