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Review: 'Outlaw Volleyball' spiked with mature humor

By Marc Saltzman
Gannett News Service 

A scene from
A scene from "Outlaw Volleyball"

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Marc Saltzman, a freelance technology journalist whose reviews also appear on the Gannett News Service.

Xbox fans looking to heat up their gaming experience should check out "Outlaw Volleyball," an arcade-like beach volleyball title featuring scantily clad characters and equally cheeky commentary.

While not a perfect sports simulation, this title sports more than just thongs and jokes.

Simon & Schuster Interactive's "Outlaw Volleyball" is the second game in its lighthearted sports series, following last summer's "Outlaw Golf." This two-on-two volleyball game benefits from simplified controls, so it's much easier to pick up and play than earlier volleyball games.

The tutorial isn't necessary, but it will instruct gamers on how to perform basic moves such as switching between characters, serving, volleying and spiking, along with more advanced options such as blocking, aggressive returns and fighting. Teams also can earn "fight tokens" and use them to challenge opponents to a punching and kicking match.

As with the real sport, the virtual volleyball players must avoid letting the ball hit the ground. They must volley the ball over the net within three "bumps," and the same player cannot hit the ball twice in a row, except in certain situations.

"Outlaw Volleyball" features a number of game modes, including: "Practice Drills," so gamers can build up their characters' skills by tackling mini-games; "Exhibition Play" for casual matches; "Random Games" to let the game choose the virtual players and location; and a lengthy "Tour" option that contains 50 events spread across 10 courts.

Two gamers can compete on the same TV, each one controlling a team, or across the Internet via Xbox Live (service sold separately for $50 a year).

"Outlaw Volleyball earns a "mature" rating (17 and older) because of mild violence, off-color commentary delivered by Steve Carell of "The Daily Show" fame, and, most importantly, the barely covered volleyball players.

Scantily clad characters

Simon & Schuster Interactive delivers some of the best-looking characters in a video game to date. Be forewarned -- you may find it hard to keep your eyes off of them and on the ball.

The volleyball match locations reinforce the game's tongue-in-cheek attitude. These include fictitious courts such as atop a grimy inner-city building in the Bronx, an all-female prison in Illinois and a sacred burial ground in Salem, Massachusetts.

"Outlaw Volleyball" has shortcomings, too, such as repetitive commentary, questionable artificial intelligence (in one instance, the opponents scored only one point in an entire match) and because the controls are easy to learn, the game play isn't as deep as you might expect.

This game is obviously targeted to male adolescents, so the T&A and obnoxious commentary may turn off other potential consumers.

But if you take "Outlaw Volleyball" for what it is, it will provide many hours of enjoyable action.

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