Game, set, match
Thereís not a single cup of hot coffee in sight, not a single baseball bat or random passer-by to be shot in this new game from Rockstar. Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis is the latest from the much maligned developer and thereís no violence or brutality in this game, unless you want to sue the company for being cruel to small helpless white ping-pong balls.Gameplay
Itís table tennis on the Xbox 360 and Rockstar have done a very good job at recreating the sport on the console. Thereís an excellent tutorial that allows novice and veteran alike to learn the controls and undergo several drills that give you a good sample of whatís to come. You are often timed or given a number of shots to complete, your grade is based on how you perform in these tasks.
Simple tasks give way to the more complex game play elements such as Focus shots and the various kinds of spin. All in all the tutorial is something I recommend you try right away as it will save you from randomly pushing buttons in the vague hope that youíre going to land a shot.
The left analogue stick moves your player, the right analogue stick delivers a shot (or you can use the buttons). My preference is for the buttons since this ties in nicely with the way the game deals with the various kinds of shots and spins. There are four kinds of spin arranged on the four buttons, top, left side, right side and backspin on Y, X, B and A respectively.
You may aim the ball using the left stick as you can hold down the buttons to power up your shot. The game uses context sensitive movements to work out whether or not youíre going to deliver a shot as a simple tap or smash it right back at your opponent and combines this with the length of time you hold down the button. A lot of what it does goes on behind the scenes and youíre never left fumbling.
Serves are accomplished by holding down the button, using the left stick to position where you want to place the ball and then pressing the button to set power and spin. It can be a little confusing at first to read the meter, but once you get the hang of it youíll find that you have no problems at all.
There are also counter shots, with spin and so on. These are tied in to the coloured control buttons which can be used to return the correct spin on the ball. The ball is surrounded in a dim or bright colour that corresponds to the chosen spin, red for right side spin, green for backspin and so on. Hitting the button that matches the colour sends the ball back in a counter.
You can also perform soft shots with the left bumper and power shots with the right bumper.
As you play against the AI or an opponent youíll notice your Focus meter fills up or depletes, depending on your performance. Once the meter is full (it has 3 stages) you can execute a Focus shot. This is a bullet time style move that allows you to take your time and precisely aim the ball or get to a hard to reach return quickly.
If you get enough Focus you can deplete your meter constantly and enter a Zen-like state where time is slowed down. The Max Payne
style table tennis game in essence.
The control system is extremely user friendly and takes only a short time to get into, once youíre into how things work then you can develop your skills and begin to master a wide variety of tactics.
Adding to the life of the game are achievements and of course the plethora of unlockable stadiums, players (each with different statistics in terms of power and so on), apparel and other features.
You can play Exhibition matches, Tournaments and set the AI to several levels of difficulty, upon the lowest level they are still formidable opponents and do not use their Focus meter at all. On the higher levels they become wily adversaries and make good use of Focus shots and other tactics.
Thereís no create a player and no story, itís just a table tennis game, but itís a belter of a title and worthy of the score itís going to get.