TopSpin 2K25 review – game, set and match to an engrossing tennis sim

Estimated read time 4 min read

Tennis is one of those sports that has only been intermittently well served by video games. The odd major series comes along, such as Pete Sampras, Virtua Tennis or Smash Court, but often we’re left relying on old favourites (take a bow, Super Tennis). It’s been 13 years since TopSpin 4 was released, and that title is considered such an authentic simulation of the sport that people are still seeking out copies to this day. But perhaps no longer: 2K Games has at last produced a follow-up, and it’s a true championship contender.

From the opening, TopSpin 2K25 has all the detail you’d expect from a modern licensed sports sim. All the key stadiums and championships are here – though the play environments are only adequately detailed, rather than the stunning theatres of photorealism we’ve come to expect from EA Sports. There are 25 star players in the opening roster, from Emma Raducanu to Andre Agassi. It’s not a huge selection and the quality of the likenesses varies, but it’s good enough and 2K says it will add more in the future.

If you don’t want to cosplay as Carlos Alcaraz, you can take part in a full career mode with your own player. Mine is adorned in shocking pink Lycra and a pair of neon yellow sunglasses, a look I may well carry over into real life. There are exhibition matches for a quick knockabout with AI or up to three friends (online or split-screen), or you can take part in ranked or friendly online tournaments. Your appearance and skill set are totally customisable with a range of outfits earned through play, or (in a feature seemingly unavoidable now) by buying the season pass or browsing the store. It’s great that you can choose to build a player with a prosthetic limb, too.

What really counts, of course, is the on-court experience, and that is excellent. The control system is intricate but also accessible, the joypad buttons giving you access to flat, slice, lob, topspin and dropshot options, while power is controlled by how long you keep the button pressed. As with TopSpin 4, timing and positioning are crucial skills. This is not a hit-and-hope game in the Mario Tennis style – take a shot too early or too late and it will drop into the net, rocket into the upper stands or give the other player an easy smash. At the same time, you’re constantly thinking about where your player is on the court relative to the shot you’re about to make, and the possible return from your opponent – a decision process made more demanding by the extremely good player physics, which replicate the weight positioning and momentum of the body with subtle accuracy. Super proud of that lunging cross-court slice shot you just made? Good luck getting back to the baseline for a thundered Serena Williams return.

For players used to the more instinctive feel of Virtua Tennis or the forgiving generosity of Mario Tennis, there is a demanding learning curve ahead. This is underlined by the presence of the TopSpin Academy, an in-depth tuition mode, which steadily guides you through from basic ground strokes to advanced serving tactics and individual player techniques. Learning the timing alone will take a few hours of play. You don’t need to stress too much if you’re just playing the odd knockabout with friends, but if you want to progress through the career mode or play online against human opponents, you’d better be hitting shots with “good” or “perfect” timing at least 75% of the time.

But this is a good thing. 2K Games has made a game that feels like a proper simulation, in terms of the array of tactical options available at each moment and the demands it places on player skill. Completing the TopSpin Academy actually taught me a lot about real-life tennis strategies, and about how pro players differ in their use of baseline and net play. It’s also clear I have a lot of room to grow as a player, through experimenting with power shots, perfecting tricky dropshots or redistributing the attribute points of my player to aid different tactical approaches.

Thirteen years is a long time to wait for a new tennis sim, but TopSpin 2K25 is worth it. If there’s one thing that this game teaches you, it’s the value of determined patience. Well, that and the fact that you can match pink Lycra with yellow sunglasses and look amazing.

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