Tuesday, May 30 2006 @ 12:00 AM CDT
Rockstar Games just happens to be one of those developers that donít come along often. Gamers everywhere follow the studios releases and every one of them seems to become a blockbuster. No doubt, Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis will be no different. After the massively successful Grand Theft Auto series tossed us into a life of organized crime in a huge sandbox, we return to where video games all began in the best looking game of Pong of all time!
Table Tennis feels like it just left the Rockstar chop shop. Unlike most of their titles, Table Tennis is very linier and offers very slim options to choose from. There is no create a character mode like we would find in most sports titles and there is a total lack of a story mode. Instead we get a small stable of players to choose from with more being unlocked after finishing a tournament. Each player has attributes in regard to spin, serving, power, and shot accuracy and has outfits and stadiums they can unlock as well.
There are four basic types of shots; topspin, backspin, left spin and right spin. Each of these moves is executed with one of the face buttons on the controller. The longer you hold a shot the more power you have behind the shot. It's also possible to use the analog stick to direct where the ball goes. However, if you hold the stick in the one direction for too long then the ball will actually go off the table. You will be adequately warned of this though, as the controller will start to rumble. The preferable way to play though is using both analog sticks. Though it feels weird to start, it does give an incredible amount of control over your shots. Moving the right stick around to control the spin on your shots and using the left stick to control movement and placement seems to give the most control overall. Though the buttons respond perfectly, the stick just seems like the preferred control scheme for those looking to climb the leader boards.
During the actual match the game puts a small color cue on the top of the ball (which represents the shot your opponent used) and it's possible to counter these shots. It's actually quite surprising how many controls there are to learn and this is all explained in the training mode, so we definitely suggest you take your time to work through it. Though it takes time, being able to identify the spin on the ball is possible and extremely easy thanks to the color coding. If you plan to play online or against buddies it is one part of the game I suggest learning. In Table Tennis you will quickly find itís all the little things that pay off in the end.
The eleven players are all modeled with the attention to detail we expect from most sports titles and have fluid movements, giving justice to the sport. Players will sweat, shirts will move realistically and sweat beads will form on the players. The playing areas all look uniquely different though it wonít matter much with most of your attention being paid to the tiny white ball.
As you would expect the sound is quite minimalist and it suits the style of the game well. Occasionally you'll hear a chant from the crowd but mostly it's just basic noises. The paddles to ping pong noises though are all very lifelike.
Multiplayer though is where this game shines. While most sports games will take half an hour to play from start to finish, a table tennis game can be knocked out in 5 minutes depending on the skill of people playing. Xbox Live matches are easy enough to find and for the most part will play out quite well. There are times however when lag will pop up and the ping pong ball will vanish from both players. Normally this ends up costing one person a point and though doesnít happen every rally, is frustrating to see when you are 40 rally into the point and next thing you know you are blindly hitting the invisible ball back and forth.
The Xbox 360 achievements are pretty well spread throughout offline and online play. There are plenty of unlockable items in the game from characters through to costumes and arenas. Single player wise it doesn't take too long to actually get through all that the game has to offer, but online play could definitely extend the lifespan of the game, considering there are online ranked and unranked matches as well as online achievements to unlock.
Overall this game delivers the only thing we were ever promised from it; Bad ass Table Tennis action. Though it is very simplistic in nature, it is that same trait that makes this game so amazing. If Jen can pick up the game and look like she has mastered the gameplay in less then 10 minutes anyone can. Between the low learning curve and amazing gameplay it would be tough to not suggest anyone grab this game. Considering the game was released at a budget cost of $39.99 how could you not pick this game up.
The single player may not offer any deep gameplay options or the ability to create your very own Forest Gump, but this game was designed to play with friends. I have no doubt this game will quickly gain its ground on the top ten games played on Xbox Live.
Stay classy Rockstar San Diego.