E3 06: Table Tennis Hands-On

We pinged, we ponged, we tried to float a drop shot just over the net.

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Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis
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LOS ANGELES--It seemed like an unlikely move at the time of its announcement, but sure enough, Rockstar's San Diego studio has just about completed work on Table Tennis, a pretty slick-looking, fast-paced ping-pong game with easy-to-understand gameplay and online support. We got our hands on the game at the 2006 Electronic Entertainment Expo and had a lot of fun picking up on the nuances of the simple-but-fun action.

The game will contain 11 playable characters, four of whom are female. But many of those players will be locked at first, along with outfits and other stuff. The game has a tournament mode, as well as exhibition matches. A whole bunch of different, authentic-looking arenas are also available. Much like your basic tennis game, you have your choice of different shots as you attempt to score a point. Each of the face buttons correspond to a different shot, letting you hit shots with top spin, back spin, and spins to either side. You can also hit the left trigger to do a drop shot, which is handy if your opponent is playing back from the table. Much like Top Spin 2, how long you hold down the shot button determines the quality of your shot. Also, you can charge up a meter that lets you hit focus shots--powerful shots that are especially difficult to return.

We had a great time taking on a couple of different challengers on the E3 2006 show floor in Microsoft's huge boothspace devoted to the Xbox. The controls seem responsive and we seemed to detect distinctly different handling characteristics for the different characters we controlled. Their different stances and playing styles are also visibly apparent.

The other key point about Table Tennis is its graphics. The game has really sharp player models and realistic clothing, and the animation is really good. On top of that, since it's table tennis and not, you know, regular tennis, this is a pretty fast-moving, hectic game. While the offline portion of the game appears to be complete, it sounds like the last tweaks are going into the online mode. Online play will include multiplayer tournaments as well as exhibition matches.

Rockstar's Table Tennis is set to ship near the end of this month at a discount price of $39.99. We'll have a full review near its release.

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