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Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

Preview: Wii tennis to sink your teeth into

Where Wii Sports is a small fix of motion control luxury, Rockstar's Table Tennis is a full-on effort. Wii Sports Tennis has been one of the best examples of the Wii's motion control system, but Rockstar has finally stepped up with a more substantial offering. For the record, we asked why Rockstar hadn't done Wii Table Tennis last Christmas...

Table tennis on Wii is pretty much a direct port of the Xbox 360 version with the ultra-high resolutions swapped out for newfangled motion controls.

The basic control option uses just the Wii Remote on its own, and the computers takes control of your characters movement. As you'd expect, the Wii Remote becomes your bat as you swing it to hit the ball.

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Unlike Wii Sports Tennis, however, Rockstar has put together a brilliant system for guiding the ball where you want it to go. You smash the ball left or right with forearm and backhand swings of the Remote. So, for example, if you're holding the Remote in your right hand, a forearm swing hits the ball left and a backhander knocks the ball right.

You can determine how far over the net your shot travels too. A large, forward-driving swing in either direction will push the ball deep into the other side of the table, while a subtle flick of the wrist will dip the ball just over the net.

Those all-important spin shots are controlled with the Wii Remote's D-pad. You apply left, right, forward and backspin to your shot by holding the corresponding D-pad direction as you swing.

It's a simple but intuitive control system and being as Table Tennis doesn't require a great deal of player movement it doesn't feel like the CPU control over your player is holding your hand like a child that can't play games (as in Wii Sports).

But the key thing that Rockstar has done here - and it's something that Nintendo seems defiantly reluctant to do - is given you the chance to choose your own control system and, in turn, the level of control you have over the game.

What if you're a hardcore gamer that wants to take it further once you've mastered batting? Wii Sports says "no, play me like all the other mums and five-year-olds." Rockstar says "Sure, have a couple of 'Advanced' control methods", and we smile.

The 'Advanced' control method allows you to take full control of your player's movement with the analogue stick on the Nunchuk controller. All of the Wii Remote functions remain the same, but you can get into positions in anticipation of a trick smash from your opponent, and if you don't get to a ball in time you can't blame it on the computer (as your more stubborn mates will no-doubt do when the CPU-controlled option fails to get them there on time).

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A third control option seeks to emulate the traditional controls of the 360 version with the Wii Remote and Nunchuk (there's no option to use the Classic controller, oddly). You control player movement and hit direction with the analogue stick, and you hit the ball just by flicking the Wii Remote in any way you like - it makes no difference.

Playing this way feel nicely familiar, and reintroduces the mechanic of the controller rumbling when you're about to hit the ball out play, but if you're going to play it like this you might as well get the 360 version.

We prefer the other more involving control methods, even though it takes about half an hour to calibrate your brain to swing in specific ways to get a desired shot. And if you add character movement to that your mind will be spinning for the first hour.

You'd also be interested to know that, unlike Wii Sports Tennis, you don't swing the Remote to get an immediate response in the game. It's more like the 360 game in that you swing in advance of the ball reaching your character and your player takes the swing when the ball gets there (which, at the speedy pace of this game, is a split second later anyway).

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