In addition to overall skill/experience, you earn special abilities that provide specific performance boosts when you beat each legend. You can choose from Nadal's forehand topspin, McEnroe's net volley, Roddick's power serve, and more. The catch is that as you unlock abilities, you only have one slot at first, with a further two slots unlocked along the way. While this might be rewarding in a game with a shallower difficulty curve, in Grand Slam Tennis, it fails to be fun, even if eventually unlocking skills can be rewarding. You can change your abilities at any point, allowing you to tweak your player's strength to your preference, though, which does give you more options later on in the game.
I don't care if you think it was over the line, I'm telling you that ball was in!
Multiplayer is fun and simple to play in both offline and online games. Because both players are equally hampered by the control scheme, it ceases to feel like an unfair battle with the AI. Getting online is easy, and after jumping through a few menu screens, you can quickly get into an exhibition match with friends or other players. You don't need to set up an EA account to play, and with little to no lag, it's great to see online play implemented successfully in a third-party Wii game. There's also an online leaderboard where you can view your rank in singles and doubles matches, the top 100 players worldwide for both match types, and a country leaderboard that lists nations by their cumulative win/loss record. You can play unranked matches or ranked matches where you win or lose points for each win or defeat. Unfortunately, you can only play exhibition matches online, and it would've been great see a Tournament mode or party games available to play online. In addition to regular matches, Tennis Party has seven offline games for up to four players. Aussie Doubles is a particular highlight where three players take turns playing two versus one. Single players earn double the points, and the player that's first to win three points is declared the winner. Drop and Lob is also rewarding where you earn double for winning points when using a drop or lob shot.
Grand Slam has gone for a cute, cartoony style rather than realism, and it looks crisp and bright. The end result works well, and the likenesses of the players are surprisingly well crafted. Pete Sampras certainly looks like a caricatured version of the real thing, and you will be relieved to know that John McEnroe's character sports a fantastically bouffant mullet. Although the crowds lack up-close detail and the officials and ball kids appear motionless and lifeless throughout matches, the rest of the visuals are easy on the eyes. All of the courts are well represented in the game; for example, Wimbledon has sunlit grass, the US Open has floodlit courts, and the French Open has clay.
Unfortunately the game's audio doesn't live up to the same standard. The electronic soundtrack may have the celebrity name of Paul van Dyk behind the mixing, but it features rather forgettable tracks. Meanwhile, the voice of Wimbledon champion and veteran commentator Pat Cash lacks excitement and enthusiasm; thus, his commentary comes across as rather pedestrian. It's also a bit strange, albeit amusing, to hear him commentate while playing on court. He is featured as a legend in-game and tends to enjoy self-praise. The sound effects, on the other hand, are all well done with the ball, players, crowd, and ambient noises sounding as they should. Hearing the crowd rise and fall with the gameplay is great, and the crowd will really get behind a long rally.
Grand Slam bundles all four Grand Slam tournaments in one package.
Grand Slam Tennis has some great inclusions, with a varied selection of well-styled licensed players, all four Grand Slam tournaments, and a number of modes, including online play, to keep you busy. Despite this, the overall experience is let down by a control scheme that's frustratingly erratic. As a result, the gameplay is difficult and made even more challenging by the need to level up your character by defeating the sport's champions. Despite some successes, Grand Slam is a tough sell. Serious tennis fans will not find the finesse, controls and deep Career mode that they expect, while novices or those looking for a pick-up-and-play tennis experience will likely find it overly challenging.