Review – AO International Tennis

I miss when tennis games were all the rage. From Top Spin to the first couple of Mario Tennis titles, the sport (my favorite in real life) had a wide array of titles for all types of players, from arcade-loving casuals to deep simulation fans. Just like the vast majority of sports not called football and basketball, we haven’t seen many new tennis titles in a while, with the exception of a few terrible shovelware titles every now and then. AO International Tennis tries to revert the situation by bringing a (supposedly) deep simulation title for the current generation of consoles. Let’s find out if they managed to succeed or not.


Where’s Djoko? I wanna play as Djoko.

Despite what its name might suggest (AO stands for Australian Open, get your mind out of the gutter), the game isn’t centered around one Grand Slam tournament. The game features a well-crafted career mode featuring character progression, Challengers, Futures, sponsorship deals, a fictional version of the ATP rankings, and so on. Since the game isn’t very arcade-friendly (everything is slow-paced and focused around simulation), this is where you’re going to spend the most time at. Your objective is to make your player rise from an initial 1500th place in the rankings all the way up to number 1.

The gameplay itself isn’t very good. You have access to a wide array of moves, such as top spins, volleys and the like, but the controls and your overall movement are very faulty. You never feel in control of your character, as there are moments in which you can actually decide where to move, as well as moments in which it feels like the game is doing the movement for you, in a very poor manner, may I add. If you want to do a “serve and volley” strategy (like I do in real life), you need to wait until the game allows you to go near the net in order to become a one-man wall. Tennis is a sport in which moving around the court is as important as hitting the damn ball itself, so stripping you of your moving options is incredibly frustrating. When you do have control over your character’s movement, however, it feels incredibly sluggish, even when you’re playing with a fast character.


The audience and my rival look very cheap.

The main problem here is how lacking the game is when it comes to licensing. There’s no Federer, no Djokovic, no Wawrinka, no Wozniacki, no Williams sisters. The biggest star in the game is Rafael Nadal, a phenomenal player without a doubt, but someone far from being considered a star player when it comes to the Australian Open brand. The half a dozen licensed stars are also joined by a gigantic amount of fictional players, in a pseudo-Pro Evolution Soccer method of populating a licensing-devoid game with a bunch of generic digital avatars.

The solution to this relies on the game’s best feature: its vast array of creation tools. You can create both players and stadiums with an immense amount of depth. You can also share your creations online, therefore “fixing” the overall lack of licensed names by letting players create and share versions of Federer, Azarenka, and even classic players like Kuerten and Sampras. AO International Tennis‘ creation tools are absolutely incredible, and I found myself spending as much time trying to (and failing at) create my virtual alter ego as I did playing the game itself.


The creation tools are the game’s highlights.

AO International Tennis isn’t exactly a bad tennis game, but it’s far from being the best one I’ve ever played. It has some interesting ideas, but it also suffers from clunky controls and an overall lack of licensed players. It just feels incomplete. If you’re into creating a virtual version of yourself, this game might be interesting for you. If you want to play as fully licensed Federer or Djokovic in a bigger tennis game however, just wait for Tennis World Tour. If you want a more accessible and arcadey tennis title, a new Mario Tennis game will be out soon enough.



Graphics: 6.0

Characters can either look very detailed on their creation screen or last-gen during gameplay. The textural quality of all assets is a mixed bag. The framerate is decent though.

Gameplay: 5.0

The controls sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Shot placement isn’t well-explained and the characters move at a very slow pace, even when their speed stats are maxed out.

Sound: 7.5

The game alternates between decent rock tunes while on menus, and complete utter silence when playing the game, just like in real life.

Fun Factor: 6.0

While AO Tennis features a nice career mode and some impressive editor tools, its overall lack of licensing and clunky controls are a huge letdown.

Final Verdict: 6.0

Reviewed on Xbox One.
Also available on: PS4