First there were sports games, accurate simulations that attempted to recreate a sport on a console or a PC. Along with teams, players and stadiums, each league was truthfully presented for players. Next came extreme sports games, titles that covered “fringe” sports (to some people) like skateboarding or surfing. While some of these focused on the mechanics behind an activity, others reveled in the outrageous nature of their game’s personas. But what if you made a title that was more Springer than sport, more over the top than contained by obscure rules and more sexual than some rap videos? Seems to me like you’d have the latest evolution of sports, one that I’d have to call “Sex-treme sports”. Simon and Schuster’s Outlaw Golf started to explore this new territory, but their follow up, Outlaw Volleyball, redefines the genre, making it all its own.
Outlaw Volleyball takes the classic 2-on-2 beach volleyball title and places its inimitable spin on the sport, resulting in a much racier, more sexual game. The basic rules of beach volleyball still apply, such as each side only having up to three hits to send a ball to the other side of the net. There are also classic match types like rally scoring, where anyone on the court can score a point for their team, or side out play, where teams score only if they control the serve. However, Outlaw Volleyball provides each character with numerous meters for Serves and Spikes during the match, which can affect the strength, control and skill of a shot. On top of these meters, each character has their own specialty shot when their personal Momentum level reaches a fever pitch.
Obviously, having an opposing player with a full Momentum level can turn the tide of any match. Fortunately, gamers can steal this energy with judicious use of fight tokens, items collected through solid play during matches. Activating a fight token allows a player to challenge another character of the competing team to a good ol’ fashioned brawl: winner takes all of the loser’s momentum and bragging rights. That might seem to be a little extreme for most people, but considering some of the characters in Outlaw Volleyball, this is merely a walk in the park for them. Included within the 16 game characters are returning fan favorites like the gigolo El Suave, stripper Summer and mass murderer Killer Miller. Joining them on the court for this season of sport are characters like Lizzy, a British punk rock devotee with piercings and attitude, Natasha, a Russian Dolph Lungren lookalike and Doe Joe, a black belt in karate and an Elvis fanatic.
Just like Outlaw Golf’s courses, Outlaw Volleyball features a number of unusual courts to play ball on. Ranging from a women’s prison in Joliet, Illinois to a graveyard in Salem, Massachusetts and a sewer in New Jersey, these are obviously not your typical sand courts. Adding even more challenge to the game are a number of Modes, such as Exhibition, Tour Mode, or Play Now, each of which have different modifiers to them. Other than Classic play, gamers can also enter items such as Hot Potato Matches (which force teams to volley an explosive ball across a net, or Casino, which places a dollar amount on each lob of the ball across the net. For players seeking to bone up on their volleyball skills, Training provides information on the basics of the game, while Drills allows you to focus on specific skills, like spikes or blocking. Successful completion of these drills allows players to augment a character’s abilities, making them more competitive in matches.
The one thing that has remained true from Outlaw Golf to Outlaw Volleyball is the high quality of the graphics. The animation for each character is simply phenomenal, and not only fits each player’s personality, but gives you a great connection to the onscreen action. From the initial intro, which gives you a glimpse into each player’s mind, to the positive or negative reaction after a play, the details in facial and body animation are some of the better ones brought to Xbox characters. (To all parents, however, a word of warning: There is most definitely a reason why there is a mature rating on this game. For example, pelvic gyrations along with lots of thong and breast camera shots make this game a pubescent boy’s wet dream.) One downside to this animation, however, is that there are some generic celebrations that don’t seem to fit the temperament of certain characters. Lizzy, for example, shouldn’t pull off a dance move that Summer does, just like Clem shouldn’t do something that Ice Trey does. The largest problem within the graphics of Outlaw Volleyball is the camera, which seems to have been retained from Outlaw Golf. While a volleyball is most definitely larger than a golf ball, the in-game camera within Outlaw Volleyball sometimes has trouble tracking the on-screen action, which can lead to missed shots, blocks or digs. Considering that volleyball can be very fast-paced, this is extremely deadly to gameplay.
Sound does make up for some of the camera’s shortcomings, as the sound bytes are very well done. The announcer from Outlaw Golf returns with just as much energy as before and delivers some very funny lines. Admittedly, some of them are rather raunchy, but considering the characters again, it fits right in. It’ll be tough not to be shocked the first time you hear his “virginity” line, easily one of the more memorable of the newer lines. Characters also communicate throughout matches, calling out plays or saying whether or not they’re able to make a play, which adds to the feeling of real volleyball. What’s more, the soundtrack that’s included is a solid mix of 21 rock and rap songs that fit the attitude of the game. If these songs aren’t to your liking, just rip your own soundtrack and hit the courts with your favorite tunes.
Take a lot of the extravagant touches away from Outlaw Volleyball, such as the fight sections, wild characters and odd courts away, and you might be surprised to find a solid volleyball engine supporting the game. Like Outlaw Golf, the basics of the sport itself have been preserved nicely, which goes to show that while many of the “unique” touches of the game present its individuality, Outlaw Volleyball can go up against just about any other volleyball title with its mini-games and drills and perform admirably. Plus, its inclusion of Xbox Live allows players to reach out and spike someone across the country, followed by a healthy dose of trash talk. The only potential downside that may be found with individual gameplay is the varying degree of sensitivity that the controls exhibit. Each control, whether it’s a serve or a spike, is based on the immediate or prolonged press of a button. Any perceived lessening of pressure, whether by the game or the controller, can sometimes result in a different shot than was originally intended; for example, a lob instead of a spike, or a light serve instead of an ace. Throw this in with the number of serve or spike meters, all of which require split second timing to maximize your shot, and you sometimes have less than desirable results for a lengthy amount of your match.
Controls aside, however, Outlaw Volleyball is a worthy improvement to the Outlaw series, and does an admirable job of presenting the sport of Volleyball in a light, adult-focused way. Solid mechanics, a large dose of humor and colorful characters make for a fun way to spend a few hours indulging in a classic summer sport. Mature players should take a look at spiking this title into their Xbox; they may find a new favorite to pass the cold winter months with.