No stolen cars. No snuff films. No hot coffee. It's officially time to get over the fact that gaming's most controversial publisher has created a game rated E for Everyone. Instead, look at Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis and ask yourself, "Damn - why hasn't anybody else ever put this much effort into making a killer Ping-Pong game before?" Because for whatever reason you didn't expect it, Table Tennis kicks ass.
To be honest, Table Tennis feels like a proof of concept - before the company starts cranking on big franchises like Grand Theft Auto IV, why not take the 360 out for a test spin with something fairly innocuous? Create two athletes, one tiny plastic ball and pack all the physical realism you possibly can into a game played with bulbous paddles and a wee net. Learn the tools, have some fun, get your bearings, put it out for a very reasonable $40 and then, with some other game, change the world.
Except this is Rockstar, so even the small stuff gets done in a big way. Graphically, there's no doubt Table Tennis is an Xbox 360 game; the detailed player models, subtle lighting effects (get a good rally going and the arena darkens for extra drama) and motion-blur effects put the hardware to impressive yet playful use. And with an easy-to learn, hard-to-master control system that balances force, accuracy and finesse, Table Tennis feels accessible without alienating "serious" sports gamers seeking strategy and depth. Online tournaments and easy pick-up games via Xbox Live will give you plenty of challenge, long after you've learned the weaknesses of all 11 unlockable computer players.
Executing killer spins, tricky drop shots and monster rallies makes Table Tennis a cult-worthy game that breeds unhealthy competition. It starts innocently with a few friends and a few beers, but as the game reveals its deeper strategy, you find yourself practicing whenever possible, and before you know it, you've dropped out of college with an accidental major in backhand topspin. Underestimate Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis at your own risk - this isn't the reason you bought an Xbox 360, but it might be one of the reasons you keep it.