Table Tennis Review

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Graphics: 9.0
Sound : 9.0
Gameplay : 9.5
Multiplayer : 9.0
Overall : 9.2
Review by Andy Levine
Rockstar Games is notorious for their Grand Theft Auto series, which has earned them many awards and many lawsuits. Furthermore, the illicit street racer Midnight Club featuring high speed chases from the police, which also possesses questionable morals. Because of their reputation, the gaming world was shocked when Rockstar announced that their next title wouldn’t involve killing, speeding, or anything illegal at all. Instead, their goal was to develop an authentic ping pong experience that captures the true essence of the sport, and their end result was a beautiful game called Table Tennis.

While Table Tennis may seem like a ridiculously lame game that isn’t worth taking a look at, surprisingly enough it could very well be the greatest tennis style game we’ve seen in a long time. The natural feeling control scheme uses the left analog stick to aim your shot and the right analog stick helps control spin. Holding down either stick longer will increase where the ball lands or how much spin is placed on it, respectively, and luckily there are controls in place to give you a little help. The control will vibrate slightly if you’re aiming your shot off the table, and when it begins to rumble violently you better move the analog stick in the opposite direction otherwise there’s absolutely no hope for your shot. This innovative vibration feedback technology helps you truly feel like you’re part of the game.

Once you and your opponent begin to rally, even more shot control options will be at your disposal. First of all, you can combine different types of spin to really throw your opponent off. Furthermore, soft shots can be performed by holding down the left bumper and then using any spin. If you aim back, use backspin and do a soft shot all in the midst of a high speed rally it can quickly turn the tides in your favor. By holding down the right bumper instead your character will do a focus shot, which will add extra power and spin to your hit. Whenever a ball is hit a colored halo will appear around it representing one of the four face buttons. If you hit the matching color you can perform a counterspin, which is the perfect way to retaliate to a trick shot. After each successful rally your focus meter will slowly but surely fill up through three different color stages, and if you're conservative enough to have it reach the limit you'll be in for a real treat. Holding down the left or right trigger will tap into your focus meter, which will slow down time and allow you to create the shot of your dreams. Focus shots are extra powerful and can carry a lot of spin, making them a deadly weapon when used properly. As you might've expected, other traditional ping pong moves including drop shots and smashes can also be found here.

If you thought you already had enough strategies to consider, prepare to be overwhelmed by the eleven distinct playable characters. Each player carries their own set of stats based on power, spin, serve, and accuracy. You start off with only a few characters unlocked such as the all-around favorite Liu Ping, but as you make your way through the single player tournaments you can unlock others such as the spin-savvy Kumi. Each character has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, so you'll have to try everybody out before you find the one that best fits your play style.

Table Tennis is powered by RAGE, the Rockstar Advanced Game Engine, to deliver some of the best player models and environments on the 360 to date. The characters' facial expressions reflect their emotions, their outfits actually act like clothing, and you can even see every last bead of sweat drip from their foreheads. The backgrounds are detailed and crisp, while the actual playing area is lit up by an effective soft lighting method to give the world a comforting glow. At the beginning of the rally nothing can be heard aside from the ping pong ball being battered back and forth, but when a long rally begins to form a typical techno song will play as the crowd begins to cheer. If you've ever watched a professional table tennis match then you should be familiar with the stark silence eventually being contrasted by a roaring crowd. Overall, Table Tennis plays at a smooth 60 frames per second, looks great, and further envelopes you into the game with its fitting audio effects.

Over Xbox Live, you can expect to see a fairly straightforward gaming experience, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Head-to-head matches or tournaments for up to eight players are available, and you also have the ability to customize match options, such as the arena or scoring method. The most important aspects of an online game that requires so much interaction between players are controlling frame rates and latency, and thankfully neither of these is an issue. The service meter does have a slight tendency to get a little jumpy from time to time, but aside from that you can smash your way to victory against foes all over the world without any problems whatsoever.

Table Tennis certainly received a lot of skepticism up until its release date, but now that it’s finally on store shelves you no longer have to worry. Rockstar Games did a fantastic job at creating an authentic ping pong simulator that may even be more appealing than Top Spin for many gamers. With an unparalleled amount of shot control and a meager price tag of only $39.99, there’s no real reason for you to not have a copy of this game already!