VR Ping Pong Pro Review
Ping Pong is a simple game. It was one of the first games ever to be developed as a video game. Two paddles and a ping pong ball. That’s it. Of course, Pong was a simplistic representation of the game with it’s rudimentary monochrome graphics where two white lines that could only move vertically on the screen were supposed to deflect a small square, white blob back and forth. The mechanics were simple because the technology was so limited. As technology progressed allowing for more detailed graphics and physics, video games for ping pong, tennis, and golf inched closer to matching the nuances of their real life counterparts yet were always limited to two dimensions. Now with VR these games are even closer to the real thing.
VR Ping Pong Pro comes very close to capturing the feeling of playing the game for real minus the lack of haptic feedback. When that becomes common place, and given the pace of development probably within 5 years, then the gap between real and VR will be slight. PC hardware already provides haptic feedback and the upcoming next gen of consoles are also promising such hardware.
For now the next step in immersion is virtual reality and the ability to provide room scale experiences which ping pong is perfect for. The playing field is just a table with a net strung across it. From a game development perspective this is a dream. It allows for greater detail in the playing environment. In VR Ping Pong Pro you get to play in various locations, from a city park to a garage and to a video arcade to a Japanese garden to mention a few. Each locale is full of extra detail that brings the environment to life.
Unfortunately that feeling of life does not translate to the actual gameplay. To be fair, the fault is not entirely with the game but the PSVR hardware itself. The wand controllers are simply not up to the task because their tracking can’t keep up to the fast pace of a ping pong game. This is really evident when you get a rally going and the ball goes back and forth more than six times or so. When moving back and forth from side to side the tracking struggles. The tracking is also an issue when you are trying to finesse shots either by location and/or changing the speed at which you hit the ball.
The level of control desired is just not available on this platform which leads to frustration as you work to set up shots through rallies only to muff the shot due to inadequate tracking. Yes, sometimes a bad shot is made but other times it’s the hardware letting you down. It’s doubly frustrating because you are never sure if it is you or the game that is at fault. The best strategy is to play for short rallies with one or two returns. Not ideal because ping pong is at its most fun when you can get into a rhythm and run off long rallies.
A Little Rough Around the Edges
Another off-putting thing is that the opponent is just a paddle. There is a lack of immersion without facing a player but the real downer is the hit zone of the opponent’s paddle. The hit zone extends down to the handle too and that annoyed me to no end. In real life a ping pong ball bouncing off your paddle leads to random results. Who knows where the ball is going to go! But in this game the ball reacts just the same way as if it was hit with the proper part of the paddle.
VR Ping Pong Pro includes several play modes: Single Player, Multi-Player and an arcade mode. The Player modes are available in singles and doubles modes. The Multi-Player mode was a ghost town in my experience so I was never able to find a match against another player. The arcade mode offers up some diversions such as a wall mode, hit the point, hit the goal, and a rather clever one: broken table, where pieces of table disappear until a point is made.
The are five levels of difficulty but the gradations between each level is too far. The first level offers little challenge, the second level is pretty competitive until you figure out its weaknesses, and then from there up it gets impossible,especially with the tracking issues. The game also provides settings for you to adjust the paddle tilt as well as player height and distance from the table. These latter two settings are vital to giving you a chance to play the game properly. Getting them right took quite a bit of tweaking and fiddling for me. There is some minor customization where you can change the color of the ball and change the face color/design of your paddle as well.
While the game looks pretty enough there just isn’t a lot of depth to it. The feeling of playing ping pong is mostly here, but with the technological deficiencies in tracking that prevent the control and finesse needed in a fast paced game, VR Ping Pro misses the mark.
***PSVR Code Provided by Publisher***
- Detailed playing environments
- Multiple gameplay modes
- Arcade mode has some fun diversions
- Disembodied opponent
- Physics wilt under pressure
- Little multiplayer activity