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Rockstar serves up a treat for Wii owners, providing multiplayer is your type of thing...
- Retains the blistering pace.
- Table Tennis suits the Wii Remote.
- Subtle core depth remains the same.
- Lack of single-player content sitll an issue.
- No online options.
- Control methods not as good as the Xbox 360.
Whilst the battle between Rockstar and the BBFC continues to rage and cast an uncertain future for Manhunt 2 (in the UK at least), Rockstar's Wii debut comes with the slightly less notorious port of Rockstar San Diego's 2006 homage to the sport of table tennis.
In stark contrast to the shock and surprise caused by the original Xbox 360 announcement, the decision to port Table Tennis to Wii seems like a no-brainer, particularly if they can tap into the phenomenal success of Wii Sports. As such, there are no radical changes to what was on offer 17 months ago. Intent to deliver the gameplay sincerity that lurked beneath the 360 version, Rockstar have eschewed Wii friendly touches such as 'Mii' integration for the same clinical approach and minimal selection of Exhibition and Tournament modes.
Drawing some criticisms due to the lack of content, Table Tennis succeeded on the Xbox 360 solely as a multiplayer gem. The blisteringly fast pace coupled with the refined control system created a maddeningly addictive portrayal of table tennis, which, like Virtua Tennis before it, was better appreciated with a friend on the receiving end. It's this, that port-specialists Rockstar Leeds have appropriately focussed upon when taking the game to Wii.
Not One, Not Two, But Three Control Methods
Working around the restrictions of analogue thumbsticks, Rockstar San Diego created a faultless control setup on the Xbox 360, so much so, that the Wii controls initially seem unresponsive and off-putting. Offering three control methods to choose between, Table Tennis on Wii aptly caters to the wide range of gamer demographics that's characterising the format. A casual-gamer friendly 'Standard' control method requires a simple wave of the Wii Remote to handle the swing whilst the Wii handles the character's movement in a similar fashion to Wii Sports' Tennis, launching into a flurry of shots with few demands on skill or strategy. Combining the nunchuk, the 'Control Freak' setup provides an experience closer to the Xbox 360, with the added task of character movement using the thumbstick. Finally, 'Sharp Shooter' retains the nunchuk for precise control over the ball position, and attempts to capture the subtle brilliance of the inspired charged-shot dynamic that vibrated the 360 pad into action whenever a shot risked exploding past the table.
Attempting to put spin on the ball using just the Wii Remote is a somewhat erratic affair, with the fine mastery of spin tasked to pressure on the tiddly d-pad as opposed to elegant wrist gestures. Part of the initial problem for anybody who enjoyed racking up 100+ hit volleys on the Xbox 360, will be how different it initially feels on Wii. The deceptive delay between swinging and accompanying on-screen shot initially suggests that Table Tennis has the same degree of motion-sensitive subtlety deficiency (MSSD) that's rife across lesser Wii titles, although in actual fact it's a close portrayal of the charging system employed in the 360 version.
After prolonged bashes on each of the control setups it seems fair to say each of them manage to convey what makes Table Tennis so enjoyable, just in a different manner for a wider audience. Like playing guitar in the real world always seems to be a disadvantage in Guitar Hero, coming to Table Tennis on Wii after the Xbox 360 immediately seems to put you on the back foot. So much is my admiration for Rockstar San Diego's work that you have to question why neither of the control options can provide the scope in its entirety that the 360 provided - you either have character movement or shot positioning, but not both.
To its credit, Table Tennis does manage to fit in everything else that the 360 version had to offer. All of the shots are featured in their entirety including the focus, charged, soft shots, and sense of control (even though it's split across three configurations), whilst more suitably the same subtle tactics that appeared during the match after prolonged play soon becomes apparent on the Wii version. Although it takes awhile for a 360 vet to become accustomed to the changes and begin to notch up the serious rallies, perseverance does reveal that Rockstar Leeds have managed to translate the core concepts that made the original so special with the same blistering sense of speed and a control method for everybody (excluding 360 owners).
It's All About Multiplayer
The prolonged appeal of Table Tennis on the Xbox 360 lied squarely with the multiplayer, and it's much the same for the Wii version. Unfortunately, for a game geared solely around multiplayer, the lack of online options does cause a few concerns over its long-term aspirations on Wii. Admittedly, Table Tennis didn't exactly set Xbox Live alight and the online options for Wii still appear in their infancy, but ultimately this leaves the appeal of Table Tennis hanging on whether you have another people to play. It's a shame Rockstar Leeds couldn't have taken the chance to add doubles or something to the fold, or perhaps some of those Wii styled features that would have probably improved the game's appeal amongst the Wii demographic.
Although it lacks the next-gen sheen and along with it the award winning sweat effects (if they didn't win any then they should have) and realistic cloth movement, Rockstar's RAGE has been brought across to Wii largely intact - a good sign for the future of Rockstar titles on Wii. Perhaps Rockstar Leeds could have done a few things to make Table Tennis look less like the 360's uglier sibling, but at the very least it retains the strikingly authentic animation and the ferocious tempo that is a linchpin of the series.
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