Rockstar's Table Tennis

Xbox 360

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 9

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 8


There's a lot to discuss about Rockstar Table Tennis, and most of it ends up outside the realm of the game itself. For instance, here we have a game on a brand new generation of hardware promising unsurpassed gameplay experience, and we're playing Pong (and enjoying it). It's a family friendly game financed by thousands of dead hookers and fire truck runs in Grand Theft Auto. It's also Ping Pong.

tabletennis1360.jpg (93398 bytes)Yet, beating every odd out there, Rockstar's Table Tennis is a definite success story. It offers the simplicity on the surface for casual fans to come in and leave quickly without missing anything, while dedicated players can spend hours manipulating the spin of the ball to find various ways to drive one past their opponents. It somehow finds a successful blend where countless other titles have failed miserably.

Mechanics of the game couldn't be simpler. All four buttons perform a different type of shot, while the bumpers and triggers can modify them. The rumble feature lets you know if you'll be hitting too close to the edge of the table, eliminating the need for icons or cluttered HUD. The training is compact and ensures you know every basic move in the game. That sets the player up for a disappointingly slim set of single player options that feel more like basic practice before getting sucked into the addictiveness of online play.

Technique is critical if you ever plan on playing competitive. You'll need to learn some complicated maneuvers before you even have a chance at competing at the highest ranked tournaments. AI isn't exactly up to par, and though it doesn't always seem true, it can occasionally be remarkably easily to stage the world's greatest comeback. The AI opponent goes on a frenzy of stupidly botched shots. While you'll rarely argue about coming back from a 9-0 deficit, it's hard to feel like you've accomplished something when you know in the back of your mind it would have been almost impossible to lose.

While tournaments, unlockable shirts, new characters, and arenas all sound nice, there's something missing here. After a few hours of play, you'll realized how big that "something" has grown to be. Lacking a create-a-character mode, it's hard to feel involved in the solo experience. There's no way to increase stats or buy new equipment (though it is hard to imagine what you'd buy exactly), and each tournament is its own. There's little sense of progression, and for the most part, you're only playing to unlock things for use online.

This is where Table Tennis finally becomes the game it should be. The tight competition, finely tuned balancing, and one-on-one struggles are experiences usually reserved for the Xbox Live Arcade. In all honesty, with the simplicity and basic levels of both multi-player and single player, Table Tennis would seem welcome into the waiting arms of the Arcade.

An extensive tournament system on Xbox Live is where most players migrate. These are easy to set up, and if you want, watch in spectator mode if you're not participating. The only major annoyance is the lack of a rematch feature. While it's understandable to remove it from ranked matches, it's inexcusable to push it from private sessions.

Rockstar also had the opportunity to go completely over the top. Wisely, they've kept this serious, at least as serious as a Ping Pong game can be. It's varied cast of characters makes up (partially) for the missed creation aspects as everyone can find someone to relate to.

When Microsoft first unveiled the Xbox 360 back at E3 2004, they said their market were the people who don't play video games. While they still have the hurdle of getting those people to drop $400 on a game system, they're bridging the gap with games like this from their third party developers. They've done so without alienating the die-hard fans as well. If you're on Xbox Live, Rockstar's Table Tennis is one of the 360's best no matter your skill level or experience.


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Last updated: Monday, June 19, 2006 10:46 PM