a game I was sure was an April Fool's gag, it sure
plays well. by
8, 2006 - To
tell you the truth, I was looking forward to playing
Table Tennis for the 360 about as much as I look forward
to a root canal. One of the first thoughts in my head
was that this game would be, at best, an updated 21st
century version of Pong. I wasnt really far
off the mark but its so updated that it could
be perceived as even being better than actually playing
table tennis in real life. This is due mainly to the
fact that you will be able to play at a much higher
level than you would in reality, at least for the
casual player that might play the odd game of ping
pong in his or her rumpus room.
by Rockstar games, Table Tennis, is just a damn fine
ping pong game. There is no storyline, no hookers
or pimps, no cars to highjack and there are no weapons
with which to shoot the ball or your opponent with.
So what are the surprises, you ask? After all, this
is Rockstar were talking about. The biggest
surprise is that there are no surprises. Table Tennis
is as basic as a game gets. Its budget priced,
but its still a 360 game which makes it about
the same price as a PS2 blockbuster. Dont expect
any career mode, any mini-games, any character customization
or even team play. All you get is a Training, Exhibition
and online Tournament mode. There are three difficulty
settings: easy; medium and hard. On easy, the game
is more forgiving and this is where everyone should
start, after the Training mode that is.
Training mode wont take up too much of your
time. There really isnt much to learn, its
putting these skills into practice that can take you
a long time. Youll learn how to aim, serve,
return, spin and counter your opponents spins.
The right stick is used to aim the ball and you can
use the left stick to put different spins on the ball.
There are four spins that you can use: top; bottom;
right, and left. The spins impart what amounts to
potential energy that is released when returned by
your opponent. Depending on what kind of spin you
put on the ball it will end up going in a different
direction than where your opponent intends it to go.
There are moves that you can use to counteract these
spins if you suspect your opponent has added one.
The analog stick works well for adding the spins but
you can also use the face buttons if they feel more
the controls are excellent. You wont be cursing
them. They are very responsive and intuitive. Even
on the highest difficulty setting they still feel
solid but let me tell you, I need a few more days
practice before I can do this difficulty setting justice.
Even at the easiest setting I can see that there is
lots of room for improvement. What makes the gameplay
so addicting is that your skill development is all
up to your style of play and the time you put into
it. There are no power-ups, no equipment upgrades
and no unlockable pros that will kick everyones
ass. You cant even create your own character.
There are about 10 characters to choose from, each
with different skills. There are four skill categories
which include accuracy, power, spin and serve. These
skills can be enhanced as you progress.
only thing that youll unlock are some new outfits
for your character. This lack of extras is actually
refreshing. I applaud Rockstar for just sticking to
the basics. This is a game of ping pong and thats
exactly what it is. You can play it for a few hours
as a rental or get right into it and challenge other
gamers in the eight-player Timed Tournament mode.
In this online mode, up to eight players take part
in a round-robin style tournament in which all players
progress but they are entered into classes with players
of similar skill levels. The game translates well
to online play. Its just as smooth and responsive
as the offline modes.
are some graphics and animations that could only be
processed by the 360, but overall its not an
impressive looking game. The arenas are rather dull
and lifeless. Its the facial renderings, expressions
and body movements that are astounding. You might
notice that the body is a little slow to react to
your control. The hand is quick, as long as youre
in the right position. You have to anticipate your
opponents shot and try to get in the perfect
spot before the ball enters your court. If youre
not proactive youre going to lose a lot of games.
After a few hours you should be getting into some
incredibly long rallies. Dont be surprised if
you return more than 50 shots. This is something that
would be incredibly rare in real life but yet feels
totally natural in this virtual game. The camera is
so well behaved you wont even notice it, but
since its my job to notice, Ive made a
note of it and must give credit where credit is due.
I wouldnt expect any less from Rockstar.
music and crowds are dynamic. They become louder and
more aggressive as the match intensifies. The crowd
may sound a little silly cheering for a ping pong
game but once you get into it you also wouldnt
expect any less when youre out there strutting
no reason not to check this game out, if even for
an evening. Its fun and there is a lot of nuances
to the controls which will ensure that few players
will master it in a weekend. Its a very realistic
portrayal of a sport. If youre a Virtua Tennis
fan you simply owe it to yourself to play ball with
Sport Simulation: Recreates the tension of professional
table tennis across 19 environments.
World Champion: Play through the challenging tournament
mode or battle head to head on Xbox Live.
Next Gen Game-Play: Lifelike character models and
animation, advanced lighting and hyper-realistic
on the Xbox Live Online System.