Virtual reality remains a niche. Sure, the VR exclusive Half-Life: Alyx will probably help propel it into the mainstream, but despite PSVR selling over four million headsets, the whole technology is still considered a novelty. There are some things that virtual reality does great—and while it’s unmatched for its immersive abilities, moving around in VR can be troublesome, especially for those who get motion sick (like me). That’s why games that are room-scale, or standing only, are some of the best I’ve played in VR—and why games like VR Ping Pong Pro fit VR perfectly.
And while VR Ping Pong Pro is a great fit for VR, is it a good game of ping pong? The answer is: it’s okay.
I’m not an avid ping pong player, but I do have an expectation for what ping pong should feel like. VR Ping Pong Pro feels like an okay game of ping pong, but there are too many things that make it not the real thing, and a few other things that just make it frustrating.
Since there are so many different headsets, I should mention that I’ve been playing on a Valve Index HMD. Unfortunately, I have my HTC Vive packed away, because VR Ping Pong Pro would probably feel great with the Vive wand controllers. And while the curved Index ‘knuckle’ controllers work, it took my brain some getting used-to to make it feel like I was holding a ping pong paddle. This isn’t a criticism of VR Ping Pong Pro, but more of a warning to those who might be using Valve’s VR headset.
VR Ping Pong Pro is what you’d expect: ping pong in virtual reality. You can play with random people in multiplayer in a single match, or in the “world cup” mode. But if you prefer to play alone, there are far more things to do in single player. There are five different locations you can play in single player–from a peaceful Japanese garden (my favorite) to a battle in your friend’s garage. Each setting is interesting, and is chock full of details to notice. But honestly, I wish there was an option to play in a completely empty room.
There is an arcade mode with multiple different variations, which is perhaps my favorite thing to do in VR Ping Pong Pro. There is wall mode, hit the goal, and hit the point—all variations that help you develop your VR Ping Pong Pro skills while being pretty fun. I think my favorite mode is “broken table.” When the ball hits the table, that part of the table disappears, and continues to disappear until someone makes a point.
Playing with the curved Index Controllers was something I could get used to. But the glitches were a whole other issue—especially the strange collision and tracking issues that consistently popped up through my playthrough. Balls would often sail straight through paddles, and fly off of my paddle in angles I didn’t expect. I would chalk it up to my mistakes in hitting the ball if it wasn’t for the fact I’ve watched the ball sail through my opponents’ paddle more than once, or for the fact that I was hitting the ball straight on and it would sail away.
Another issue, and one of the biggest I had, was the ball itself. Sometimes, and I couldn’t pinpoint what was causing it, when the ping pong ball entered into my sight, the tracking would feel slow, or off. So much so, I actually ended up getting motion sick from the delay in reaction. I was hoping it was a setting I could turn down in the graphics, but unfortunately, there was no option. Some of the arenas seemed to be more affected than others. But in a ping pong game if the ball itself creates tracking issues and frame drops, there are issues. It could just by my setup, but these aren’t problems I have with other games.
The AI is brutal, even on the easiest difficulties. The easiest AI gives you more than a volley competent partner—it gives you a player who often makes ridiculous corner shots with more consistency than I’ve seen seasoned players in real life.
The english you can put on the ball doesn’t feel quite realistic, but you do have a bit of manipulation. There are three padding settings for the paddle, and I feel like even the less cushioned setting is too soft. This is in addition to the range of options you can use to make VR Ping Pong Pro feel more like what you would expect.
There are a fair amount of customization options, but they’re all skins that you can apply to your paddle or the ball itself. Some sort of level editor, or perhaps face/head accessories would have been fun—but since players are just disembodied paddles, there really wasn’t much to allow you customize.
VR Ping Pong Pro isn’t the best VR ping pong game on the market, but it has enough to it make it competitive. Unfortunately, I just had too many frame drops and other issues that made this solid ping pong title lose its luster for me—especially after watching my ball fly straight through my opponents’ paddle for the fourth time in a single match.
VR Ping Pong Pro is available right now on Steam.