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David Low
07 Apr, 2006

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis Preview

360 Preview | It's tennis, but on a table.
Grand Theft Auto. The Warriors. Manhunt. Rockstar and Take Two made a name for themselves (as well as a few bags of cash) this generation by riding on a wave of crime, violence and controversy. For their first next-gen game, Rockstar have decided to take a different route. No pimps, no guns, no mean streets, no explosions and no sandboxes in sight. But could anyone really say they expected this? We recently sat down with a near final build of Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, and while it seems like a strange choice for the first Xbox 360 game from the company, we shouldn't hold that against it. It's a 'back to basics' sports title, designed to have the simplicity and depth that make classic arcade fighting games great for novices and experts. Created by Rockstar's San Diego team, who previously brought us Red Dead Revolver as well as the and Smuggler's run and Midnight Club games, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis was inspired by the lunchtime Table Tennis matches that the designers play in their offices.

Bizzaro Universe table tennis: where white boys have a chance against players from China

Bizzaro Universe table tennis: where white boys have a chance against players from China
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Apparently, Table Tennis is quite popular on a world-wide scale, and was the most viewed sport at the last Olympic games, although this is obviously helped by it's popularity in China, where we've heard quite a few people live. Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis takes an arcade approach to the sport, while adding a healthy dose of advanced ball physics that they claim were not possible without next-gen power. There are only four modes: Training, Exhibition, Tournament, and Online, no fancy stuff here. You pick a character, select an arena and then you're into the game. There are real sponsors and logos in the game, but the eleven characters, both male and female, are entirely fictional, and each represents a different country. They of course all have different attributes based on speed and power ratings, and it's pretty obvious from their appearance which one will be the power guy or the speed guy etc. We saw several different arenas in the demo we played, and while they all looked suitably different, it didn't really make much difference, in the way different surfaces do in a tennis game.

Some of the 'ladies' may have had a few too many power bars.

Some of the 'ladies' may have had a few too many power bars.
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As you'd expect, it feels and plays a lot like a standard tennis video game. You move around with the left stick, and as you hit a ball it controls your aim. The four face buttons are your shots: A for your basic shot, X and B for left and right spin respectively, and Y for back spin. In an interesting twist, all shots are also mapped to the right stick, and more advanced shot options are available with this control method, since you can combine, say, back and left spin in any ratio by hitting a diagonal. This may add another layer of depth to the controls for experts, but it's quite tricky to use. Holding the button (or stick) down for longer before you release increases the shot's power, but also locks you to the spot, and this is one of the key gameplay differences to a traditional tennis game – to win a point you must read your opponent and anticipate the shot you must return. The right shoulder button can be used in conjunction with a shot button to add 'focus' to a shot, which basically adds extra power. Focus is built up and stored in much the same way a super meter is in a SNK or Capcom fighting game (by getting some shots in), and is depleted as you hold the button ready for that killer return. Finally the left shoulder makes any shot a drop shot, for those times you want to suck power from the ball's movement.

The player models are quite detailed

The player models are quite detailed
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While it plays a lot like the type of tennis game we've been playing since the NES, there are a few things that make Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis a bit different from your Virtua Tennis and Top Spin type games. First and most obviously is that it is a different sport being represented. The scoring is different, and first to eleven is actually more forgiving then real tennis' scoring system, since you can come back more easily. Serves are much less of an advantage, and it's also easier to recover after lunging for a shot. It's a much smaller court size, which if nothing else increases the speed of the game, and it's also much easier to hit most balls, since you player has more reach, so rallies tend to go on for more shots, and are won by that one killer return, rather then a more drawn out build up of position. However, since it's still a game where you move around with a controller and press A to hit the ball, Table Tennis has much more in common with Virtua Tennis then real tennis does with real table tennis. Another important difference is that spin plays a much more dramatic role in table tennis, and with the power of a new CPU, Rockstar have managed to put together a physics engine that allows for a huge variety of ball movement on both the table and off the paddles. The ball is constantly curving and slicing just like in real life, and while spin indicators have been added to the ball in the form of coloured arrows (corresponding to the button colour for that spin), you'll have to learn to read your opponent to handle some of the more subtle angles.

Game! Anyone for a cup of Hot Coffee?

Game! Anyone for a cup of Hot Coffee?
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Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis defintely looks like a next gen title. The player models and arenas are up to the level of Fight Night Round 3 on the Xbox 360, with swaying clothes and floppy ponytails, and the players get sweat stains and different expressions on their' faces as a game wears on. Much like Fight Night, the animations can be a bit off, and the fancy new graphics show them up like a bad editor in a Michal Bay film – watch that idle animation snap into a shot animation with the flick of a button. Sonically it seems to be shaping up decently, the sound effects are fine, and when a rally gets going some sports-broadcast style music starts pumping, but that's about it. We didn't get to see the online options, so we'll have to wait for the game's release to see how well it works, but we were promised it would be fully featured.

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis seems to be everything we'd expect from a Table Tennis game. With no fancy features like 'create a player' or 'make your own rules', and no real players or popular events (so you can't re-create “Wimbledon '98” or “FA Cup 2003” like fans can in other sports games), Table Tennis has to rely on it's gameplay to justify it's existence, Look out for our full review in May.
Overall:
Shaping up quite nicely, and should be fun with friends or online. The budget price tag won't hurt either.

Related Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis Content

New screens for Rockstar's Table Tennis
08 Apr, 2006 Plus: official site launches.
Rockstar announces Xbox 360 exclusive...
05 Mar, 2006 ...and it's table tennis.
19 Comments
8 years ago
Quote
The player models are quite detailed.
...... Why?

I'm disappointed that they wasted this time developing such a boring game. We demand more GTA!
8 years ago
It's the distillation of modern technology down to a single action and it's awesome. Screenshots don't do it justice.
8 years ago
looks pretty impressive. while i echo GT's call for more GTA, it's good to see them actually breaking away from their pigeon-hole.

although Table Tennis probably wouldn't have been my first guess if anyone had asked me what they were doing now.
8 years ago
apparently the entire team in San Diego is table tennis mad.
8 years ago
^ yeah i remembered reading something along those lines, probably on this site.

good on em for doing something with something they enjoy i guess. i hope this sentiment doesn't translate to their other games.
8 years ago
GTPod wrote
Quote
The player models are quite detailed.
...... Why?

I'm disappointed that they wasted this time developing such a boring game. We demand more GTA!
I agree, let's carbon copy San Andreas and improve the graphics!
8 years ago
^^ It's not the GTA team anyway, it's the Midnight Club team.
8 years ago
The graphic looks great.
8 years ago
Cerebral wrote
GTPod wrote
Quote
The player models are quite detailed.
...... Why?

I'm disappointed that they wasted this time developing such a boring game. We demand more GTA!
I agree, let's carbon copy San Andreas and improve the graphics!
But replace Hot Coffee with a Table Tennis Minigame!
8 years ago
Hey, I love table tennis. Wouldn't pay $100-$120 for a table tennis game, but still.
8 years ago
So games come full circle....

It's only major opposition is the orginal PONG.
8 years ago
theory wrote
Hey, I love table tennis. Wouldn't pay $100-$120 for a table tennis game, but still.
Yeah & for $120 you can already get like a cheap 2nd-hand table, so why not play it for real.
8 years ago
838 La wrote
theory wrote
Hey, I love table tennis. Wouldn't pay $100-$120 for a table tennis game, but still.
Yeah & for $120 you can already get like a cheap 2nd-hand table, so why not play it for real.
My point exactly. Can't really go play GTA for real. icon_razz.gif

Good to hear it was the Midnight Dub guys instead though. *phew* The GTA guys better be producing some generic remake of the series. icon_razz.gif
8 years ago
Lovely graphics. Looks like a fun game, but still, it will never beat REAL table tennis icon_wink.gif
8 years ago
I think those are the reasons a serious table tennis game was never made. It's a indoor sport, almost everyone can play it, not expensive, only require two player (or one, forest gump style).
Anyway, the graphics is great (except a little dark... it's table tennis!), this next gen will be interesting, especially with nintendo doing their thing.
8 years ago
The game is retailing for $69.95 which makes it a cheaper title. Everyone says do something different and then Rockstar do and people criticise.
8 years ago
Jibbs wrote
So games come full circle....

It's only major opposition is the orginal PONG.
No, until this game can be played on a diy board from maplin almost *every* piece of hardware and is given away as a minigame in a shareware game that came from an attempt to port SMB3 to DOS by the makers of a famous modern fps.
It will never beat PONG.
(10$poons for the name of game and screenshot)
8 years ago
You know the funny thing about Pong? It wasn't actually a 'computer' game, since it actually had no computer in it.
8 years ago
--alex-- wrote
Jibbs wrote
So games come full circle....

It's only major opposition is the orginal PONG.
No, until this game can be played on a diy board from maplin almost *every* piece of hardware and is given away as a minigame in a shareware game that came from an attempt to port SMB3 to DOS by the makers of a famous modern fps.
It will never beat PONG.
(10$poons for the name of game and screenshot)
I remembered one PS2 game loading screen was a playable Pong, anyone knew what game that was?
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Australian Release Date:
  26/05/2006 (Released)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  2K Games
Genre:
  Sports
Year Made:
  2006

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