Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis
Developer and Publisher: Rockstar Games
Platform: Xbox 360
Price: US$39.99 (shop for this item)
Rating: E for Everyone
To say that you expect certain things when playing a Rockstar game is somewhat of an understatement, as controversy follows them like crows follow an army. The sharp satire of the Grand Theft Auto series is lost under piles of negative press and supposed crime "inspired" by the game. Jack Thompson has almost made an entire career out of going after Rockstar and their parent company, Take-Two Interactive. The Hot Coffee fiasco brought heat onto the entire industry when the ratings system appeared to have broken down. Let’s not even talk about their upcoming game Bully, where you get to harass children smaller than you for hours on end. Naturally, the press is having a field day with that one. While Rockstar seems to grab the spotlight with whatever they do in the gaming field, it has to get tiresome after awhile. You have to think that just once they’d like to release a game, and not have to worry about the press they’ll receive for it.
Well, in terms of innocuous subject matter, you can’t beat Table Tennis. The sport that Forrest Gump excelled at is an odd choice for Rockstar’s latest next-generation game, and for a long time many people though it was a joke, a riff on Rockstar’s bad-boy persona. The game is very real, and has been released on the Xbox 360 at a time when that system needs some solid diversity in its lineup.
Still, a Table Tennis game? At US$40 the game is a full US$20 cheaper than what we’re used to on the 360, positioning it at a tempting price point. What does Rockstar know about sports games though? Is Table Tennis even a sport? Just what niche are they trying to fill?
It’s an off-the-wall move, but of course the company that turned The Warriors into a household name again was never one to do the expected thing. What’s even more amusing is how into it Rockstar seems to be. There’s a loving history of Table Tennis in the instruction manual, and the game claims it’s a "lovingly created homage to this amazing sport." From perusing the manual, I learned that the first governing body of Table Tennis, the International Table Tennis Federation (or the ITTF) was created in 1926, which is information I have no clue what to do with.
If someone had told me two years ago
this was an actual logo…
As a sport, Table Tennis strikes me as something that would be comfortable on ESPN 8, and although I love the Ocho, I can’t see Table Tennis as having the kind of huge following that demands an accurate video game version of their sport. In fact, I’m getting tired of typing Table Tennis, but I’m guessing Rockstar would get mad if I started to call it Ping Pong.
Still, by simply coming from Rockstar, this game has had a lot of press. It doesn’t have to do a lot to impress here, it just has to be a good representation of
ping pong table tennis. The concept of knocking a ball back and forth using paddles has had a long and storied history in the gaming world, so revisiting the idea in a next-generation setting will at least show us if the game mechanic has some legs left in it. Does a glorified Pong have what it takes to keep us interested in 2006? Is there a code to make everyone nude? Is Tom Hanks an unlockable character?
I’m going to answer at least one of those questions, and although it still feels surreal when I look at the box for the game and see that Rockstar logo on the big Table Tennis ball, who else would try something so insanely ridiculous? At this point, nothing they do will surprise me. The question is: does Table Tennis deserve its own game, or is this just a publicity stunt to get attention off of Take-Two’s more controversial products?