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Rockstar Presents Table Tennis Review

By Brian Beck, 6/23/2006

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I used to play a lot of ping-pong when I was in middle school in California. I wasn’t that good at the sports that most kids wanted to play – wasn’t really agile enough or fast enough to play football and weight lifting wasn’t fun to me. Ping-pong, however, was something I was good at. I would come in first or second place whenever we’d have eight-man tournaments.

Time, however, went by. I’m much older now and haven’t played ping-pong in years. Sure, I’ve had thoughts of buying a table for our apartment up at school but I figure the table would be used more for beer pong than anything else.

When I heard that Rockstar was producing a table tennis game, I was shocked to say the least. I never expected the House That Grand Theft Auto Built to go with a game like table tennis. I figured that there would be some twist, something other than a straight up table tennis game. However, I was wrong – and Rockstar has pulled off the major departure from anything they have ever produced with style while leaving room for improvement in the future.

First things first – the game is not deep at all. There is no career mode. No story mode. No sort of mode that will last for even a few days. There’s exhibition where you can play a single game, tournament mode where you play a series of games and training. All of the single player options are just more games. Sure, you can unlock more players, but it is a very simplistic set of games with nothing much to strive for after you’ve managed to unlock everything.

If the single player isn’t too great, though, what is the purpose of playing? Simple – multiplayer is what this game was made for. Whether you choose to play with a friend locally, over XBOX Live with that friend or against a random opponent in a ranked game, Table Tennis truly shines in the multiplayer arena. Finger and I took the game online and he picked the game up before the end of our second set of matches – and that was his first time playing. This game is ideal for those parties you might throw where you and some buddies want to play a video game where most people can be on an even level.

XBOX Live performance is nothing short of awesome. Finger and I played for about an hour and we had no real connection issues. The game never got jumpy or laggy. At times, one of us wouldn’t see the other’s hit animation – that wasn’t a huge issue, though, as the ball kept moving as if it was hit just like normal. The only major issue that we did have with the online game was that it didn’t seem there was a way to have a rematch. We played a single game and then I had to invite him back for another. In all, the issues with XBOX Live are far outweighed by the good.

See, Table Tennis is all about reaction time and not being horribly out of place. The ball gets hit, you react and smack it back with the same type of spin that it was sent at you with. Or, alternatively, you can send it back with a different type of spin in an attempt to throw your opponent off guard. Swing too early or late and you may pop the ball up, giving the person across the table the chance to smash the ball back to you.

None of these controls are hard to pick up on either. A button puts topspin on the ball, Y does backspin, B is a right-spin while X is a left. You can actually combine these buttons to make a top-right spin, too. If you’d prefer, you can use the right thumbstick to hit the ball and perform the different spin types.

Aiming your shot is also easy – while holding a spin button, simply push the thumbstick in the direction you want to aim. Push too far, though, and the controller will vibrate heavily. You can correct this if you haven’t hit the ball yet, though. Hitting the Left bumper will also hit the shot softer, dropping it near the net on the opponents side (or, if you aren’t careful, on your side of the net). In all, the control scheme is incredibly easy to learn but has enough depth to it to make games interesting.

Table Tennis also has another big plus – the graphics are excellent. Each character model is animated very smoothly as are their clothes. The textures are incredible as are the environments. The effect that you get when both players start doing really well is neat, too – the whole arena goes black and focuses on just the action. Small touches help the graphics, too – the color around the ball, for example, tells you what kind of spin was put on it. The net reacts the right way to the ball hitting it. Overall, Rockstar paid close attention to detail with the graphics.

That attention didn’t stop there, though. The sounds are definitely what you would expect and truly sound authentic. Seriously – go get a buddy and play ping-pong for awhile. Then come and play Table Tennis. If you hit the ball soft, it makes a soft sound. Smash it, and it sounds like the ball nearly breaks with the impact. When you hit the net, the ball makes an appropriate sound there, too. There really isn’t a word for the sound, though – you need to hear it to get the differences. Let’s just say that anyone who has played a real game of ping-pong will appreciate the authenticity in the sound.

Rockstar Presents Table Tennis is a very hard game to come down with a final judgement on. On one hand, you have a game missing the most vital element of any sports game – the career mode. On the other hand, Rockstar has put together a game with great graphics and sound, excellent ball physics and incredible multiplayer options. All of this comes wrapped up in a package that retails for $39.99. Overall, I definitely enjoyed this experiment from Rockstar. As it stands now, Table Tennis is THE game to pick up to play with your friends – it is the best multiplayer game yet on the 360.

I’m anxiously awaiting a Table Tennis 2 – complete with a career mode. Hopefully Rockstar makes it happen.

Overall: 88%



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