Table Tennis ReviewCain Dornan
Simplicity. Its a term that we have been hearing regularly within the industry as of late; that games are becoming too hard, too complicated. Even the industrys most widely-recognizable innovators in video games, Nintendo, are regularly talking about how the growingly complicated games are turning gamers away from gaming, that we need more simple titles on the market. It seems that Rockstar is another of these advocates who are pushing towards the return of simplicity in video games, with their latest title to recently hit the market, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, providing a thoroughly enjoyable yet simple experience. Its the type of game that almost anyone can pick up and immediately play, without droning on through laborious training modes or spending hours of head-scratching puzzlement as they attempt to grasp the basics of the game.
To put it in simpler terms, Table Tennis is simple. Its simple to learn, simple to play and simple to enjoy. Theres no heavy mind work, no difficult-to-master controls. Its a game. A game that can be as basic and relaxing as you want, or as engaging and action-packed as you can make it.
While relatively short on gameplay modes available, the lifespan of Table Tennis will vary from gamer-to-gamer. The simplistic gameplay style may bore some gamers after only a few matches, however, the level of depth and addiction that the game offers will grab many. Its essentially a 2006 version of Pong (you know, the arcade classic involving a ball and two paddles situated on either sides of the screen), and in many forms, its just as simple and addictive. Theres a Tournament mode, which acts as the games basic career mode, allowing you to progress through a series of increasingly difficult events. If youre looking for a single event, selecting the Exhibition mode allows you to quickly head into a single match, complete with the ability to select your desired difficulty.
For those who wish to grasp every little nitty-gritty detail on the games controls, entering into the Training mode would be the best bet. This mode teaches you practically everything there is to know about playing the game, which ranges from performing a simple hit through to pulling off some more tricky maneuvers. The training mode allows you to select each practicing event as you desire, allowing you to only complete those that have your interest.
There are a range of unlockable extras on-hand, which range from new clothing items through to additional characters to play as. Theres a total of 11 playable characters, with only three of these being playable upon initially booting up the game. Each player offers their own distinct playing style, with different players strengths and weaknesses suiting your playing style accordingly. Its a tad bit disappointing that there isnt an option to create your own customized character, which would be particularly suitable for the games online portion.
Possibly the key component of Table Tennis is the multiplayer offering, which can be done in a two-player event on the single Xbox 360 or over Xbox Live. While we did experience some annoying lag issues during the online play at some points, the Xbox Live portion of the game generally moves along at a satisfying pace. You can participate in the usual ranked or unranked matches, as well as watching in-progress matches as a spectator, which offers a range of different views to watch the match from. Playing the game in a multiplayer setting is noticeably more enjoyable than what the single player experience offers. I guess its very much like the original Pong game its a game that is best played with friends (or with complete strangers online), as the simplistic nature makes it a great choice for pick-up-and-play multiplayer gaming.
In many ways, Table Tennis looks outstanding. The level of detail, particularly in the character models, will amaze you. The lifelike features of each of the 11 different characters is truly stunning, offering lifelike facial detail that animates amazingly well. The clothing that adorns players is equally as impressive, offering fine detail and outstanding physics that sees loose clothing moving, swaying and reacting to the movements of the players extremely well. Furthermore, during the more intense games, youll notice that sweat begins to form on the players faces, and even begins to dampen the characters clothing in some areas. The characters models are, quite simply, impressive to look at, and are some of the best seen in a sports game yet. While the environments are somewhat more drab and boring, based solely on the fact that the arenas offer little more than a table, a judge and some distant crowd, the game usually moves at too fast of a pace to notice any of the outer environment detail anyway.
The games sound is also commendable, offering a brief collection of very accurate sounds and voice-over work. While the music is almost immediately forgettable, it suits the games nature and never intrudes on the experience.
Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis shines in its simplicity. Rockstar obviously aimed to provide an easy, pick-up-and-play title that captures the essence of the sport, and in almost every way, it manages to successfully do so. While its simplicity may drive some gamers away from it, most will appreciate what it aims to do: to provide a no-frills experience that doesnt require the extensive practice and complex controls to enjoy to its fullest.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.