I fought the law and the law bumped.
Lately, video game volleyball has spiked its way into our collective gamer radar.
From Beach Spikers to Dead
or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, this once overshadowed sport has become
a somewhat serious player, though mostly for the wrong reasons.
The recently released Outlaw Volleyball hopes to rectify that by being
the first next-gen volleyball game with some real beefcake. And just to ensure
that everyone’s sensibilities are met, there’s a whole range of men in
this one, from prison inmates to one dirty, toothless lowlife.
But besides the recognition that women aren’t the only ones who play volleyball,
Outlaw Volleyball offers good gameplay mechanics and a wide range of
challenges. Despite the fact that it would have benefited from better receiving,
a smarter interface and a steadier framerate, this is an all-around solid entry
into this growing field.
Outlaw Volleyball excels in its number of game options. Included are
Exhibition matches, which are quick games for one to four; Random, which bypasses
the character selections and brings you right into the game; Xbox Live play;
and the conquest mode, Tour.
single-player Tour is brimming with challenges, covering 10 arenas with 5 events
each. The first four or five events involve some kind of rule, such as only
being able to score when it’s your serve or explosive hot potato balls. The
last of the five events is an elimination tournament. Completing events unlocks
arenas, new drill challenges and extra characters, for a grand total of 16 playable
The controls are slightly different than other volleyball games. You don’t
hit the button exactly when you want to hit the ball. If you suffered through
the crappy volleyball in the PS2 game My
Street – undoubtedly the worst volleyball game ever – you can understand
how painful “exact timing” can be.
Outlaw Volleyball‘s hit mechanics instead use the buttons to ready your
character to hit the ball. While holding down the button to dig, you have some
time to move an aiming cursor. Sometimes a ‘quality’ meter will increase while
you are readying to hit the ball. The higher the meter when you let go of the
button and make contact with the ball, the more accurate your shot will be.
The controls allow you to select between volleys, bumps and spikes. There
is also a jump block to smack those spikes right back into your opponent and
a turbo to boost your speed. When turbo is used with a spike, a power spike
that’s more showy than useful is unleashed. In general, the gameplay mechanics
are good, though the timing with receiving can sometimes be unforgiving.
Winning a few points in a row will increase your Momentum meter, which helps
keep your turbo in top shape. The less Momentum a character has, the more quickly
they will deplete their turbo. In a neat twist, Momentum can be stolen via challenging
your opponents to a quick pre-game tussle. The fighting is more like a ditzy
mini-game, featuring kicks and punches and that’s about it. It’s good to have
Momentum, but if you feel that fighting poses the risk of losing some of your
own, you can turn it off.
The Exhibition and Drill games feature handy aiming crosshairs, but for some
reason when you play in the Tour mode, this nifty device is hidden. Even though
you still control the aim to a degree, the hidden crosshairs make it harder
to be accurate. Yet at the same time, the aiming crosshairs give away the location
of your shot. I think an ideal solution would have been crosshairs that you
can toggle on and off during gameplay.
In fact, this aiming tool is a selectable option in the Online game. Xbox
Live works well, with one Xbox versus another and up to two players per machine.
Maybe it goes with the theme, but there seem to be more rude people playing
Outlaw Volleyball than other Xbox Live games. Either that or I’m waaaay
Of all the components in the game, the Drills are the best, at times more
fun and original than the actual volleyball game. One drill has you spiking
balls against what looks to be a steady line of inmates coming at you Space
Invader style while dancing the Macarena.
More drills are opened up as you make your way through the tour. These Drills
also allow you to earn points to build up your characters.
character modeling and environments aren’t quite as sophisticated as DOA
Beach Volleyball, but are above average in design. The environments cover
a wide range of wacky courts, from the inner city to a jungle to a prison. There’s
a sewer stage, but the water covering the floor is too reflective for comfortable
The character design itself is creative, running the social and racial stereotype
gamut. Take Doe Joe, a Japanese Elvis impersonator who wear a shirt that says
“Doe Joe” done up like the GI Joe logo. Nice. Thankfully, there’s enough tongue-in-cheek
humor here to keep it from being plain offensive. But for the record, they misspelled
the place of origin for the hippie chick Harvest – "Berkeley" is spelled
with three E’s, guys.
If you’re interested in digital T&A, I should note that Outlaw Volleyball
seems much more interested in the A, with sharply defined rears across the board.
Everyone is sporting either thongs or extreme wedgies in order to show off their
cheeks. Like I said earlier, Outlaw Volleyball is an equal opportunity
Speaking of which, the interface is butt ugly. There’s no sense of style.
The fonts look like they were randomly yanked out of a Microsoft Word template.
But even more annoying is how the visuals don’t always run smoothly. Intermittent
framerate problems can get in the way, though they don’t ruin the game.
The Outlaw series taps Daily Show talent Steven Carell again
for the commentaries. While his banter has a lame humor to it thanks to his
self-deprecation and off-color remarks, it gets old really fast. Perhaps because
there’s only so many lines before it starts to repeat or maybe because the humor
all starts to sound the same, it will quickly get on your nerves.
Thankfully, there is an option to turn Carell off as well as toggle most other
in-game fillers, such as win animations, sound bites and music.
The soundtrack is an appropriately upbeat mix that represents the musical spectrum, from peppy pop to a gangsta rap number. The primary band featured is Diffuser, but there’s a whole mix of small bands as well. Plus, the game takes advantage of the all-important Xbox ability to use your own customized soundtrack.
Compared to the other recent volleyball games, Outlaw Volleyball focuses
more on traditional gameplay, leading to probably the best of the bunch. Somehow,
if you could convince Beach Spikers, DOA: XBV and Outlaw
to have a kid, you would have a perfect volleyball game. As it is, Outlaw
Volleyball is a solid dig.