Review: TopSpin 2K25 serves a great tennis sim experience

topspin 2k25

It’s funny to think that TopSpin as a series has been around for over 20 years at this point given that it only started on the original Xbox, but damn, that system could be considered retro at this point and we are all getting old. If I had to name my favorite among tennis franchises, though, this one wouldn’t be on the top of my list, given my crazy love for Virtua Tennis and the Super Mario variety of the sport, but after playing TopSpin 2K25, that just might change.

Okay, let’s not kid ourselves here: this game is on a different level when compared to the other two I mentioned given how in depth its gameplay is and the fact that it strives to be more of a sim than a mere “smack a ball around a court” in a similar fashion to the actual sport that frankly Nintendo’s off-shoot Camelot-headed franchise is. This one even features a cartoon character of its own in the form of John McEnroe, who all kidding aside is a living tennis legend.

Given that it’s been literally decades since that dude played, it’s understandable that his name might fly over the heads of a lot of people reading this review, but he is among Serena Williams, Andre Agassi, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal, to name a few greats off the top of my head. So having him be your tennis instructor here and actually serve decent to incredibly useful advice and techniques that not only work in the game but in actual real-life playing of tennis is downright cool.

This is frankly not the first time a sports celebrity has been tied to a game, but it’s hard to imagine another one that really made use of their name in the same way as TopSpin 2K25. And it’s advisable to go through this entire shtick since the core gameplay in the game can be tricky to learn but very rewarding to master, with lots of different elements to keep track of, such as movement, positioning, and of course, hitting the little yellow ball around.

topspin 2k25
Yeah, real world athetles are in the game and they look… funky.

In comparison to other tennis games that I’ve played, this is definitely the hardest right off the bat. Even with hours under my belt learning the ins and outs of its systems, it’s still tense to step into the court and actually play against another player, even one controlled by the A.I, in a way that I never really felt with Mario or Virtua Tennis, games where you quickly start dominating and not have much of a challenge even at the highest levels.

Due to that, I’ve faced more defeats than anything else when playing TopSpin 2K25. But instead of feeling frustrated or pissed off, blaming the game for the hurdles it put in front of me, these losses were clearly entirely my own, as it demands that you beat the fundamentals into you before you can come close to being successful, which, unsurprisingly, rings true with actual tennis, one of the most physically and emotionally demanding of sports, no doubt about it.

Knowing that and working on the basics, I started having a bit of an uptick when it came to my virtual career. That’s yet another part of the game that TopSpin gets so right, having you create your own player and going through the motions as you would your usual sports sim. But in a fashion that I had yet to see applied in one of those, 2K has put a sort of battle pass in TopSpin 2K25, where you can unlock new gear and features as you level up.

People who play FPS and service games are well aware of that feature, but in the form that it is worked here is kind of weird at the beginning, given its inherent nature to hide microtransactions. But the more that you play the more you’ll see that it’s not pay-to-win; it’s  more of an incentive to keep playing and making your guy look increasingly weirder on screen.

topspin 2k25
Ah! Go get that one!

Other elements of the game work well and are to be expected, such as online play and having the ability to play through a tournament anytime you want, against pretty much anyone on the game’s roster, which I must say is filled to the brim with some of the biggest names and faces of the sport. Speaking of faces, oh boy, it’s one part of TopSpin 2K25 that leaves something to be desired, knocking on the door of the uncanny valley.

Other parts of the presentation work well enough. Arenas look their part and represent the real-world venues well and crowds do animate as well as it’s to be expected. Music-wise, though, the game leaves plenty to be desired thanks to a suspect list of songs that are borderline awful, but thankfully they can be turned off. As for its PlayStation 5-exclusive features such as DualSense speakers working as an immersion tool for the ball-hitting and grunts, it’s extremely effective.

TopSpin 2K25 surely surprised me. I came into it expecting to play a cookie-cutter sports game that could very well fit into the EA mold of yearly releases. Instead, I found something that if I didn’t have to battle a backlog of reviews and articles for the site, would spend hours upon hours getting better at it, going through the motions of taking lessons from McEnroe and trying to win in career mode. It’s a deliciously deep dish to sink my teeth in as I’m sure will be the same to anyone in the market for a worthwhile tennis sim.  

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