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Has Rockstar gone soft?

Those who waited with baited breath only to learn that the new 360-exclusive game from industry badboy Rockstar is based on Forrest Gump's favorite sport reacted with mixture of why and wtf? The basic gameplay action of table tennis (or Ping Pang Qiu as it's known in China) has a long and storied history in the video game world. Nevertheless, I get the feeling that gamers expected more grit from the creative minds that made running over hookers a national pastime.

Rockstar has taken enormous heat the past few years, as evidenced by this recent petition signed by Wailing Mothers Against Playground Cruelty. One has to wonder if  the accumulated bad press, not to mention the disaster brewed by a certain incident involving overly-warm Folgers, played a role in the company's sudden enthusiasm for competitive table tennis. Maybe Rockstar is eager  to prove that they don't need mature content to capture our imagination. Or maybe they're just relieved that Hillary Clinton can't make Pong 360 an election year issue.

Far too many of us have praised the joys of classic arcade gameplay (and complained about the idiocy of  edgy-for-edgy's-sake fare like True Crime: NYC) to prematurely bitch about a game that could turn out to be the King of Ping. That said,  I would hate to see Rockstar trade in its bloody chainsaw for a pong paddle just to appease a few grandstanding pols and clueless parents. Somebody has to carry the torch for embedded sex and violence.

You can't help but think that Rockstar is a little less Billy Idol these days and a little more Drew Lachey.                                                                                                                                                      

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