Review: TopSpin 2K25 (PS5) - A Killer Serve 13 Years in the Making

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It’s been 13 years since PlayStation fans last got their hands on a digital racquet in the TopSpin series. In that time, we’ve jumped two console generations, and the industry has seen a massive shift towards the live service model. Put together, what does that mean for the series’ return in TopSpin 2K25? Good things, apparently, as Hangar 13 has cooked up a fun, flashy, and addictive tennis title that you’ll enjoy coming to grips with and love mastering.

TopSpin 2K25 is the confident reintroduction of this long-dormant franchise, and one we’re happy to see stand alongside the likes of the NBA and PGA series. If you’ve played a 2K Sports entry before, then you’ll know roughly what you’re getting into regarding single-player and online content — but thankfully TopSpin stands apart from the crowd with a tantalising learning curve.

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Truth be told, we’re not very good at TopSpin 2K25, or at least that was the case when we first booted it up. Swaggering into a match with our Pure Xbox colleagues, we assumed that having played the preview would be enough to volley us to victory. Yet after a staggering defeat — six sets to nil — we enrolled in TopSpin Academy, the game’s training mode voiced by none other than tennis legend John McEnroe.

We struggle to think of a game with tutorials that feel quite as mandatory as the ones in TopSpin 2K25, and we don’t mean that as a critique. We’re sure if you’ve familiarised yourself with the courts of Top Spin 4, you’ll have a much easier time adjusting. However, if you’re a newbie to the series, you’re gonna need those lessons. We even found ourselves paying acute attention despite McEnroe’s dull delivery.

Having graduated from TopSpin Academy, we fling ourselves out into the courts with our colourfully created MyPlayer character. It’s here that you’ll come to grips with the game’s timing system, which rates your volleys as “too soon”, “good”, “perfect”, and “too late”. Put together with the need for strategy, positioning, and volley types, our opening hours are like a Rocky training montage — facing defeat time and time again, but persevering nonetheless.

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This is when the magic of TopSpin 2K25 really starts to kick in. It’s an incredibly fun game to learn, and all the more satisfying when you finally start to establish your very own playstyle. Once previously unbeatable tennis stars become equal rivals, the game shines, and thanks to the DualSense haptics, slamming home a perfectly timed volley never gets old.

Of course, learning the game is only just the start. Through the MyCareer mode, which essentially acts as a single-player campaign, you’ll level up your very own player, going through more advanced training exercises and facing more difficult opponents in tournaments. Playing through this campaign will earn you points to spend in-game, cosmetic items, new courts and court variants, along with XP to level up your character.

Levelling up, which is a notedly slow process, allows you to apply points to specific elements such as your volley or serve, and since you can create multiple characters, you're essentially able to craft up different builds. Maybe you’d like a player that can hurtle tennis balls at their opponent with fierce speed, or maybe you’d prefer a more nimble player that can easily outmanoeuvre them. With each focus point comes a new playstyle, and with this also applying to those on the other side of the net, matches always feel dynamic.

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It certainly helps that the game’s AI is excellent, moulding brilliantly to the flawless animation system. Playing across the various tennis stars, you’ll notice different playstyles and even animation styles – with the likes of Serena Williams and Roger Federer providing their own mo-cap. It means you have to approach each opponent a little differently, and you’ll love figuring out how best to manipulate them on the court.

It all lends to a brilliant visual vibrancy which, when in the midst of a match, looks near life-like. Things get a little questionable when we move into the game’s match-time cutaways. Some of the main talents admittedly look great — the likeness of Williams among a few others are captured quite well. But players like Andy Murray are either completely unrecognisable or are actually a bit odd-looking. There’s certainly a hand of uncanny valley at play in TopSpin 2K25, which is a shame because most of the time it looks incredibly sharp — along with running at a stable 60 frames-per-second on PS5.

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Once you’ve reached a skill level you’re happy with, you may wish to move onto the game’s online offerings. TopSpin 2K25 has three online options: Online Exhibition, World Tour, and 2K Tour. These modes let you choose the kind of online experience you're looking for, whether that be the casual matches in Online Exhibition, or the pro-on-pro ranked matches in 2K Tour. Regardless of the mode, though, TopSpin 2K25 effortlessly transposes that dynamic essence through to its multiplayer, and in some ways actually amplifies it.

Playing with real world players adds a spark of unpredictability which can make matches all the more enjoyable — as long as you both have a solid connection. In our experience, if both have decent connection then matches are imperceptible from the offline modes, but if one player is lacking it can lead to a really laggy experience that often leads to unfair wins or losses.

We can really see ourselves playing away into the late hours with friends. 2K25 oozes a fun and casual atmosphere, which always makes it a lot of fun. However, until the end of May — one month after launch — there will be no option to invite friends, which is a baffling omission, especially after such a long wait. Until then, you’ll be matching up with randoms.

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So, with all of this said, why would you continue to play TopSpin 2K25 into the weeks and months after launch? Well, Hangar 13 promises an extensive post-launch campaign which will bring new players, courts, and even songs to the experience. In the here and now though, there is the Centre Court Pass to work through, which unlocks in-game currency, XP boosts, cosmetic items, and custom made animations for your MyPlayer. Thankfully, if you don’t fancy pouring more money into TopSpin 2K25, all the meaningful content, like aforementioned players and courts, will be added for free.

Conclusion

TopSpin 2K25 is a confident revival firmly worth the 13-year wait. Admittedly, it might not be for everyone, especially with its rather steep learning curve, but for us, that’s what we love about the game. It inspired us to dig deep into the game’s core mechanics and train our way up the ladder. We felt that competitive edge that made us want to master our playstyle and ultimately show off our MyPlayer, cosmetics and all. This is a sports game that can proudly stand alongside its 2K brethren, and one we’re thrilled to see back in action.

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