Rockstar Games
Rockstar Games
Sports
1-2
05.22.06

Table Tennis (Xbox 360)


Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis is not only currently an exclusive Xbox 360 title, but also a game/genre that has never really been done before. Of course you could include Pong, as this is a game of ping-pong, but besides that when do you remember playing a videogame that is table tennis? Probably never, and certainly not like this! Rockstar games Presents Table Tennis is not just some boring game of ping-pong, it's rather an electrifying table tennis experience.

Gameplay

Before you play Rockstar's Table Tennis, you pretty much have no idea as to how the gameplay will actually play out. The first initial feel of Table Tennis will feel somewhat similar to the Top Spin and Virtua Tennis titles, and I mean that in a good way. I was able to pick up and play this game in a matter seconds. The table is small, so everything is happening at a very fast pace. Once you are in a game, you either serve, or wait to return the serve. There is something called a Focus Meter that starts off in red, but has potential to turn yellow, and then green. One would think that Table Tennis is a simple game. For the most part it is, but the Focus Meter is probably one of the most key factors. It adds to the gameplay because you can "focus" and return the ball at a much faster rate, and be precise with your shots without having the ball go out. When the Focus Meter is activated on both sides of the table, it creates this pressure that causes you to get a little tensed up. The lights dim down as both players are at the top of their game, and rally's can easily reach over 100. Non-stop action going back and forth across the table is pretty much what this game is all about. Many times during a multiplayer game (especially online) I would just be sucked into the game because one wrong move is all it takes to lose a critical point.

Initially, only 4 characters are selectable. You'll have to win some tournaments to unlock the rest of them. There are 11 playable characters in total, and they each have a different feel when it comes to the gameplay. Some of them are all power, such as Jesper. However, Jesper also has no serving skills. Then take a character like Kumi. She has great spin and serving abilities, but is hardly accurate with her shots. There are a lot of give and takes with the 4 attributes (spin, serve, power, and accuracy) of each character. Rockstar did a great job in providing a variety of players that actually have noticeable different play styles when it comes to the gameplay.

The single player/offline experience has a little more presentation to it. When a focus shot is activated, the game will get slowed down and zoom up close to the shot. This adds a little more to the game to make it even better. Online, it's just straight back and forth with no fancy angles. I can understand the reasoning not to have the fancy stuff in the online mode, because sometimes it will appear as if your opponent is no where near the ball, and the ball it get returned somehow. Network lag is probably the only reason this happens, and keeping the gameplay straight forward while online is all that matters.

The first selectable main menu item is Tournament. As you progress in the Tournament, you will unlock little things like new outfits for your character. As you play higher skill levels, the better the unlockables get. And of course there are all the achievements in the mix as well. The AI only gets tougher as you progress in any of the tournaments. The single player tournaments are broken down into Amateur Circuit (easy), Rookie Circuit (medium), and Pro Circuit (hard). There is also the unlockable expert tournament, which is the All-Star Circuit.

When it comes to actually hitting the ball, it can be as easy as pressing a button, but there is also much more technique that can be involved. You have 4 different types of hits, but you can also aim the direction of your shot, and you can also perform a soft shot. The aiming is pretty good most of the time, and you will be warned if it is going to go off the table by the level of vibration that your controller feeds back to you. You can get away with a little vibration, but too much will cause the ball to be out. Table tennis is a game where you wait for your opponent to make a mistake and then capitalize on it with the right shot back.

As I mentioned before, each player has a unique set of attributes, and it is smart to apply those when playing on the table. There are also 4 types of shots. The 4 types of hits are: Top Spin, Back Spin, Left Sidespin, and Right Sidespin. There's a lot of different variations and combinations when it comes to hitting the ball. If you hold down one of the 4 spin buttons, this causes the ball to have greater spin (and also charge up your Focus Meter). One of the most important shots is the soft shot. This is executed by pressing the left bumper. The A button (Top Spin) will always pretty much be a safe hit.

Besides Tournament, the other modes of play on the main menu are Exhibition, Training, and Xbox Live. There is also an extras option. The extra menu gives you a summary of each of the players, and also includes each one's strengths. It comes in handy to know your characters abilities when learning how to play with any given player.

The replay mode after each point is a little weak. There aren't many options like in most sports games. You can't even pause it. You can only slow it down, restart it, or change angles. One of the most frustrating things about the gameplay that I haven't mastered yet is not making the ball go "out". It's realistic in the sense that when a player slams a ball to my side, that there will be a greater force when it bounces off my paddle. You may have to back up, or use the soft shot option, or a combination of the two. Other than that, the rest of the gameplay is right on. The good thing about this game that I like is that there is nothing complicated about it. You always know what you have to do, and where to navigate to. They didn't go overboard with adding things in just to make it annoying to play, and I commend them for that.

Graphics

Rockstar went all out with the graphics in Table Tennis. As a match gets heated, you can see the players perspiration as their shirts become disgustingly sweaty and wrinkled. The facial expressions are also notable, as the players just look real. The reactions of the players after a play can be a taunt or just a straight up angry scream. However, the way they react is exactly how I was feeling after making a mistake or a getting a huge point. The little Sports Club's/Venues the matches are played in look amazing. The floors, the players, and the tables are rendered perfectly and show off the 360's power. The crowd is somewhat in the background and you don't see them very often, but when you do you can tell Rockstar spent some time animating them as well.

Sound

The audience in Table Tennis is another key factor at causing you to feel the pressure. You can hear the crowd get quiet, and then hear them chanting your name for the final game point. You really want to win, and it gets crazy. The other sounds of the game are the voices of the characters. Some of them are laughable, but still done the right way. All the characters come from different countries, so each one usually has a yell, an "oh yeah!" cheer, or a sigh of relief. Other then the flashy upbeat music on the menu screen, there isn't much sound besides the announcer in the background saying who's serve it is and what the score is. It is quiet most of the time, and Rockstar has done a good job in ensuring its authenticity.

Replay Value

The single player experience may not last too long in the sense of not having a dedicated "career" mode to build up your character. You are going to want to play this on Xbox Live for the real competition and tournaments. On the whole, the gameplay is simple enough for anyone to pick up and play, and for $39.99 this is a worthy addition to your Xbox 360 game library. Most of the players are not unlocked at the start of the game. Other items, like new clothing must also be unlocked. You have plenty to unlock, but more importantly the gameplay of Table Tennis is solid.

Bottom Line:

Table Tennis by Rockstar Games is one of the most nerve wrecking game I've ever played. I would definitely say this is a great game to play for single player, and even better for the multiplayer. It's a great game for friends, or family to just sit back and have a fun little tournament. To top it off, it's only $39.99. Just go out and get it!

Related Links:

Official Website for Table Tennis
Table Tennis HD Trailer - 45.5MB

-Steve Melanson




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