The next game in the Outlaw franchise is finally upon us. I didn’t play much of Outlaw Golf, but I have certainly been in the market for a good volleyball game. The other Xbox volleyball game, Dead or Alive: Xtreme Volleyball, was not very good in the volleyball portion of the game and instead relied heavily on collecting items for the girls. Hypnotix brings both the guys and the girls, however stereotypical they can be, to the beach (and other interesting places) for some volleyball action. Does this game bring some semblance of greatness to video game volleyball? We shall see!
The graphics in this game are simply not as good as in Dead or Alive: Xtreme Volleyball, although that is not entirely surprising. The graphics for the characters are good for the most part, although it is obvious they could have gotten a little more graphical help to come to the level of DOA: XVB. The women look good here, just not as good as the women of DOA: XVB. However, they do have a sexier attitude…but that comes along with the voices and cutscenes. Where the graphics are cool are in some of the areas. There is an area that has water instead of a beach. As they walk and hit the ball, the water reacts realistically with waves and all that.
One of the most glaring graphical problems is the clipping when a character dives for the ball. The part of their body that touches the sand suddenly disappears and is taken over by the sand. It looks quite bad and is quite noticeable both in regular play and in replays. Another problem is the camera views. When you are playing on the side closest to you there is an over-the-shoulder look during servers. When you are on the other side you get the same standard view you get for every other volley. Why not just have them both in the volley camera?
The saving grace for this score is the ability to import your own music. Yes, the music provided is pretty good and mirrors the genres that were present in DOA: XVB. Where this section fails is in the repetition of the announcer and the shortcuts after a point is made. After about 2 games you will know every line the announcer and characters say.
The announcer’s voice is once again done by Daily Show mainstay, Steve Carell. For the first few times you hear a joke you will chuckle at it because they are quite funny. However, once you hear them several times you’re ready to knock some heads. I’ve heard that in Outlaw Golf you could turn his voice off – sorry to say that option is not here. Another small plus is the accents that are done by characters from another country are well done without being a sarcastic version of the accent. Ah well, at least it is better than the grunts in DOA: XVB.
This game controls well once you get the hang of it. You basically use the X, A, B and R trigger in this game. During servers, X does a jumping serve, A does an overhand and B does an underhand. You have to hold each button down to fill the power bar and let go when it reaches the top (think Virtual Tennis serving here). For the rest of the time, the A button is your dig and set button, the X button is for powerful hits/spikes and the B button is for short hits over the net (for those defenders that are deep, this catches them off-guard). As with serving, using the X button can be powered up for precision before releasing the spike. The R button is the turbo button. You can do turbo servers and turbo spikes. Your turbo button fills faster the more special hits you make. Turbo is great, but it can be easily countered. The Y button is used on defense to block a hit. You can also move the analog stick to the right or left to block it in those directions.
There is also a fighting mode available, although I turned this off because it doesn’t affect the game in any way that I saw and you cannot fight during LIVE play. I’m not sure why they put this in if it doesn’t affect anything in the game. For the one time I fought, I believe X was the punch and B was the kick button. That was just about the extent of the fighting engine. They probably could have left this out unless they are thinking of instituting it sometime in the future on LIVE.
This is a tough one to rate. On one hand this game is very repetitive and on the other it is very dynamic. The repetition comes from the cutshots and the overall play of the volleyball itself. Unless you have upgraded the statistics on your characters, chances are this game will be pretty boring in both single and multiplayer. It becomes the same thing over and over again. With better statistics you can have more precise control of where your shots will land whereas with regular stats you can give a general area, but more than likely the computer (or human opponent) will be there to defend it.
The way to upgrade the stats for your characters is to go through the Drills mode. This is actually a pretty cool mode, akin to Virtual Tennis‘ model of tasks. The difference in this game is that you can increase your stats as you finish each drill. Getting them higher gives them more control and they become better. This also makes it easier to go through the whole tour mode if you get your characters up to good levels.
Where the game is dynamic is in the types of volleyball games you can play in Tour and online modes. You have the regular rally type where every point is counted whether you served the ball or not. There is also the standard mode where you only get points when you are serving. Then there are such things as a Casino game (team with the most money wins – money is added as the ball goes over the net, so long volleys can be worth a lot), a Hot Potato game (the volleyball gets closer to blowing up as you keep hitting it) and Detonator (where the ball drops a TNT pack is put down – if your character is unlucky to be over it when it explodes they will temporarily be unavailable to you). There are also times where you have a time limit both on the overall game and on your own team. If the main clock reaches zero, the highest point total wins. If the team clock goes out, it doesn’t matter whether you are ahead or not, the team with time left wins. This is just very dynamic…I just wish the gameplay itself wasn’t so repetitive.
The Tour takes a good bit of time to finish. The key to it is picking 2 characters and putting them through drills to increase their stats. This makes Tour mode quite a bit easier in my opinion. Where this game really adds value is in the LIVE online play. The only problem is that it lends itself to the same repetitiveness that the single-player mode does. You can also be at a distinct disadvantage if you face a team that has far higher stats than your own characters. Stats are also kept on LIVE if you choose to do so in your game. There are such things as the top 50 Single Game winners (with Won/Loss/Drop records), top 3-Set Gamers, top 5-set Gamers, etc. There is also voice compatibility in this game as well.
Key thing with LIVE is you can only have 2 Xbox systems connected. Through those 2 you can have a total of 4 humans playing (2 on each box). The computer will control whatever human is not there. The games ran rather well, although I did notice a bit of lag in my first game online, but I think that may have been a latency issue. Overall this is fun, but it is just too repetitive and games can take a long time if there are robust volleys.
This game will also have downloadable content, the biggest of which will be new characters. Hypnotix recently announced in their forums that Trixie (a girl with rather large tracks of land) has been sent to Microsoft QA and should be out pretty soon. So this game does have some range to it.