We didn't win the World Cup, and our brave Tim sadly crashed out at this year's Wimbledon to Pistol Pete - although not before progressing farther into the tournament than any other Brit for the last 30-odd years (despite his efforts to convince us otherwise, Greg Rusedski is and always will be Canadian).
But let's face it - when it comes to tennis we're still pretty poor as a nation, despite having grown up with Pong, losing days playing Super Tennis on the SNES and more recently laughing out loud at the hidden characters in the rather tasty Pete Sampras Tennis '97 on the PC. With the exception of football games (obviously), tennis games are quite possibly the most fun you and a mate can have after closing time without getting arrested.
Everybody knows the rules (well, most people know that the objective is to hit the ball over the net), the controls are usually pretty simple and the satisfaction of smashing one past your chum after a double-figure rally is arguably one of the greatest gamepad-assisted highs you can experience. Unless, you're into... well, we'll leave it there, shall we?
Okay, so tennis games are great, but do we really need another one?
I love tennis games and I think that Super Tennis is the best there's been, so it's definitely in my top ten, maintains Peter Cook, Producer of Actua Tennis. Tennis games are so much fun, especially two-player games and doubles. The game of tennis transfers really well into computer games and if you can get the gameplay right you're onto a winner. No-one's really come close to Super Tennis on the PC.
So what's going to make Actua Tennis stand out from the crowd? Is it going to make use of that motion capture malarkey, I wonder?
Paul gives a wry grin. It certainly does, as does the whole Actua range. We are the pioneers of motion capture and like to think we're still ahead of the pack when it comes to sports animations. In fact, the player animation in Actua Tennis is the best we've seen in a tennis game.
Enough corporate ranting. So who did the honours? Anyone we know? It was a young, up-and-coming player who's very well thought of in the tennis world, grimaces Peter. He isn't famous though. Which presumably means he's English.
Okay, so motion capture undoubtedly makes the animation look more realistic, but there's always the danger of it taking over the control from the player as the CPU completes each animation cycle, a bit like FIFA used to. So why bother?
Because it really is so much better than traditional animation, argues Peter. Basically, it's a much longer, more drawn out process. Scripts need to be written, people and locations need to be booked, and time set-aside for the actual capturing. We then need to clean them up and get them all to fit together. It's a lot of work, but it really is worth it. And the way we do it, the player always remains in control. You just keep your cycles short.
Okay, so tennis games are fun, and motion-captured graphics look better than traditional animation, but as anyone who's played one will tell you - control is everything. Have Gremlin come up with any new features to make Actua Tennis more playable?
We've gone for a very easy to pick up and play control method, says Peter. It's a very natural method and the different shots are obtained by timing - how early or late you get to the ball.
How many different shots can you perform? Any trick shots? There are about 54 different types of shot, but like I said, these all come under the same umbrella and are achieved with the timings and your position when you hit the ball. There is one trick shot, which is known as the super shot.
But let's get to the interesting stuff. Has it got ball boys and girls in it? Can you hit them? It has got ball boys and girls in it, smiles Peter. But as regards hitting them, er... no, you can't! This is Actua Tennis not Rollerball on grass!
Well then, can you argue with the umpire? Are you some kind of weirdo? Do you have a problem with authority or something? Beating up ball girls and arguing with umpires - this is tennis not WWF!
Okay, will there be chalk dust? Or procedural textures for that matter? Yep, smiles Peter, looking relieved. There is chalkdust - and the ball leaves a mark on the ground. Chalk will also come off the ball when it's hit if it has just landed on the line previous to the shot. Sounds impressive, so who's doing the commentary for Actua Tennis? Anyone we know?
The commentary will be done by Barry Davies, Sue Barker and Pat Cash. We think that's an unprecedented collection as regards any tennis game.
Advantage Actua Tennis
From what we've been privy to so far, Gremlin are putting together a very playable little number indeed. After being thrashed by Peter 6-0, 6-1, we can assure you that the speed, range of shots and control system is indeed impressive.
It also looks pretty smart too, with ten stadiums from around the globe, each modelled in Ctrue' 3D; 32 male and 32 female players to play against; real-time shadows; and bilinear filtering to help eliminate pixellation. You can also customise the look of your player and even select their clothing, height and build. And these are not just visual tweaks - the latter two factors actually affect how quickly your player moves around the court and how powerful their shots are. There's also the usual array of tournament and multi-player options, world tours and mixed doubles.
Maybe it's time to hang up that SNES after all. Just a shame you can't hit the ball boys.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode