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Rockstar Table Tennis

Author: Huwston
Monday, 29 October 2007


Rockstar / Take 2

Rockstar Games, the lynchpins for family-interest groups and politicians who brought us Manhunt and the Grand Theft Auto series, made a table tennis game last year for Xbox 360. A mid-priced affair (ballpark $60 RRP), the game was a testing ground for a new software development engine that would be used when creating future releases (like GTA IV).
So far as what it indicates on Table Tennis, this thing is an absolute mother and might be the most important software generator since I don’t know when. It’s important because the characters in Table Tennis sweat in the appropriate places at the right time. The longer you play, the more fatigued you become and it shows on screen (not just on your stamina meter like in other games). When considering a whole city full of characters acting like real humans (you know what I’m getting at), this is indeed exciting.
But anyway, back to China, or wherever Ping Pong is popular. This game was always crying out for development on the Wii. The Nintendo Wii is the most fun console on the market as it relies on physicality, personal interaction and motor skills, rather than a rad storyline or sick graphics to get its games across the line. Forget Paper Mario or even Wii Sports - Table Tennis is the console’s benchmark release. With three control techniques (two use the nunchuk function, all vary in levels of difficulty and control and none rely on curving or curling the Wii-mote for spin performance) the game is easier to maneuver than you might expect.
Demoing it on a 110cm flat screen in a big room was a real pleasure, but none of this pleasure was lost on my 54cm Digitor piece-of-shit telly at home. The characters are just that: real characters. They curse their paddles (rackets/boards/whatever) and jump for joy when they win or express stoic determination throughout the entire match. The crowd gets more and more amped as your competition reaches boiling point. Mobile phones go off and people ‘sssssh’ you. You can even get the crowd on your side by coming from behind and all of this adds to the excitement of the overall gameplay.
Rather than just swinging backhands and forehands, adding a bit of topspin or backspin, you’re actually developing as a player, of sorts. As such competition between you and a mate can really heat up. My esteemed hosts (who let me win a couple of games, I’m sure, which is a good move when you’re dealing with a Leo) told me of rallies that had lasted up to 250 hits by the end of which they were shouting ‘Come on!’ a lot louder than Leyton Hewitt might do crossing the finish line with Bec Cartwright.
This is the crux of Table Tennis and to an extent Rockstar Games. They make engaging entertainment that you cannot look away from and once you’ve got the basics, you can’t let go of. Best played with a friend this is the ultimate pre-going out game, or maybe even a suitable morning warm up (before you shower), that will never date. COME ON!