Outlaw Volleyball
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox
Publisher
Simon & Schuster Interactive
Developer
Hypnotix
Genre
Sports
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Mature Humor, Mild Violence, Suggestive Themes
 
Grade
The Good

• Solid gameplay engine
• Graphics and audio portions are fine
• Lots of modes

The Bad

• Weak fighting engine
• Repetitive commentary
• Could be more complex

 
Grade
B+

With titles like Dead or Alive XBV and Beach Spikers, the volleyball genre has recently seen a number of me-too titles. Following on the heels of the moderately successful Outlaw Golf, Simon & Schuster Interactive have taken their extreme (or just extremely rude and offensive) themes and built a volleyball title that's both humorous and fun to play. With a cast of humorous characters that range from British punk girl Lizzy to gigolo El Suave.

By the sport's nature, the control scheme for Outlaw Volleyball is simple and easy to pick up. In fact, by the second or third match, you'll be able to pick up the game's mechanics and enjoy yourself with little effort. To serve a ball, players hold the A button, which brings up a gauge. To get the best shot, you'll need to release the button at the peak of the gauge. From there, the usual rules apply - you need to bump and set the ball (with the A Button) for a spike over the net. To spike the ball, players can either hit the ball hard with the X Button or lightly tap it over with the B Button. When using the X Button spike, you'll need to charge the "quality meter" to make the shot more powerful. While holding buttons for either spikes, bumps or sets, you can maneuver where the shot will go with the left analog stick. The Y button allows you to jump and block shots, but to effectively use this, you need both timing and a good understanding of angles.

To spice up the gameplay, Outlaw Volleyball throws in a turbo meter, which can be used by pulling the Right Trigger to make your player run around faster or to deliver vicious spikes. And, if you're losing badly (and your momentum meter will be a testament to that), you can always use a Beating Token and chose to pick a fight with one of your opponents. The fight controls are pretty basic (punch, kick, block, special), and the interface is a little clunky, but if you win, your character can take momentum from your opponent. One might think that momentum has little use, but when you do have it, shots manage to go your way. These added elements, along with the outrageous theme of the game, really sets the game apart from the rest of the crowd.

What's a sport game, albeit a humorous one, without lots and lots of modes. Players have access to Exhibition and Random Play modes, along with a hearty Tour mode, where you compete in events to unlock clothes, characters and courts, and the Drills mode. Drills play out like a series of mini-games set to improve your skills by focusing on aiming your spikes, bumping to set locations, among many others. Complete one of these drills and you gain points that can be spent to improve the character's stats. The multiplayer, whether in person or on Xbox Live, is good fun and adds nicely to the larger single player offering.

Once you get into the exhibition and versus matches of the game, you'll find lots of customizable options, including how you score, how long the matches are and how many points you need to win by. You can also toss in other options, like "Hot Potato" when the ball explodes after a limited amount of time or the ability to win money while scoring. And, while the characters are personalities all their own, you'll want to pay attention to each character's stats so that you can make a team best suited for your style of gameplay.

While it doesn't have the polish that Dead or Alive XBV, Outlaw Volleyball does look quite good. Each of the courts has a good bit of personality, even if it isn't played up too much outside of the introduction. Each court comes with animated spectators and a lot of secondary activity to accent the main gameplay. During the game, you'll be treated to a more dynamic camera that treats the activity like an actual telecast, but if you prefer, you can change the camera to a variety of more static angles. The character models are sharply detailed and show some pretty accurate animations. In fact, the animations during the player reaction scenes between serves are pretty fun to watch (and if you get tired of them, you can turn the reactions off in the options menu). Although there are a few rough edges and a texture or two that doesn't look as optimized as it could be, the package as a whole is quite nice and you'll not likely notice anything wrong.

The audio package is pretty solid, with only a few things that might hold it back. Sound effects are the standard fare and the vocal bits from the characters during gameplay are good enough to draw you into the game. The play-by-play from Steve Carell is sharp and laugh-out-loud at times. Too bad many of the lines get repeated often, which really draws away from the game. It's all right to hear the same joke repeated in another game, but to hear the same one-liner three or four times in the same match kills the humorous theme. The voice parts for the characters are pretty funny, even if somewhat over-the-top by intention. Musically, the game sports a number of metal and hip-hop acts that work for the theme but really don't deliver anything overly interesting.

For the most, the package for Outlaw Volleyball is sharp. There are some repetitive elements, which can be ignored, but the only thing that might keep this game from greatness is that the game engine requires little advanced skill. While the Drills portion of the game is good for honing your skills, you won't really need the other than to beef up your characters. Once you have a basic grasp of the game, winning matches will prove to be a regular feat, only met with the occasional hiccup of luck.

It must be said that if you're looking for a great volleyball game, look no further. Rather than trying to fill the gameplay void with needless minigames or eyecandy, Hypnotix provides a fun game that will keep you playing for some time.

- - Vane

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