Previewed: Rockstar’s Table Tennis

As long-time Grand Theft Auto fans – yes, all the way back to the 2D ones – Stuff’s gamers naturally raised a few eyebrows at the news that GTA’s make

As long-time Grand Theft Auto fans – yes, all the way back to the 2D ones – Stuff’s gamers naturally raised a few eyebrows at the news that GTA’s maker Rockstar was working on a game called Table Tennis. Had Rockstar lost its mind? This week we found out by being one of the first UK mags to have a play.

The title’s out 26th May but, in the meantime, here’s what we thought about the game being hailed as the Xbox 360’s saviour.

The idea

A fast and furious, arcade-style incarnation of table tennis, complete with impeccable physics, glorious visuals and bags of longevity.

Pinging you with choice

We didn’t think there was much variety anyone could add to table tennis, but we were wrong. Rockstar’s paddle whacker employs more than ten different arenas – all of which have different speeds and soundtracks – and eleven different players. The coolest thing is how different each player is: some are sluggish and powerful, several major on spin, while others are agile on their feet and capable of returning virtually any shot.

Incidentally, the game’s graphically awesome. Floorboards show grain and reflect light to a frighteningly realistic – if you’re scared of floorboards – and players develop sweat patch as they’re rallying.

Control is everything

The control system was always going to make or break an arcade game like this. Fortunately, Rockstar seems to have got things right, although it’s still finalising a couple of the button action. The left analogue stick’s used for moving about and directing your shots, while the four colour buttons are used to apply spin and – if you hold ‘em down – extra power. Smack enough zippy shots and you’ll enter Rockstar’s temporary Focus mode: the perfect chance for killer smashes.

Game, and match

From what we’ve seen and played, Table Tennis is a lot of fun. Provided you’re not losing, in which case it’s maddeningly frustrating – the key thing is, like the real game, you need to get in to a rhythm. Otherwise you lose point after point.

There’s a real sense of a long learning curve here: it’s easy to get started, but hard to master. Instead of learning dramatically different gameplay modes, it’s all about finessing and refinining your reflexes and planning a killer strategy. A bit like chess, but without the knights and egg timers. The closest gaming analogy we can come up with is a mix of Virtua Tennis and Tekken.

We’ve only played it mulitplayer so far, and that looks certain to be the main reason for buying this game: competition with mates. We sense juices and beers being spilt in Stuff Towers already.

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