TopSpin 2K25 review: a familiar forehand winner

TopSpin 2K25 review
Image: supplied.

Nostalgia is what drew me into TopSpin 2K25: satisfying tennis gameplay is what kept me interested, even when with some relatively light game modes.

As far as sports games from 2K Games go, it’s a little pared back from the likes of the gargantuan NBA 2K series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what you want out of a game.

As mentioned in my preview, TopSpin 2K25 excels as a local multiplayer experience, jostling elbows with your mates on the couch. Its tutorial is also excellent, starring an enthusiastic fatherly-sounding John McEnroe as your encouraging coach.

TopSpin 2K25 tunnel screenshot

Despite this, the full version of TopSpin 2K25 makes a strange first impression. Throwing you immediately into a Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, the game doesn’t provide much guidance. Instead, it whisks you through pivotal moments in the match interspersed with montage sequences as the scoreboard ticks over.

Doubly confusing is the fact the game immediately shows you how off some of its athlete likenesses look. Federer looks like the Swiss master, but Murray looks like a somewhat athletic person randomly plucked from the crowd. It’s an odd cold open considering the terrific work developer Hangar 13 did elsewhere, not limited to the strikingly accurate depiction of Serena Williams.

Shake it off

Brushing off an anxious first impression, TopSpin 2K25 quickly lets you get to the meat of the tennis action. No excessive bloat or confusing menus slow your ability to simply jump into a match and play.

Even for returning players – from 2011’s Top Spin 4 – McEnroe’s in-game coaching clinic should be your first port of call. Here, you learn the tennis basics, building your way up to nailing advanced shot types and strategies. Player movement feels satisfyingly responsive, as does the weight of hitting a forehand winner down the line.

TopSpin 2K25 court screenshot

Like the real sport, fatigue plays a major part in each match. Sprinting to chase returns and hitting high-powered shots depletes your player’s stamina. While worn out, you can’t cover as much ground, and poorly timed shots are more likely to miss. Subsequently, each point is as much about strategy as it is about skill and execution – one of TopSpin 2K25‘s strengths in replicating actual tennis.

Do you try to outmuscle your opponent with heavier shots? Maybe you play defensively, conserving energy with slices and wait for a mistake? These are some of the things you need to think about as a match ebbs and flows. And when one strategy doesn’t work, you need to be able to adapt quickly before a match gets away from you.

He’s serving

Fatigue management forms the bulk of your time in the MyCareer mode, which may not sound sexy, but it’s fairly true to life. The crown jewel of TopSpin 2K25‘s varied game modes, MyCareer is where I spent most of my time creating a player (roughly) in my likeness.

In addition to the weariness built up during matches, your athlete sustains fatigue by travelling to different locations. Each in-game month offers you the choice of participating in up to three events: a training session, a sponsor event, and a tournament.

TopSpin 2K25 menu screenshot

Any travel or matches played adds fatigue; build up too much, and you’re at increased risk of injury. So, how do you avoid this? Through the radical act of resting. All of this happens through menu options, which isn’t terribly exciting, but we can’t be winning Wimbledon every day of the week, can we?

There’s not as much flourish in this MyCareer mode as there is in other 2K franchises, like dramatic narrative beats. Nor is there an unnecessarily tacked-on open world filled with branding opportunities. So, if you’ve just seen Challengers, don’t expect any steamy love triangle subplots.

TopSpin 2K25 does house an element of in-game monetisation, though it’s nowhere near as egregious as some of its companions. For one, there’s a Centre Court Pass, based on the popular “battle pass” system, where you unlock rewards by playing and checking off milestones. A paid tier is available, but the only benefit is cosmetic – 2K’s notorious Virtual Currency is separate from the MyCareer progression system.

Plus, there’s no rush to unlock Centre Court Pass items. In-game seasons, based on the major tennis tournaments, last roughly a couple of months at a time. Fortunately, once a season ends, you can still access its unlocks in your own time, eradicating the exhausting FOMO exacerbated by seemingly endless live service games.

TopSpin 2K25 gets the basics right

Compared to other sports, tennis contains far fewer variables. There aren’t as many athletes on the field of play or external factors to consider. Perhaps it’s why TopSpin 2K25 doesn’t feel all that different to the game I played over a decade ago. This time around, it looks nicer and controls a bit tighter, but it’s essentially a modernised version of what’s come before it.

TopSpin 2K25 forehand screenshot

And you know what? I’m completely happy with that. It’s been years since we’ve had a tennis game of this calibre. Barebones game modes aside, the act of playing virtual tennis feels as good as it ever has.

TopSpin 2K25 is out now on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.

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