Tuesday 28 March 2006
As surprises go, Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis is mammoth. Has the creator of the world's most infamous games - Manhunt, GTA, Bully - gone soft? Don't be stupid. This is Rockstar's attempt at giving a sports sim the sweaty intensity of a finger-bending fighting game. And, as we'd expect from the quality-obsessive developer, we reckon it's going to be a roaring success.
Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis is two-player max, but for good reason. It's a shame, because we'd have loved some multiplayer rotate-around-the-table fun, but there's so little room around the table that doubles action would result in mucho-collision between players.
The small scale court isn't a problem in one-on-one matches, though. Both of the overhead camera options are intelligently placed so you always have a clear view of the playing surface, even during close-in rallies. And the crisp beauty of the graphics when running on a hi-def TV means you never lose sight of the tiny ball as it rockets across the table.
Thanks to some sensibly simple controls, you'll be pinging your pong in no time. The left stick moves your character, and aims where the ball will bounce - push up to shoot long, down to hit it short. The four face buttons perform different types of shot and the longer you hold the button the stronger the bend on the ball. Backspin is defensive, while sidespin and topspin shots are more aggressive.
The streamlined gameplay makes for super-quick rallies and matches are rapid and snappy. As you strike each return the game slows down ever so slightly, giving you time to place each shot. Even if that sounds disruptive to the speed of play, it actually keeps the pace flowing, and when you're in the middle of a tight match you hardly notice.
Moving around the table is similarly smooth, and it's not long before you get a taste for how to shape up your player's body to produce the best shots. In fact, within a few matches everything slots into place and you stop lashing out desperately and start being able to concentrate on where, when and how hard you want to hit the ball.