Table Tennis isn’t really the most well documented sport in the world, sports unlike Football, (that’s soccer to those in the US ) Rugby, even Cricket have a larger fanbase than that of Table Tennis. So imagine our surprise when we heard a game that features Table Tennis was being made. Then imagine our surprise when we heard that the creators of Grand Theft Auto was making this title. Many were dubious about the new title; could Rockstar create a non violent game? Luckily the answer to that question is yes.

Rockstar Games prenset Table Tennis at first glance seems pretty dull – you don’t get the player customisation you see in games like Top Spin 2 and there isn’t even a career mode. On the whole, the game revolves around two little words, forehand and backhand. What’s more if you have played Table Tennis, you will know that the game is very fast paced, non-stop with little time to think and Rockstar had their work cut out capturing the true essence of Table Tennis. Rather than going down the route of fully licensed players and sponsors they thought, “why not make a game that’s really fun?” If a game has one character, two levels and a spoon as a weapon it can still be success as long as its fun and that is exactly what Rockstar have done with Table Tennis.

The game itself is a joy to play, it has practically matched the feeling you get from playing Table Tennis in reality. You get the fast paced action, you get the split second choices and you get the mate across the table screaming abuse at you (at least in multiplayer you do). TT is very easy to simply pick-up and play – many will find themselves bored playing games over and over. But playing this with a mate on or offline will never get boring.

As mentioned previously there isn’t a career mode which is a shame, but you can still strut your stuff in the Exhibition mode against a variety of opponents. From there you can also play against different skilled opponents; no doubt many will start on easy, which personally I think should be renamed to ‘Easy, but not that Easy’, as you will find yourself at first losing simple points against the computer controlled player. Once you get up to the harder settings you will find that the opponent will add a lot of swing to the ball, get the ball moving amazingly fast and you will also see the ball change directions multiple times. I would recommend you first play the Training Mode as it will give you the basics on everything you need to know from serving through to playing power shots. Training mode is in essence relatively easy, but as they say with many games ‘It’ll take an instant to figure it out, but a lifetime to master’.

Now don’t be put off by my original statement about the game being only about two words ‘forehand and backhand’ as you can actually do quite a bit with those two shots. While playing you will be able to add top spin, right swing, left swing and back swing by pressing either Y, B, X , A or using the right thumbstick. You can also choose to either play a soft shot which you can do by pressing the left bumper or you can do a foxused (power) shot using the right bumper.

One more thing to note is that while playing you will notice the spinning circle around the ball. Before you ask, no that isn’t present when you actually play Table Tennis with a real ball. That is in fact a guide for the opposing player to figure out what kind of spin has been put on the ball. If the ball has been hit using right spin then the circle will be red and if it’s left spin it will be blue, the colours match that of your controller buttons to make life a little easier. You may at first not bother to take notice, but countering or using the spin against your opponent can be the difference between winning and losing, especially against more experienced players.

So we’ve talked about the gameplay, now let’s talk about the part of the game which will appeal to 80% of buyers: Xbox Live. Many games have depended on Xbox Live to save them. Rockstars Table Tennis would have been an average game with no Xbox Live, but with online gaming it truly becomes absolutely, positively, mind-blowingly awesome. The first thing you will notice is no lag, every single game available from GRAW to Battlefield 2 suffers from lag in one way or another, yet out of the ten or twenty games I played I never once experienced any lag on Rockstars Table Tennis.

Secondly the game is just as fun online as it is offline. You can arrange eight player tournaments online or settle a feud in a good old one and one. You can also participate in both ranked and unranked matches, as you’ve probably guessed ranked matches will affect your leaderboard position and you will find that close ranked games will become unbearably tense. It really is an amazing sensation to hear your heart beat while watching a little white ball flash across your screen from side to side. Finally there is the Table Tennis Network which is an online spectator mode where you can view family, friends, rivals or just random gamers. The TTN is a must for beginners as you can learn a lot from watching a higher ranked player – everything from how and where to play shots right through to tackling spin balls. Online truly makes up for the games price tag as you will find it impossible to put down once you’ve signed onto Xbox Live

Graphically the game doesn’t look like it has much on offer and ok so you only have the players, table and surroundings without much of a crowd. Even so Rockstar have made the players look unbelievably realistic, everything from the pores on their face to their yellow T-Shirts looks sublime. What’s more, you will notice that T-Shirts and Shorts will move as if worn by a real person. The players will also sweat and you won’t find players that look like they’ve been smothered in shoe polish (ehm…Fifa RTFWC) which makes them look very realistic indeed.

The arenas themselves do look very bland at first, but that doesn’t matter as when you’re in the middle of a 50 shot rally you will find yourself in a near pitch black environment and it is a surprisingly scary effect especially online. Slow-mos also make an appearance, not only in the replays but also, if you pull of a mint shot, you will see the camera follow the ball and go into slow motion to show you and your opponent (yep, you can rub your mates face in it) just how good the shot is.

As for the games animation, it’s practically flawless, everything from left swing shots to focus shots are pulled off perfectly in the game. Despite the speed in which the ball travels in the game, you don’t see it travel through the table or go through your paddle. In animation terms the game is practically perfect.

Audio wise you would think the game is made up of one sound and that’s the ball hitting the table. Actually there is a bit more than just the ball hitting the table, what little crowd you have do make quite some noise which is always nice to hear in the background. The sounds of your feet running across the floor and screeching across the mats also sound great in 5.1 surround sound. Despite the fact that the hollow ball only makes one true sound, Rockstar have made it sound oh so beautiful. There’s no delay in the sound and when the ball hits the table, and when the game gets quicker the clicks of the ball will get closer and closer together, it almost sounds like a bomb about to explode and as such it makes you feel like you’re hitting just that, which further adds to the games atmosphere.

All in all this game has to be one of the best titles on offer for the Xbox 360. Not only is it half the price of a usual game (£24.95/$39.99), but it truly is a fun game. Many were a bit worried hearing about a Table Tennis game being created by Rockstar, gamers would have been at ease if the paddle was an AK47 or the ball a stick of TNT, but despite the worries, Rockstar have created a game which will be played for many months on and offline. A must for anyone who likes playing with their mates at home and a must for anyone who enjoys playing games over Xbox Live. Rockstar has officially proved that it can create more than just games involving revenge, death, murder, violence and thugs and for £24.95 Rockstars Table Tennis is a steal.

Originally Written By: Lee Matthews

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