With VR Ping Pong Pro from Merge Games, we have another digital recreation of a sport that lends itself very well to motion controls. It’s out now for Playstation VR and for PC-based headsets through Steam – we tested the PSVR version.
It’s a sign that VR has been around for a while now when you consider that VR Ping Pong Pro is actually a sequel. The original game was met with lukewarm responses, but because ping pong is such a great sport for motion controls I was looking forward to testing the new iteration. After all, Racket Fury was a lot of fun to play in VR. And remember when Rockstar made a table tennis game as well? That’s probably my favorite of the bunch, but I’ll happily settle for a VR version in the meantime.
One of VR Ping Pong Pro’s big additions over the original game is that you can now choose from no less than eight different locations, and they represent a nice diversity of spots to play in. Besides the standard indoor venue we’re all familiar with, you can also head outdoors and play inside a rustic Japanese garden this time – and you also have the option to head into a full blown classic arcade, which is filled with videogame cabinets (that you unfortunately can’t walk over to and play).
What you can do, however, is play a selection of ping pong themed minigames that are based on other classic games like bowling. This is a nice addition if you’ve grown weary of just playing matches or just want to practice your skills in a different context. To help with your skill level you can also turn up (or down) the level of difficulty for your AI opponent – and turning it all the way down is something I definitely recommend doing while starting out.
The main reason for that is not necessarily how good the AI is, but more the general feel of the controls that feel overly sensitive and never quite give you the feeling you have the amount of control you feel you should have. This is especially true if you’re played actual ping pong before and compare the feeling. I am sure that the Playstation Move controllers don’t help in this regard as they weren’t developed with fine movements in mind. As a result, the experience can feel a bit more like tennis than table tennis, and that’s something that takes a bit of getting used to. Part of me wonders what the experience is like using newer controls like the ones on the Vive or Rift, but I haven’t had a chance to test that.
VR Ping Pong Pro has beautiful visuals thanks to its new locations, but they don’t really shine through when viewed through the headset – which makes them blurry, even when played on a PS4 Pro (we’re not sure it has PS4 Pro optimizations either). On-screen text can get especially blurry, and the highly detailed backdrops lose a bit of their appeal because they’re not being rendered at high enough resolutions.
Besides regular games against AI opponents, the game also supports online multiplayer, which can be used for single games as well as tournament-type events. These both work well, but I had trouble finding online games when I tried – something that seems to be a factor in nearly all multiplayer titles that are VR exclusive.
Because of the muddy visuals and control issues, I can’t recommend VR Ping Pong Pro over a game like Racket Fury. That game had a more simplistic art style, but the visuals were nice and crisp as a result. The actual gameplay was more fun as well, and the game just recently received an online multiplayer mode too. VR Ping Pong Pro is certainly an ambitious title, but seems to suffer under the limitations of the hardware it runs on.