Sports are a natural fit for motion-sensitive controls, so I fully understand the inclination for developers to dive in headfirst with a sports title as one of their first efforts with the new PlayStation Move hardware. Racquet Sports, however, is a game that should've been left on the drawing board. It offers five different racquet-based activities, none of which are much fun, no matter if you're playing by yourself or with up to three friends.
My issues with Racquet Sports don't have anything to do with the visual presentation of the characters or the many different courts that each activity offers. While there's no doubt that an avatar or Mii-like system would benefit the title greatly, the roster of characters offers different looks and personalities which can be accentuated by some of the modest character customization options that open up through the course of play. The one issue I had with the characters is that their performance attributes are all identical, so beyond the surface-level visual differences each character feels the same as the next in practice.
But the real problem with Racquet Sports isn't with its lack of an attribute system. It's the game's insistence on delivering gameplay that feels like a step in the wrong direction, even when compared against the tennis alternative in Wii Sports from two years ago.
No matter if you're playing table tennis, beach tennis or squash, the lack of control is present in every activity. Raquet Sports strips one-to-one movement when you're mid-point, turning your swings into what feels like simple button presses for different shot types. Swinging the Move controller should never feel like hitting a button, but the delay between swinging in a forehand slice motion and seeing the animation play out on-screen breaks the illusion that Move brings something unique to the experience.
The developers tried their best to offer an experience that's different and at least somewhat functional in terms of leveraging the motion-sensitive technology by adding in some slightly different control mechanics. By tilting the Move controller in the direction of your opponent's shot your player will get a little pep in his step.
Alternatively, you can also put a little more juice on your shot by holding the T trigger during your swinging motion. Those two subtle additions have the potential to spice up the experience, but even the hardest shot can always be returned if you point your Move controller in the right direction. The only time a point ends is if there's some sort of user error; it's never because one player out-duels another.
As you peruse the main menu of Racquet Sports, the many items probably make you feel like you're in for a lengthy experience with such names as "Career" and "Championship" popping up as you scroll through. Sadly playing hour after hour of your player's career doesn't amount to much more than trudging through match after match just as you would in exhibition events. The only real difference is that you might be presented with a trophy if you can win enough matches in a row, but the gameplay and presentation elements don't change much.
My biggest problem with Racquet Sports isn't its lack of innovation or the absence of a fun and varied career mode. It's the fact that each one of its five activities feels identical to the next. For some reason playing squash feels very similar to playing table tennis which feels all-too-similar to playing beach tennis. There are very slight mechanical differences (like the fact that you can do a smashing motion in badminton) but for the most part it's the same experience no matter which sport you choose.
Multiplayer is usually a saving grace for games of this sort, but that's not the case with Racquet Sports. Playing online with others does nothing for the excitement level. The delay that's experienced in solo play is accentuated a bit online and it comes with a few more annoyances for good measure.