Hypnotix
Simon and Schuster
Sports
1-4
07.08.03

Outlaw Volleyball


Built from the ground up, this Xbox Exclusive title shows off what Xbox can do. Not only is it exclusive to the system, but it also features Xbox Live play. Plain and simple: This is an actual volleyball game with full control of your character's movements. This game is not just about the babes, it's about volleyball.

Gameplay

There are 3 main modes of play in Exhibition mode: Classic, Hot Potato, and Casino. While playing, you have a momentum meter. Having momentum helps you win a match. You gain momentum by scoring points, but there is an even better way. Fighting. If you have a 'beating token', then players can engage in brutal brawls. Before stepping under the net, you can choose who you want to go after and slap around.

Classic mode is all about playing a regular game of volleyball, with no hidden surprises. The surprises start to come in the "Hot Potato" mode. The name alone basically explains it. Instead of the music stopping and the player with the ball loses, the ball explodes. There is a meter that counts up, and when that gets full, the other team gains a point. Casino mode is when you play for money. But you can't necessarily place bets, its more along the lines of how long the volley lasts. The longer it goes for, the more money in the pot.

Once you pick your mode of play there are many optional game settings. You can use the standard sideout rules, or rally rules. For sideout rules you can only score on your serve, but for rally rules anytime the ball hits the ground the opposing team wins the set. Playing with rally rules on helps the game to move pretty fast. Some of the other options you have are: difficulty settings, game timer, time bombs, etc. Time bombs add a nice twist to the game because if you are near a bomb it will blow up off the screen, thus messing up your shot. Time bombs appear where the ball hit the ground last.

During the Outlaw Volleyball's main mode, "Tour", you'll be working to unlock new threads, characters, events, drills, etc. New threads are basically new sections, and after you beat four or five events in the same thread, that's when you usually get a new character.

Only four players are selectable at the start of the game. As you progress through the "Tour" mode, new characters & events become available. The initial four characters are weak, and while you could play with them the whole time, you can also train them in the "Drill" mode. Here you can raise any given character's attributes, which are speed, power, offense, and defense. There are certain "levels" for each player, and as attributes become greater on the scale, your ranking will increase. The game starts off with all characters in the "D" class. And the D stands for Dookie. The rest of the classes are Chump, Banger, and All-Star. Some characters, like Summer, are a banger from the start.

Basic control is not the same as DOA: XBV, it consists of using more then 2 buttons. There's a regular set-up button, a jump spike, and even a turbo button. When in the single player mode, you can switch between characters at any time by pressing the L button. You are never limited to just your one character, which is good. Whether it be on a serve, or a setup for a spike, you can aim where you want the ball to go. The Y button is used for the main blocking button. The A button is used when you are keeping the ball on your side of the net for bumping and set-ups. The B button is a weak return, and will simply just tap the ball over the net. X is used for an aggressive return, usually a spike. The R trigger is turbo, and it comes in handy when you have to either spike, or run back for a ball that is far away from you. If your confused about what does what, then just hold down the black button, and it will tell you.

The overall control is simple and effective, and you'll have a lot of fun with it. One thing that makes the gameplay a little too simple is that you never have to worry about hitting the ball out of bounds, and when you do hit it over the line, you'll have no idea how it happened.

This game isn't all about being on the beach, there are a few levels that take place in the sewers, or even the snowy frozen tundra! So it can get quite cold and dirty. All of the courts have catchy names, along with great design.

Graphics

There is so much variety with the different character types that makes this game good. Most of the female's are wearing skimpy clothing, but then again this is a game where your not going to see people wearing heavy winter clothes. Although Leon does have an outfit where he wears a hooded sweatshirt, with the hood on. All the character models move fluid and smoothly, and they look great up close. Hypnotix really took their time with this title's graphics, and it really shows. There is a level where you are playing on water, and the water ripples look gorgeous. When you do a turbo spike, there is a huge explosion, and it looks quite nice. My favorite court is at Coney Island, which really has a nice and colorful background.

During the replays I noticed some people in the crowd were not as detailed as the main volleyball characters. Some of those people's bodies were way out of proportion as well. This is only noticable during a manual replay, therefore these problems are not present during the action. Overall, from the early screen shots, this game has been vastly improved graphically.

Sound

There is the Outlaw "attitude" just like the rest of the series (Outlaw Golf). Some of the announcer's humor is really harsh, especially if you're a youngster and there is a respectable family member in the same room. That's why this game is rated M. Just warning you now! If you are not into the announcer, because he does get annoying and repetitive, you can turn him off in the options. If you play the game for an hour, you heard all he has to say.

The actual soundtrack is not too bad, you may want to use your own soundtracks though, which is an option. Not sure if its for a limited time only, but the game came packed with a sampler disc from the band "Diffuser".

Replay

Lots of replay value here, unlockables, drills, etc. Building up your character can take quite sometime, and you have 16 to build up. Some start off stronger then others, but there's always room for building up.

Bottom Line:

One of the best volleyball games I have ever played was Kings of the Beach on NES, and Outlaw Volleyball definitely ranks with one of the best volleyball games ever made. There is a total of 16 characters within OV, and each have their own skills and personalities. This game has large amounts of variety to play with, and lots of humor.

Outlaw Volleyball is the perfect Xbox Live game for the summer time. The 2 on 2 volleyball is fun, fast, and easy to pick up when you are just looking for a good multiplayer game to play either online or off.

-Steve Melanson




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