Rockstar?s goal, it tells us, was to create a game that is perfectly addictive in its focused simplicity, a game that showcases the true possibilities of a next gen experience, not just in its pretty boy looks, but also in its effortlessly cool feel and its dastardly quick pace. And this is exactly what it have achieved.
Another winning feature - which is so coolly understated in the game it made us almost wet ourselves with joy when we discovered it - is that of the audio and the in-game music. The music, for example, builds up as a rally develops, adding to the excitement perfectly, without being in any way obstructive or seeming like it had been tagged on as an afterthough, as is the case with most in-game music and soundtracks. It, like everything in this game, is integral to the gameplay experience. And as for the noise of the ball as it tickles the net, or as it chinks off the side of the table ? SPOnG cannot figure out how Rockstar has recreated these noises as perfectly as it has. We can only assume that it must have taken a lot of time and patience with lots of microphones and long, table tennis sessions late into the night.
SPOnG ruled its opponent (who shall remain nameless) in our all-too-short preview session with the game ? reducing him almost to tears. The mook wheeled out a list of excuses why he couldn?t cut it on the mini green six foot by twelve wooden battleground (he?d had too much lager the night before, he needed an eyetest, he thought the game was ?too detailed? and on and on the excuses they came). The bottom line was that he had not mastered the basics of the game, which are, as in the real world game, to make sure you are not too far out on either side of the table, and to decide on what shot you are going to play as early as you possibly can. If you forget these two basic rules, then, like SPOnG?s ungracious opponent (who shall remain nameless) you will soon find yourself whimpering in shameful defeat.
As soon as you grasp the basics, however, then the game has you. By the balls. You will soon be trying out ?Focus? and ?Drop? shots, which you pull off by simply tapping the controller?s shoulder buttons. You also learn how to spin the ball in ways that will, hopefully, throw your opponent. There is a slight colour trail that follows the ball, the colour and intensity of the trail being dependent on what shot you used and the amount of spin you put on the ball. The trail is something that both players become more aware of as their experience grows, as it is vital in deciding the best shot to play to return your opponents volley.
We didn?t want to stop playing it. We are now counting down the days until we get the preview code, so we can get all of our mates and our girlfriends playing it. Yes, it really is this good. We even considered calling up Rockstar this morning to ask if we might get involved in its internal office championships. But then we decided not to, as it might think that we were a bit weird(er).
Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis for the Xbox 360 is expected to ship to North American retailers on May 22nd, 2006 for a MSRP of $39.99 and will hit European retail shelves on May 26th, 2006 for a price of ?39.99 and £29.99 in the UK.