TopSpin 2K25 Review – A Strong Return

In the heyday of the tennis-sim video game genre, Top Spin and Virtua Tennis were the best players in the crowded space. However, in the time since the genre’s boom settled, the offerings have fallen off considerably, with both franchises going more than a decade without a new release. TopSpin 2K25 signals the reemergence of the critically acclaimed series, and though it’s been a while since it stepped on the court, it’s evident the franchise hasn’t lost its stroke.

TopSpin 2K25 faithfully recreates the high-speed chess game of real-world tennis. Positioning, spin, timing, and angles are critical to your success. For those unfamiliar with those fundamental tennis tenets, 2K25 does a superb job of onboarding players with TopSpin Academy, which covers everything from where you should stand to how to play different styles. Even as someone who played years of tennis in both real life and video games, I enjoyed going through the more advanced lessons to refamiliarize myself with the various strategies at play.

Once on the court, you learn how crucial those tactics are. The margin of error is extremely thin, as the difference between a winner down the baseline and a shot into the net is often a split-second on the new timing meter. This meter ensures you release the stroke button timed with when the ball is in the ideal striking position relative to your player. Mastering this is pivotal, as it not only improves your shot accuracy but also your power.

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TopSpin 2K25 is at its best when you’re in sustained rallies against an evenly-matched opponent. Getting off a strong serve to immediately puts your opponent on the defensive, then trying to capitalize on their poor positioning as they struggle to claw back into the point effectively captures the thrill of the real-world game. I also love how distinct each play style feels in action; an offensive baseline player like Serena Williams presents different challenges than a serve-and-volleyer like John McEnroe.

You can hone your skills in one-off exhibition matches, but I spent most of my time in TopSpin 2K25 in MyCareer. Here, you create your player, with whom you’ll train and climb the ranks. As you complete challenges and win matches, you raise your status, which opens new features like upgradeable coaches, equippable skills, and purchasable homes to alleviate the stamina drain from travel. Managing your stamina by sometimes resting is essential to sustain high-level play; pushing yourself too hard can even cause your player to suffer injuries that sideline you for months.

I loved most of my time in MyCareer, but some design decisions ruined the immersion. For example, I ignored portions of the career goals necessary to rank up my player for hours, so while I was in the top 10 global rankings, I was unable to participate in a Grand Slam because I was still at a lower status than my ranking would typically confer. And since repetition is the path to mastery, it’s counterintuitive that repeated training minigames award fewer benefits, particularly since the mode as a whole is a repetitive loop of training, special events, and tournaments. Additionally, MyCareer shines a light on the shallow pool of licensed players on offer. Most of my matches were against created characters, even hours deep. 2K has promised free licensed pros in the post-launch phase, but for now, the game is missing multiple top players.

I’m pleasantly surprised by how unintrusive the use of VC is. In the NBA 2K series, VC, which can be earned slowly or bought using real money, is used to directly improve your player. In TopSpin 2K25, it’s used primarily for side upgrades, like leveling up your coach, relocating your home, earning XP boosts, resetting your attribute distribution, or purchasing cosmetics. Though I’m still not a fan of microtransactions affecting a single-player mode – particularly since it’s almost certainly why you need to be online to play MyCareer – it’s much more palatable than its NBA contemporary.

If you’d rather play against real opponents, you can show off your skills (and your created character) in multiple online modes. World Tour pits your created player against others across the globe in various tournaments and leaderboard challenges, while 2K Tour leverages the roster of licensed players with daily challenges to take on. Outside of minor connection hiccups, I had an enjoyable time tackling the challenges presented by other players online. However, World Tour’s structure means that despite the game’s best efforts, mismatches occur; it’s no fun to play against a created character multiple levels higher than you. Thankfully, these mismatches were the outlier in my experience.

TopSpin 2K25 aptly brings the beloved franchise back to center court, showing that not only does the series still have legs, but so does the sim-tennis genre as a whole. Though its modes are somewhat repetitive and it’s missing several high-profile pros at launch, TopSpin 2K25 serves up a compelling package for tennis fans.

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