Break Point

Break Point
1.5
Game Name: Break Point
Media: 1 CD-ROM
Publisher(s): Ocean
Developer(s): Ocean
Genre(s): Sport
Release Date: 21st November 1996
Serial Number: T-16408H-50
Region: PAL

breakpoint1

Break Point is a tennis game released by Ocean on the Sega Saturn in 1996. At first glance it seems to have everything needed to be a great sporting hit. There are 8 players to chose from, 4 different kind of courts, 3D motion captured animation, singles, doubles, 2 player mode and a Super Cup which features 4 different ‘tours’ to compete in. However Break Point, like most British players at Wimbledon, turns out to be a big letdown.

Firstly a quick word about the graphics. Although the visuals of Break Point don’t push the Saturn to it’s limit they’re not too bad. During play the players look fuzzy and lack any real detail. In fact they are so poorly defined that when a character is on the far side of the court it is sometimes difficult to work out whether it is male or female. However, the courts have some nice touches such as the worn patches on the grass surfaces. As well as the different surfaces, there are several different stadiums and surroundings which, although individually rather bland, do add variation. Another plus point is the animation on your player as he/she gracefully goes through with your chosen shot. The game info and credits go to great lengths to point out the use of motion capture and, as one of the early Saturn games, it does look quite impressive.

breakpoint2The sound is very dreary. During a match simple ball noises are only punctuated by the wooden speech of the umpire. A bit of crowd noise after a point, or during a long rally, would have been nice if only to create some atmosphere. The menu screens have a tiresome tune and, apart from some simply beeps and a bit more stuffy speech, that’s about it.

However you could live with the graphics and sound if the gameplay was good enough. Unfortunately it’s awful. Break Point is one of those games that you wonder just who the hell play-tested it and decided that it was good enough to release on the unsuspecting public with a full price tag. Tennis is a game of control and speed. This game has neither.

The first main fundamental problem I have is that you cannot direct the ball to the location you want. If you are in one corner of the court you cannot play the ball cross court to the opposite corner. Sure you can try and place your shot and use the after-touch, but at best you’ll only be able to direct the ball to the middle of the court.

breakpoint3Now this leads to the second fundamental problem. The computer AI. As you can only direct your shots slightly to the side of your opponent it means that it is fairly easy for the computer to reach the ball and smack it back to you. This would obviously lead to some incredibly long rallies. However a lot of the points that you win, you win because the computer simply misses a ball which is hit straight at it. No glorious passing shots. No cute drop volleys. Nope, just smack it straight back at him and hope he misses it.

And there’s more. The game is slow. Each point is played at a fairly mundane pace. Between points you tend to have to wait for the ball to stop bouncing and the ball boy to collect the ball before you can skip the animation and get on with the next point. A closely fought set could well take as long as the real thing. According to the controls you are supposed to have a variety of shots at your disposal, but whether you use a standard stroke, topspin or backspin seems to make very little difference to the shot you hit. Also you have the option of an automatic slow serve or a more advanced manual serve. However you cause the dimwitted computer opponent more problems with a slow automatic serve than a powerful manual serve!

breakpoint4If you persevere long enough to play a few games on practice you can enter the ‘Super’ Cup, although as you can tell I can’t find anything ‘super’ about this game. This competition consists of four tours, three of which need to be unlocked. Each tour involves four tournaments on a variety of surfaces. Winning or finishing runner up on each tournament earns you points, and when you’ve enough points you will unlock the next tour. And here lies the final nail in Break Point’s coffin. There is no ‘save game to memory’ feature. There is a password system to restore your previous conquests. However, on a 90’s console that has both built in memory and a nice empty memory cartridge I really don’t feel the need or desire to have to start typing in a 10 digit password which would take up about 4k of memory.

In order to do an even handed review I have spent quite a while revisiting this game and can only conclude that Break Point is a very poor piece of Saturn software. Unless you are seeking it to complete your game collection I’d recommend staying well clear.

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