Hands On Preview: Matchpoint Tennis Championships - No Frills Fun For Xbox Game Pass

In just over a month's time, we'll be getting a brand-new tennis game launching day one on Xbox Game Pass in the form of Matchpoint: Tennis Championships on July 7th, and we've had a chance to go hands-on with it recently — not just the publicly available Steam demo, but also a preview containing a large portion of the full game.

We're not going to go too in-depth here - we'll save that for the review in a month's time - but in a nutshell, you can rest assured that this is shaping up to be a fun addition to Xbox Game Pass. The key takeaway is that it gets the basics right, which we haven't always been able to say about tennis games in recent years (like Tennis World Tour).

On the court, gameplay is fast and fluid, requiring you to move a little reticle in your opponent's half of the court in order to aim your shots, and use the buttons to vary your shot type, power, and precision. The sheer speed of the rallies lend an arcade-style Virtua Tennis feel at times, but in general Matchpoint: Tennis Championships actually has a lot more in common with the excellent Top Spin 4 and even AO Tennis in terms of how it plays.

Perhaps the thing we're most impressed with is how the animations from shot-to-shot transition so well - they're not as good as Top Spin 4, but they're not that far behind - so you can really get some immersive rallies going without feeling like you're being cheated by the game. The one exception to that rule is when volleys come into play, as the AI tends to snap into them a little too robotically at times, although there are certainly ways to get around this. Volleys are tough to navigate in general, as the game moves so fast that it's often difficult to push to the net for a volley without losing the point, but it's do-able.

The key thing is that the gameplay generally just feels fun, and also nicely balanced in terms of things like errors and how the CPU reacts to your shots, while another impressive layer of strategy is that you can identify opponents' strengths and weaknesses in the middle of a match, which unlock as you find them out, and that means you can start trying to play to their weaknesses in order to turn the tide of a match later on.

In terms of a single-player campaign, there's a standard, enjoyable enough career mode where the goal is to move up the rankings and eventually become number one, competing in tournaments, exhibitions and training exercises along the way. You can design a character (albeit a fairly basic one), upgrade them with new equipment and coaches over time, and ultimately embark on a (hopefully) lengthy career to become the best tennis player in the world.

Where Matchpoint: Tennis Championships isn't going to impress is in the details of the character models, which admittedly do look quite poor at times - Tim Henman really doesn't look like Tim Henman at the moment - but aside from that the presentation is just fine. The courts and stadiums look OK, the commentary is minimal but effective enough, and the two camera angles are both fun to use, particularly the TV-style broadcast camera.

And that's kind of where our impressions lie with Matchpoint: Tennis Championships at the moment. It's a fun tennis game for Xbox Game Pass that purely focuses on getting the basics right, and it does a commendable job of that. It doesn't have the AAA presentation of a Virtua Tennis or a Top Spin, so it's worth keeping expectations in check, but it's nevertheless shaping up to be one of the better Xbox tennis games we've seen in years.

Looking forward to Matchpoint: Tennis Championships on Xbox Game Pass? Tell us down in the comments.