Reviewed by Jimmy | 05.31.06
Introduction:The gaming world was eagerly anticipating a next generation title from Rockstar Games. In Rockstar fashion they shocked the gaming community with their non-typical announcement of their next generation game, Table Tennis! No Midnight Club, Manhunt II, Grand Theft Auto IV, but Ping Pong! It wasn't April fools and the Rockstar San Diego crew was truly hard at work on their first Xbox 360 title, the one and only properly made Table Tennis game. It's real, oh yes. Forest Gump would be happy! Here is our review of Rockstar Presents Table Tennis.
The Game:I know it is hard to take Ping-Pong, or Table Tennis as a serious sport, but it is. For lots of people worldwide this miniature version of tennis is a way of life. Like any sport, Table Tennis has world famous athletes, national rivalries which spawns a competitive natured game along with the purity of fun. I've never played professionally, but let me tell you I've had a few games with people that take this game seriously and trust me on this one, those people will take you to school. The Rockstar version and all around isn't as good as the real thing, but as far as videogames go, this is a close as it is going to get.
Even though this venture from Rockstar is only simple Table Tennis, this simple Table Tennis game is easy to pick up and play and most importantly fun. No matter if your gaming skill is that of a freshmen or an experienced old timer, everyone can have fun hitting the ball back a few times. You might even be surprised how good the non-gamers are at this one. Even if you don't know much about the sport, have never touched a paddle, or don't even care for the game in real life, Rockstar Presents Table Tennis could hook you. Similar to the game of 'pool' or 'billiards' it is taken serious by some and recreation by others.
I assume was Rockstars first intention to make this game enjoyable, easy, and fun. and if so they have succeeded. Although, simple and fun to be really good at the game you will need some degree of skill along with fast eye-hand coordination. The action on the table can really turn up a notch, so if you think you will breeze through the game you might have another opinion after an hour. By nature table tennis is a fast game, and Rockstar captured the speed of the game with some extra flair. Twitchy finger gamers you might have a new hobby until the next Serious Sam is released.
Along side this already good experience is another simplistic approach with the game modes. Online or off you have exhibition and tournament matches. Pretty bare bones, but they are both pulled off very well. The tournament mode works well online which is a main concern which even includes their form of Gotham TV called the TTN (Table Tennis Network). Although the execution is pulled off well, I know gamers might be looking for a little more with there games then the basic one two punch. Other features like a simple create a character mode, or even a small career mode would have made a world of difference for the games long term appeal.
The characters you are stuck with in Table Tennis are a diverse bunch who each proudly represent their home nation. The starting group is Haley (USA), Jesper ( Sweden ), Liu Ping ( China ), and Luc (France). The other characters you unlock by winning a certain amount of matches over each character, or by beating tournaments are Kumi (Japan), Solayman (Egypt), Juergen (Germany), Carmen (Brazil), Mark (England), Jung Soo (South Korea) and Cassidy (Ireland). So in the end if you spend enough time with Table Tennis you will have eleven different players. Some of their highlights will be good offense, powerful shots like backspin, or topspin, defensive experts, balanced players, and even quick feet like on Juergen and Kumi. The players are marked on a four bar system consisting of Spin, Serve, Power and Accuracy. It's self explanatory; the thing to do is find the best match for your playing style. Although lots of gamers online like the raw power of Jesper, there are more options.
That's pretty much it for gameplay; it is Table Tennis after all. Rockstar San Diego did a great job balancing the game with real world physics. The ball, paddles, and hits seem all in check although I'm far from being an expert. I'm sure the research process was fun for the team. Overall the game modes where are a little lacking, but easy and fun gameplay makes this an enjoyable experience overall.
Graphics & Sound:It is amazing that Rockstar, the hyped company of "cool" actually pulled off this Table Tennis game and made it cool. Even without the help of a hip hop or 80s inspired colour scheme and somehow this game has its own style and presence. Rockstar Presents Table Tennis is a polished game all around, from the menu design to the detailed characters, the visuals and audio click. It's magic baby! Magic!
Rockstar also throws in a few other components to make the whole game seem more realistic. One being sweat! Yes, like most next-generation games we are seeing some of the sweetest men and women this side of a marathon. In Table Tennis these guys are a little worked up and actually sweat through their clothes the longer the matches go on. For extra flair Rockstar also switches up the audio and lighting for a more dramatic effect when both skill meters are filled. This all works in well to give a high-end sense of importance. Finishing it off them did a great job with the dynamic shadows in the courts and also added flowing textures clothing on the characters. It's all wrapped up nicely in Rockstar Presents Table Tennis and it goes to show that paying attention to detail can go a long way, even for something as typical as Ping Pong.
Mojo:Table Tennis surprised me and pulls together a well formed shape of the mojo. For the dollar you can't argue the value of this disc, low dollars always translates into mojo. The entire project has a firm polished presentation and realistic characters help the game as well. For players Luc is the man, but I wouldn't tell that to that crazy blonde sweed Jesper, that kid sure has a swing. All in all it's about having fun, and the fun factor highly contributes to this games mojo score. Table Tennis is a blast.
Lowdown:Rockstar Presents Table Tennis is just that Table Tennis and nothing much more. Although basic and a little dry when it comes to game modes Table Tennis makes up for with a high level of polish, easy to learn controls, and addictive and fun gameplay. Surprisingly Rockstar presented a nice classic styled game which will help games slide past another few slow months until the fall.