So, Rockstar is making a ping pong game. For a lot of you, that statement made you do a double take when you first heard or read it. The first thing uttered from Rockstar fan boys was probably, “Table Tennis, what the hell!” Think about it for a second though, Rockstar is basically known for less than a handful of games, Grand Theft Auto and Midnight Club really. Many of the other games in their library like State of Emergency, Manhunt, and Red Dead Revolver haven’t been the smash hits Rockstar was hoping they would be. The Warriors was good, but how many times can they really keep making the same kind of game? It’s only natural for a company to branch out. You see the same thing with a company like Electronic Arts trying their hand with titles like Marvel Nemesis: Rise of the Imperfects, the Lord of the Rings games, and the upcoming Superman Returns project. Rockstar Games is trying something different, and they’re banking on the fact that gamers don’t always want more of the same, sometimes we want something outside of the box.
From looking at screen shots and video footage, the first things that you may notice are the impressive visuals. Player models, while not based off of any real world players, still look quite real themselves with each of them being made up of about 30,000 polygons. Everything from free flowing clothing, to some of the most realistic hair ever created in a game, to something as small as individually rendered freckles, make this game something to marvel. All of the players sweat (some sweat so much that their clothes eventually become drenched). The characters truly feel like unique personalities with each of them comprised of their own skeletal structure which results in different movements (i.e. some players hold their paddles in varying fashions and animate in vastly different ways) and identities for each of them. Curiously though, there is no option to create your own Table Tennis pro. You would think that a game (and company for that matter) that puts so much effort into individuality would jump at the chance to show off just how real or freaky you can make your own in-game character. There are a fair amount of outfits to unlock for each person, but beyond that, there really isn’t much in the way of customization.
That glaring omission aside, the graphical/visual presentation seems very close to flawless with no noticeable frame rate issues. The arenas (of which there are 19) are just as impressive as the player models. Tables look like they’ve been used, floors are shiny and reflective, and lighting and shadows are extremely well done. The camera gives you a great over the shoulder perspective to see all the gorgeous fast paced action. As far as gameplay goes you will get to choose between 11 total characters (four female and seven male). All 11 have different pros and cons when considering their stats which are determined by four categories being power, spin, speed, and accuracy. Depending on your character’s attributes you will be able to hit the ball in a variety of ways. With the new R.A.G.E. engine (Rockstar Advanced Game Engine) the physics are amazing, the ping pong’s weight feels just right and it moves very quickly. Because of R.A.G.E. you can hit the ball with penholders, top spin, back spin, side spin, smashes, down-the-line, lobs, slams, crosscourts, soft shots, hard shots, drop shots, block shots, and volleys. While all the different types of shots may sound daunting, Rockstar Presents Table Tennis has a real pick-up-and-play kind of feel. It’s easy to get into, and deep enough to keep you learning and always getting better. One of the things you will learn to make yourself better is another type of move called a focus shot. As you pull off shots throughout a match your focus meter builds up and once it hits a certain level you can press the right bumper to attempt a focus shot which is basically a bullet time move that also gives a huge boost to your spin, speed, and power. It’s best to use this special shot when your opponent is out of position, since it would be even harder to defend the attack.
You can control your paddle moves with either the right analog stick or the face buttons (it’s a nice kind of Fight Night Round 3 kind of control choice). X or left with the right analog creates a left spin, A or down gives the ball top spin, B or right on the stick creates right spin, and Y or up on the analog makes a back spin attack. The left analog stick controls ball placement and character movement. The left stick moves your player left, right, forwards and backwards which ultimately affects how much force a shot will have.
All-in-all, Table Tennis is shaping up to be one of the most pleasant surprises in recent videogame history. While it probably will not astound gamers on the level of a game like Katamari Damacy, it certainly feels like it could be a big sleeper hit. When you get down to it, Table Tennis is a simple game, but just like regular tennis games (i.e. Virtua Tennis and Top Spin), the back and forth matches can still get as intense as any other type of game (it’s all about action and reaction). Throw in online tournaments and matches and Rockstar definitely has a winning formula for this next-gen ping pong project.
Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis is slated for a 5/22 release. The title will carry an ESRB rating of E for everyone, and will retail for $39.99. Check back with MyGamer for our review of this interesting new game in the coming weeks.