Review by horror_spooky

Reviewed: 12/01/08

Grand Theft Table Tennis

Rockstar is a very notorious developer in the video game world, and nearly every title they release is met with immense amounts of controversy. Whether some of this controversy is deserved is arguable, but regardless of the moralities of a Rockstar game, they always manage to be a blast. The Grand Theft Auto games are some of the finest games of the fifth, sixth, and seventh generations, and are some of the most recognizable games to date. Bully was a unique schoolyard romp that provided a more toned down GTA experience, but with plenty of its own charm to go along with it. Manhunt is a dark and gritty stealth game with a twisted plot. The Warriors, a game based on the cult classic film, is a brilliant co-op brawler that’s absolutely stuffed with content. For their first foray on seventh generation consoles, everyone accepted a game that fell in the usual demographic of their titles: hilarious dialogue, loveable characters, an awesome plot, solid gameplay, and plenty of action. Instead of the super imaginative free-roaming spectacle that is the Grand Theft Auto games and instead of the gory and extremely violent stealth action found in Manhunt, we get a game about, get this, Table Tennis.

You can’t blame Rockstar for trying to bring something new to the table, but Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis just isn’t that great of a game in general. I’m not really bothered that they didn’t stay with the usual games they make, but there’s no getting around that Table Tennis ends up being a generic and very basic attempt at a sports title. It feels like a tech demo of sorts, and I feel its only purpose was to show off the kind of graphics Rockstar could pull off on the Xbox 360.

Whatever the game’s intentions may be, the actual playing of Table Tennis, or ping-pong as you may know it by, is a little fun in its own respects. You use the right analog stick for most of your actions, and this makes the game feel much more interactive than if you were just tapping the face buttons or pulling on the triggers. With practice, you will be able to pull off some pretty sweet moves and you will start developing your own strategies.

The main flaw that Table Tennis has is simply its lack of features, and this is what makes it feel more like a tech demo than a complete game. There is no career mode and you are forced to pick from an imaginary roster instead of having the ability to create your own character, a feature that has been present in sports game since the days of the Nintendo 64.

Instead of a true career mode, you have to partake in little tournaments that are divided by their difficulty. The game is extremely difficult in this regard as it takes a true mastery of the controls to get through these tournaments with a victory. Even the easier tournaments are pretty scathing in their own regard.

The purpose of these tournaments is to unlock new characters and such, but with this and achievements being the only real motivation, will you put up with its ridiculous difficulty?

To get you into the groove of things, there are some practice modes you can do. These modes are actually a little fun to play, but they are also extremely hard to master. As intuitive as the controls are, they do hamper the experience some.

Exhibition matches are available to play if you want to play some multiplayer, and this is easy one of the main highlights of the game. Playing against the overbearing computers may not be fun at all, but playing against your friends is since it’s really skill vs. skill instead of skill vs. overpowered computer. Unfortunately, multiplayer is only available through Xbox Live, which was just a really stupid move on Rockstar’s part. Seriously, I know a game like this with barely any features at all wouldn’t be too hard to incorporate offline multiplayer, and it further shows that the game is nothing but a glorified tech demo with no substance behind the pretty graphics.

Keeping within the refines of reality is not a good thing for any game, even sports titles that try to be realistic. There are just some aspects of real life that should be kept away from games, and Rockstar recognizes that. They give you the “focus shot”, which basically slows down time to give you a chance to hit the ball back with more strategy and force behind it. Sure this whole slowing down time feature has been used to death ever since Max Payne popularized it last generation, but it gets the job done and that’s all that really matters.

Like I’ve stated multiple times throughout this review, the visuals in Table Tennis are actually pretty nice. The character models are godly and if you’ve played Grand Theft Auto IV, they’re pretty much like that, but with a little more detail to them. Everything is crisp and polished, but the environments are pretty damn bland and empty. None of the characters have much life to them, but they do look good at least.

Another big problem with Table Tennis is that, unlike many other sports games, it has a dreadful soundtrack. There is virtually no music on the disc, let alone licensed tracks. I’m pretty sure Rockstar had the idea in mind that players would simply use their own music to accommodate the lack of music in Table Tennis, but regardless of the intentions, the game is still a disappointment without a solid soundtrack. I know Table Tennis isn’t the most exciting sport in the world, but licensed music would have really given the matches more flair.

Table Tennis is an overly difficult game, meaning that it will take you quite a while to master the controls and go through all of the tournaments. Achievements will give you more incentive to play this mess, but that’s all it really has going for it. The multiplayer would have been great, but since it is restricted to Xbox Live, it really takes a turn for the worst. In any sports game, the replayability is usually the biggest draw, but Rockstar did the near impossible and created a sports title that you really wouldn’t want to pop in again any time soon.

After releasing hit after hit, it looked like Rockstar’s dominance would never cease, but with this drab and poorly done tech demo of a game, Rockstar proves that even the best developers can create something right under mediocrity. The character models are nice and the gameplay feels very involving, but the lack of a solid soundtrack, no offline multiplayer functions, and a very limited scope (no career mode. What the hell?) makes sure that Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis will be collecting dusts on the “Used Game” racks everywhere.

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Product Release: Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis (US, 05/22/06)

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