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Score: 8.7 / 10
I didn’t receive too many irate emails when
I awarded Tecmo’s DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball a score of 7.0. Although I
praised the graphical achievement, I had problems with the actual
volleyball, which was easy to pick-up but shallow. Or skin deep, as it
were. Outlaw Volleyball (OV) concentrates wholly on beach volleyball.
Like Outlaw Golf before it, OV has the veneer of being an “extreme” game
without substance. The characters are outlandish stereotypes – for both
male and female characters – and the action is somewhat exaggerated, but
it still manages to be the only “pure” beach volleyball game on the
You begin with only for characters available – all ranked “D” for Dookie.
(There are 16 off-beat characters.) You don’t have to, but repeated
trips to the Drills area lets
you boost your player’s stats – speed,
power, defense, offence – and those of your preferred partner, and gives
you a fine handle on the controls and different moves available. The
skill points allow you to eke up the ranking ladder and pair with higher
ranked players. (More on that later.) There are a meager 5 drills
available at the outset but even once through can provide the bump you
need to win more matches in the Tour mode.
Tour mode is the main
mode and the method for unlocking additional courts, characters, outfits
and, most importantly, drills. There are 10 tour locations with 5 events
each, which means 50 matches in total. The rules and setup vary from
event to event. Some use standard rules and some use rally rules (you
can score without having the serve); either can be complicated with a
hot potato timer and time bombs (or a combination of the two).
Time bombs appear whenever and wherever the volleyball drops, exploding
after a few seconds, which can mean big problems if you’ve just spiked
it, scored then switched sides. The hot potato timer adds another level
of strategy to the game. Basically, when the timer hits the top, the
ball explodes. Tip: You don’t want to have the ball at this time. These
elements aren’t always included in a match, but I found that during
Exhibition games I’d have at least one of these options turned on to
make things a bit more interesting.
The Tour mode presents some very challenging AI, especially on the later
events when you’re battling high-ranked characters. But no opposition
can be as tough or unpredictable as human opponents. OV includes
multiplayer with two-player (four-player if you connect two Xboxes) and
play over Xbox Live. It was a good decision to include the online
feature since sports games are so naturally suited to multiple players.
Plus, it allows for more trash talk.
The only real trash talk comes at the conclusion of fights, which
happens only infrequently when playing against the AI. The fights –
initiated through Beating Tokens – are one step above those found in
Outlaw Golf where timing was the deciding factor. OV takes a more direct
approach with dedicated buttons for kick, punch, block and a special
move. The fighting is only rudimentary at best – no Virtua Fighter 4
here – but it serves two important functions: draining your opponent’s
momentum and increasing your momentum, which is tied directly to the
amount of boost at your disposal.
OV’s graphics may not be as wham-bam as Xtreme Beach Volleyball but they
are good and without slowdown. If you’re wondering about jiggle factor…
yes, it’s there (more so with the big boobs code active) but with OV I
swear I saw El Sauve’s unit bobbing. OV also has multiple viewing angles
so you can play with a setup that’s to your liking.
With everything OV does right there are still some downsides. The most
annoying quirk is that the opposition AI makes incredible saves on a
regular (and frustrating) basis. You’ll smugly think to yourself,
“There’s no way they’ll be able to pull this one out.” But they usually
do. Once you can accept this, it can act in your favor since you won’t
let your guard down. The other, less annoying aspect is the too-frequent
commentary from the announcer. Each line is expertly delivered but
they’re all one-liners that cease to be amusing after the fourth or
fifth time (with a few exceptions). If it does start to get to you, the
announcer can be turned off.
Outlaw Volleyball is what it is – a great beach volleyball game with a
lot to offer and its own style. It may look like a one-off, “extreme”
game relying on gimmicks but it has substance and a lot of fun to offer.