Somewhere, in an executive boardroom, someone got the idea to start developing
video game volleyball games based on the two on two beach game. It wasn't a bad
idea, I mean how bad can it be to play a fast paced game on a beach with voluptuous
babes, huge attitudes, and cool tunes? Some people swear that Beach Spikers
is the best multiplayer game on the Game Cube and others just want to drool over
Tecmo's masterful renditions in Dead or Alive Extreme Volleyball. Outlaw
Volleyball, from Simon & Schuster/Hypnotix, attempts to add to the growing
library of Volleyball games by adding even more attitude, characters, and courts
Outlaw provides the standard
volleyball elements: spiking, set-ups, kills, digs, and blocks. You can practice
these and improve the skills of each character in the practice ("Drills")
mode that can be quite humorous - like having to knock down your adoring fans
that are marching towards you on the other side of the net like Space Invaders
by hitting them with the ball. Another example is pop up targets that you have
to hit with the ball - some are friendly and some aren't. You have to get a certain
amount of points and points are deducted when you hit the wrong target. The drills
are amusing at first, but after slogging through them a few times, either successfully
or unsuccessfully, they start to lose their appeal. The thought of having to upgrade
each and every (sixteen) character to get to a particular level is daunting and
tiresome, to say the least. The Drills mode should be for practice and perhaps
to unlock certain aspects of the game, it shouldn't be a mandatory exercise for
each and every character.
on the Tour mode, you're finally en route to unlocking new characters and tournaments
as you progress towards your ultimate goal of
unlocking all characters and
courts, of course. The announcer is humorous and has a wide assortment of wiseass
commentary to spout after each and every point. He does repeat himself quite often,
but you'll hear something that you haven't heard every now and then that'll put
a momentary smile on your face. The characters will do a dance or talk some trash
after winning points and it's amusing to work your way through the game to see
what the next set of wild characters has to say. Most of the elements are entertaining,
but a few border on bad taste and poor juvenile humor that just doesn't work.
Overall, I'd have to say that these elements are more successful than not, but
not all of them work.
notice two things that are Outlaw Volleyball's greatest weakness; the first
being that you're partner is usually your weakest link. One in particular, Lizzy,
will guarantee to nail the frustration meter to the top, as she's always good
for at least 3 or 4 serves right into the net in each Match. You can switch control
between the characters when you're on the defensive side of the court but not
when you're passing back and forth on the offensive side of the ball. A second
element the will certainly get the blood flowing are the amount of absolutely
ludicrous gets that the opponent seems to make. You'll think that the point is
over after a strong kill shot only to see the opponents dive ten or more feet
one or two times and somehow return the ball to you. While this adds to the difficulty
of the game, it makes you throw your hands up in the air at what you have to do
to win a point.
There's an interesting
thing going on with something that's dubbed a momentum meter. The stronger your
team plays (via winning points or making stupendous shots) the more this meter
fills up and you're rewarded by playing even better - which is really a great
idea since momentum usually plays a huge part in both individual and team sports.
It's surprising that this isn't done more often. This leads us to the absolute
weakest part of the game, which involves fighting. If you see that your opponents
meter is that much stronger than yours, you can "call out" one of your
two adversaries and try to kick the proverbial crap out of them. Unfortunately,
not only is this poorly implemented and executed, it feels horribly out place
and is almost painful to engage in. No thanks.
The character models are outstanding as are their dances,
taunts, and smack talking escapades. The courts involve a multitude of different
environments, all of which are deftly detailed and a visual feast to behold. Stinky
Falls in Newark, Tar Beach in the Bronx and Antarctica are a few examples of the
courts that are awaiting you.
Strong music (a sampler CD is included with the game) pipes in the background
and the aforementioned announcer truly sounds enthusiastic throughout the game.
The character voices and routines are very strong, if very repetitive.
Character court movement and positioning is very strong. It can be difficult,
initially, to control where you want to set up your partner but it improves with
a bit of practice. Remember that character positioning (being under the ball)
is extremely important not only to the accuracy of your set up but also to the
quality of your bump. Executing kills is controlled with a meter wherein the longer
you hold the button the stronger the shot will be. Unfortunately, putting the
ball where you want it, particularly on kills, is very difficult to do during
the course of the game. You also have a meter to execute Super Serves and Super
Spikes during the course of the game. This meter empties after you use it and
is slowly refilled through the course of ensuing points. The better you play,
the quicker the meter refills. The Super Serve is easy to execute but the Super
Spike takes a bit of practice. Also of note, the Super Spikes don't automatically
win points and, more often than not, they will be returned. I found that occasionally
you had to press a button twice on hairy points, but it wasn't a big deal. Still,
the overall control scheme seems a bit clunky - especially controlling where a
ball is placed which is pretty crucial to your overall success.
Outlaw Volleyball has a lot of things going for it - strong character
models, decent gameplay and excellent visuals. If you can look past a few of its
weaknesses, it's certainly worth a look. I'd recommend a rental before making
a commitment, however. The title also supports Xbox Live online play, which wasn't
evaluated in this review.