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David Low
04 Oct, 2007

Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis Preview

Wii Preview | Going through the motions?
The original announcement of Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis for the Xbox 360 threw us off initially. This was Rockstar, the same company behind violence-fests Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt, and whose least controversial game in recent years was about illegal street racing? While it seemed like an odd choice for their first next-gen title, the game worked, and at a budget price was quite a good competitive sports game. With the success of Nintendo's Wii console at least half due to the motion enabled Wii Sports, it's really quite astonishing that no other company has managed to get a more fleshed-out motion enabled sports game on the system as of yet, but Rockstar have managed to get in there first with a well thought out port of Table Tennis. We recently had a chance to play the game, and while it is in many ways quite a basic port of a year old game, we were quite impressed by the level of depth and variety Rockstar have managed to get into such a simple concept.

For a run-down of the game's content, you can simply view our review of the Xbox 360 version, as the Wii version is pretty much a straight port in terms of content. The main change is obviously the way the game will control with the motion sensing technology, and having spent some time with the Xbox 360 original, we were quite interested to see exactly how the game would work on the Wii. To begin with, the control scheme has been completely re-invented from the simple but elegant face button (or right stick) shot selection of its more traditionally controlled brother. There are three control options available, one which uses the Wii Remote only, and two that also use the nunchuck.

Controls are the only substantial difference in this version

Controls are the only substantial difference in this version
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Beginning with the simplest control option, Wii Remote only, we were initially thrown off by how different the game is to Wii Tennis. The biggest difference is that the game simply doesn't use the motion control in the same way. Instead of taking a realistic swing, you have to flick the Remote with a wrist motion in a set direction – either up, down, right, left, or any combination in between, while still having the front of the Remote facing forward. This allows you to select the ball's destination on the table without using the angular 'timing' system implemented by Wii Tennis, but the 'power' element is retained, and a harder flick of the Remote will result in a harder shot. You also have to select your wrist motion by holding the d-pad in the direction you wish to spin the ball, as opposed to Wii Tennis's actual spin and slice motions. Finally, the A and B buttons are used to drop a shot and add 'focus' (power) to a shot respectively. Like Wii Tennis, in this control mode your player moves automatically to a position where they can hit the ball, although given the smaller amount of ground to cover it's a little more realistic here, not to mention reliable. Though this is the simplest control scheme, you still have to keep your mind on three different elements of your shot, and it can be overwhelming at first - Wii Sports this 'aint. There's also no splitscreen for two player mode – controls are absolute rather than relative, so left always means 'left of the screen' rather then being relative to the player.

A second difference from Wii Tennis as well as from most old-school videogame tennis, is the timing – in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis you must make your shot a lot earlier then you would in most full size tennis simulators. In most tennis games (including Wii Tennis) you line up your player so the ball looks like it will almost hit you, and then swing (or hit the swing button) to take your shot. But due to the faster pace of table tennis, as well as the relatively larger size of your character to the 'court', the system in place here is that you must make your shot selections almost as soon as the ball leaves your opponent's paddle.

There's no split screen for two player mode

There's no split screen for two player mode
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Basically, while the controls are still relatively simple compared to your average 'hardcore' action game, as veterans of the genre we had to un-learn several other ways we have played tennis videogames over the years before we could get our head around it. But eventually it clicked. The game doesn't have the same satisfying feeling you get from the more realistic 'racquet' emulation of Wii Tennis, but while the control scheme is certainly more abstract, Rockstar have managed to create a gameplay system with quite a lot of depth, especially for one that is only using the Wii Remote. Once we had it, we were having plenty of fun and engaged in some pretty intense rallies.

Once we moved to the nunchuck enabled control options, it actually stared to get overwhelming, even after we were already used to the Remote-only option. The first is simple in concept – holding a direction on the nunchuck replaces the directional motions you make to place your shots, and instead you can simply wave the remote in any direction to 'register' your shot. The d-pad and A and B button maps remain intact (with c and Z doubling the drop and 'focus' options), leaving this mode a rough approximation of the Xbox 360 control scheme, only with a separate shot 'button' (or in this case, motion) allowing you slightly more shot variety than the multi-core version of the game. But while the controls are technically simpler (or at least more traditional), we actually found it even more difficult, possibly because we had just gotten used to the Remote-only controls, but also because the odd mixture of motion and dual handed button/stick control really is quite complicated.

The final scheme offered the most control of all. 'Control freak' is basically the Remote-only scheme, except it allows full control of your player's movement with the nunchuck's analogue stick. It's clearly the most advanced control mode, allowing you to control your player's movement, your shot, your spin, drop/focus and your shot's power completely independently. But of course, it's also the hardest to master, and in our short time with the game we came nowhere near feeling like we were all over it.

While these shots don't show it, widescreen is supported

While these shots don't show it, widescreen is supported
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Ultimately, all the control options in Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis for Wii are built for depth rather than simplicity. Even the Wii Remote only option has a much higher learning curve than Wii Tennis, but this is to be expected, as table tennis is a completely different sport, and a more abstract control scheme is necessary to capture the speed of the game. What Rockstar have managed to do is use the Wii Remote's motion abilities to create a game where you have tremendous control over your shots. In our short time with the game we could see this depth, even if we couldn't quite grasp it all yet. Although since we didn't get there, we can't say for sure if it will live up to this potential.

Graphically the game holds up quite well compared to the Xbox 360 original, looking like a slightly lower poly facsimile, with less lighting. The animation is still decent, and the arenas look pretty good, but the characters look a little bit scrappy. That said, it's solid enough and runs well, and graphics are hardly the point of a game like this. We also only saw the game running via a composite cable on an HDTV, which is pretty much the opposite of ideal for the Wii, so it may look better in standard definition and/or with using a component cable.

Overall, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis is shaping up to be quite a good title. Rockstar have eschewed simplicity in favour of depth, which may harm the game's appeal to a casual audience who simply want Wii Tennis with a career mode. On the other hand, they have used the Wii controller's potential to allow the most complete control over your character's abilities ever seen in a game of this type. Watch out for our full review soon.
Overall:
Looks to be the first truly deep sports game on the Wii. While too complex for casual sports players, we'll have to spend more time with it to see if it lives up to its promised control depth.

Related Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis Content

7 Comments
6 years ago
So like, this game on the 360 was a test bed for the GTA4 engine, does this mean we can expect to see GTA4 in some form on the Wii?
6 years ago
Maybe as a return to GTAs original top-down 2D state... icon_razz.gif
6 years ago
How does Table Tennis on Wii imply good news for GTA4 to be released on Wii? Also it was hardly a 'test bed' for GTA4.

Anyway, my main concern is that the the controls should be responsive and accurate. Wii Sports Tennis just aims the shots depending on when you swing. I want to be able to do wrist snaps and and the angle of the wii-mote when hitting should reflect what's happening on screen. Is that too much to ask?
6 years ago
LeonJ wrote
So like, this game on the 360 was a test bed for the GTA4 engine, does this mean we can expect to see GTA4 in some form on the Wii?
Jumping a very large cannon, there.
6 years ago
It's common knowledge that Table Tennis on the 360 was an early build for the engine with GTA4 in mind. That's all I'm saying.

But I think the Wiimote is probably the reason they are released Table Tennis on the Wii.
6 years ago
I could see GTA4 coming out on the wii, they just have to tone down the textures, scope, polygons, action, AI and remove some things like cars and soundtracks oh and fun.. icon_razz.gif

I quite enjoyed the table tennis on 360,sadly no other additions have been made to the game though in this port, would have been nice to see them add some bonus stages or something.
6 years ago
I tell you what; ive been wanting this game ever since it hit the 360. We have a table at home and table tennis is great fun to play for all ages. It was simply fantastic for Rockstar to bring this baby across to the Wii to give people without 360's a chance to give it a go. They did the same for me with The Warriors. I dont own an Xbox and was eternally grateful to Rockstar when they released the PSP version.

Rockstar impress me with the passion they put into their games. The Warriors was an excellent tribute / extension to the film, and from what i've read, Rockstar Presents: Table Tennis seems to pay great homage to a fun sport.

God bless em!
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Australian Release Date:
  19/10/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  2K Games
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2006
Players:
  2

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