As the anecdote goes (I don't know if it's true or not... but who cares?), this game was originally a joke. Rockstar is known for making violent, sometimes brutal, acclaimed games such as the Grand Theft Auto series, Manhunt, Max Payne and, more recently, Red Dead Redemption. Well, as the story goes, someone at Rockstar thought it might be funny if, after all of the attention-grabbing games of the past, they just made a normal, "boring" game of table tennis instead.
No joke. What happened next is just a damn good game.
Even reviewers introduced to it before it came out thought it was a hoax. Nope. Even better, with Rockstar's meticulous attention to detail, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis is actually one of the best sports simulators... well, ever. Period.
TT seems like an easy game at first. You serve the ball, you hit the ball, score some points, win. Right. Not so fast. Rockstar has given you the ability to use different spins in your serves and returns, the ability to place the ball where you want, and everything else you'd expect from an actual game of table tennis. Including the little subtleties... when to float the ball just over the net (and HOW to do that), when to power it to the outside when they're not expecting it, and so on.
You can use either buttons or the analog stick to control your spins. While the buttons work fine, the stick takes some getting used to, but pays off with the subtle control you can master. The opponents are no pushovers, either... some of them are quite challenging. You get to choose one of the basic ones at the beginning, and you can unlock others as you progress.
The game looks and feels real, too. It's a stripped down game, not much glitz or glamour involved... even the players are "average-looking." The entire focus is on the game. You, your opponent, and the ball. It's maddening at times, yet addictive. Replaying the same opponent over and over again to get used to their style pays rewards in the end if you're willing to put the time in and learn.
The achievements in this game are daunting. There are few pushovers, here. The difficulties ramp up as you advance in your career, and some opponents you may never master. That makes these all the more rewarding when you do. This is why the game still hovers around a 4.0 TA ratio... the difficulty is not insignificant. In addition, trying to beat the hardest circuit with every player... even the weaker ones... is quite an achievement, and worth every point you earn from that.
In its essence, Rockstar got it right. Table tennis is a very subtle game, and those subtleties are built into the program. This is a game you should pick up for the fun, not the achievements. I think you'll find the gameplay addictive if you can get past the initial frustration, and once you understand how to use your tools to slice that wicked curve right past your opponent. It's also great online, even if there isn't much of a community anymore. Still, considering its bargain bin status, and although Rockstar Table Tennis is by no means an easy completion, it's worth picking up.