Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 9, 2003
Buy 'OUTLAW VOLLEYBALL': Xbox
Outlaw Volleyball’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, are starting to make quite a name for themselves in the videogame industry. Their voyage into the interactive entertainment realm began with the quickly-banned Panty Raider PC game and eventually graduated to a more lucrative venture with last year’s multi-console game Outlaw Golf. Looking to expand the “Outlaw” series in the hope of creating a full-blown franchise, S&S is banking big on their latest sexual innuendo-filled extreme sports game entitled Outlaw Volleyball. Boasting many of the same characters from Outlaw Golf (and a few new ones), a surprisingly functional Xbox Live multiplayer component, and an entirely original licensed soundtrack: Outlaw Volleyball manages to purport a technically accurate yet wildly out of control volleyball-themed experience that fans of Outlaw Golf should find particularly entertaining.
Whereas Tecmo’s recent videogame entry into the sport of volleyball was focused mainly on aesthetic appeal, Outlaw Volleyball attempts to recreate the game with more realistic gameplay dynamics. Which isn’t to say that Outlaw Volleyball foregoes visual splendor in favor of control (in terms of buxom bouncing babes the two games are pretty well matched), but it’s pretty obvious that developer Hypnotix went to great lengths to ensure that those who are just looking for some solid volleyball action will get what they expect. But Outlaw Volleyball goes beyond simply offering up a solid volleyball title, the developers also threw in a wealth of configurable play options and unlockable goodies that should keep players bumping and serving well after their respective bedtimes.
While mastering the controls of Outlaw Volleyball will require a hefty investment of time, the basics of the gameplay are, well, pretty basic. Hitting the A button allows you to bump and set. The X and B buttons are soft and hard returns, respectively. And the Y button allows you to block spikes, if timed properly. To determine the power of your return you’ll hold down the appropriate button until an on-screen “quality” gauge is filled, once the gauge is full you release the button to unleash a powerful return. You are able to aim your shots with the left analog stick, though it will take some getting used to in order to realize your intended trajectory. By holding the R trigger you’ll infuse your character with a short burst of turbo, allowing them to run considerably faster and perform powerful spikes and serves.
Like Outlaw Golf, you’ll have a momentum meter that dictates, to a certain degree, how well you and your teammate will perform. Momentum is built up by successfully completing plays and scoring points, and it is lost by failing to follow through on plays. Also like Outlaw Golf, you are given Beatdown Tokens as you progress through a match. These tokens can be used to initiate fights with one of your opponents. If you win the fight then you’ll acquire their momentum, and vice versa. Unlike Outlaw Golf though, winning a fight consists of more than just properly timed button mashing. You’ll actually be able to control your character, moving them left and right on a 2D-style playfield and perform a punch, kick, block, or super move by pressing different face buttons on the controller (or holding the R trigger and hitting Y in the case of the super move). It’s very much like a primitive Street Fighter and is also a welcomed change of pace from Outlaw Golf’s linear (albeit visually striking) beatdown sequences.
A few different modes of play are available in Outlaw Volleyball, though only three of the five modes are actually relevant. First is Tour mode, here you’ll be able to compete in various best-of-three volleyball matches that vary in rules and options (some matches will count points regardless of the team serving, some feature annoying “hot-potato” rules where the ball blows up after a certain period of time, et cetera) while unlocking new stuff as you go. Things that you’ll unlock include, among other things, new volleyball players, clothes and swimsuits, new courts, and drills. “Drills” is another mode of play, which is basically a collection of mini-games that have you performing a wide variety of actions to complete different challenges. Some drills consist of doing things like consecutively bumping the ball onto a scoring grid until you’ve acquired enough points, picking off rows of Macarena-dancing spectators that gradually move closer and closer to the net (think Space Invaders), and successfully blocking spikes in order to reveal risqué illustrations of the game’s female players. Not only are the drills quite entertaining on their own merits, but each drill you complete will net you attribute points that you can use to enhance your players skills. The third relevant mode is “Xbox Live”, which (obviously) allows you to compete in one-on-one matches against other Xbox Live subscribers. While one would be well advised to expect a certain amount of lag in their online matches, Xbox Live play is, for the most part, very smooth and solid.
Visually, Outlaw Volleyball looks noticeably better than any volleyball game released on competing systems, though pales in comparison to the recently-released Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball. Characters are very detailed and feature entirely unique model designs, ranging in style from a vodka-guzzling Russian female to an Asian Elvis impersonator. There are 10 courts in total, which are as unique as the competitors are: The Big House in Joliet, IL is a volleyball court set up inside a prison and features electric chairs for referee seats. Animation is very fluid and there never seems to be any instances of frame skipping in order to ensure functionality between move transitions. In fact, nearly every on-screen player animation was motion-captured, which makes for an incredibly realistic graphical presentation. Xbox Live-enabled gamers will be glad to know that downloadable extras should be available before too long, though these extras will most likely only consist of new clothes.
The sound in Outlaw Volleyball is something of a mixed bag, though mileage may vary depending on personal preference. The voice acting is quite good, every character sounds exactly as you expect they would given their unique personalities. Steve Carell, fresh off his voice work from Outlaw Golf and The Daily Show on Comedy Central, revises his role as announcer, spitting out hard-hitting one-liners that will both humiliate and crack you up at the same time. The soundtrack consists of original licensed rock, pop, and rap tunes from bands such as Diffuser, Snow Dogs, Bumblefoot, Madcap, and Junk. The songs weren’t really to my liking (with a couple exceptions) and they didn’t tend to fit the volleyball-oriented theme of the game. Luckily, custom soundtracks are fully supported. So even if you aren’t down with the included tunes you can always bust out your own ripped tracks for maximum aural goodness.
Overall, Outlaw Volleyball is an excellent follow-up to last year’s Outlaw Golf. The gameplay is tuned in such a way as to leave plenty of headroom for improvement even after you’ve mastered the basic controls, and the 16 outrageous characters you’ll eventually be able to play as are even more over-the-top and entertaining than Outlaw Golf’s. But the real draws in Outlaw Volleyball are the extensive Tour mode, the addictive minigames, and the solid Xbox Live support. Fans of buoyant babes in bikinis, violence, and volleyball alike would do well to check this game out.