Though Simon & Schuster is a relatively new player in the field of console games, the publisher has already made a name for itself with Outlaw Golf, a surprisingly well-done golf simulation with some sleazy humor and a ham-fisted fighting system tacked onto it. In hopes of expanding the Outlaw name into a full-on brand, S&S has now brought Outlaw Volleyball to the Xbox, complete with online play via Xbox Live. Beach volleyball definitely seems like a more appropriate sport for the brand of tawdry high jinks that Outlaw Golf was aiming for, though much like in that game, the 'attitude' here isn't nearly as well executed as the actual meat of the game. This may be the cause of some annoyance among players simply looking for a good game of volleyball, but it will be less important to the particular crowd that Outlaw Volleyball is targeting.
Outlaw Volleyball gives you a wealth of gameplay options right from the start, and there's a fair amount of unlockable content to keep you going as well.
Outlaw Volleyball gives you a wealth of gameplay options right from the start, and there's a fair amount of unlockable content to keep you going as well. For a quick, straightforward game of volleyball, there's the exhibition mode, which allows one to four players to set a variety of play variables, including scoring conditions and the number of points needed to win, and play a game. For an even quicker game, there's the random play mode, which is identical to the exhibition mode, except that your characters are randomly selected for you. When you first get into Outlaw Volleyball, the selection of characters is limited to a meager four, though you can gain access to many more by playing through the game's lengthy single-player tour mode, which puts you through a series of five different competitions on each of the game's 10 courts.
The new characters you'll unlock have better stats than the starting four, though you can enhance the skills of any of the available players by going through the drill mode. This mode is essentially a series of minigames designed to test specific skills, such as serving, spiking, bumping, and blocking, and though it sounds a bit like a boring tutorial mode, the minigames can be both challenging and entertaining. The game actually has a dedicated boring tutorial mode, which gives you a noninteractive overview of the game's basic mechanics. It's fairly informative, though it would've been nice if the game had allowed you to test out the mechanics before jumping into an actual game, and you'll likely get what you need faster by opening up the manual.
The game's laserlike focus on the pubescent male demographic may deter players outside that specific age range.
Also, unlike any of the other volleyball games on the market, Outlaw Volleyball features online play and downloadable content via Xbox Live. Our experience with Outlaw Volleyball online was fair, though there aren't an incredible number of people playing the game as yet, and we regularly experienced some stutters and pauses. Even still, the game deserves credit for being the only game of its type that's currently playable online.
Outlaw Volleyball also gives you a fair number of options when it comes to the actual gameplay. There are a half-dozen options for the camera placement, though we found that the following camera, which rests behind the team that currently has possession of the ball and rotates dynamically from side to side, gave the best overall vantage point, despite the fact that it occasionally lags behind the action, creating a nauseating effect as it plays catch-up. Though the default is for one player on your team to always be controlled by the CPU, you can choose to alternate control between the two characters depending on who has possession of the ball, and under either setting you can change the character you're controlling while on defense with a quick tug on the L trigger.