reviews\ Feb 2, 2003 at 7:00 pm

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball - XB - Review

There are just some things no one really expects to see in a video game and, as of recently, some interesting crossings of genres have been made.  Did anyone ever really expect to see Metal Gear Solid’s Solid Snake skateboard on the oil tanker in Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance?  Did anyone ever expect to see skater Tony Hawk play a game of tennis with his skateboard?  So it was surprising to see the lovely ladies of Dead or Alive on tropical vacation sunbathing and playing friendly games of volleyball in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.  Did somebody say pool party?


The premise of the single player game is interesting, as it is strange.  Zack, one of the flashiest brawlers in the DOA fighting circuit, became a multimillionaire while gambling in a casino and purchased a beautiful island in the middle of nowhere.  For some unknown reason, Zack manages to deceive the gorgeous DOA ladies into thinking the next fighting tournament was to take place on the island and invited only the females.  To the girls’ surprise, however, they discover that the only thing they’ll be doing on the island is having a really great vacation.  And to spice things up, friendly volleyball matches have been set up along with a number of other activities like gambling or playing a game by the poolside.


The first thing you do in this game is select one of eight characters, each one lovely and possessing her own skill level.  As you step out into the island resort, you’ll encounter Lisa--new to the DOA universe--who becomes your first partner.  From there you can decide to check out the shops (filled with items you can purchase such as suntan lotion, dozens of bikinis or accessories like sunglasses and hats), lounge by the pool or start a friendly volleyball match against other pairs you encounter.  You can even skip the story mode and just play volleyball in Exhibition mode (you can also play with a friend) adding outfits you purchased or were given as a gift.


The volleyball, you soon find out, is just one of the best seen in a sports title.  Not only are the controls smooth and precise, but it’s also easy to get into.  A gamer can simply pick up the game and start playing, although this doesn’t necessarily mean the game is simple. Certain things, like powerful spikes are a question of timing, but the game offers enough opportunities to perfect your spikes or your serves.  You can position your player anywhere along the playing environment or let your partner take up the front and do most of the work. And, thanks to the smooth frame rate, the action doesn’t slow down one bit and this makes for quick matches that hardly ever tire a gamer out.  


Each character has her own skill level that can put up a challenge.  Depending on the pairing, teams can be easy to beat or fairly difficult. Christie, for instance, reacts faster and is a more skilled volleyball player than Hitomi.  However, when it comes to powerful serves, Hitomi overpowers Christie by a long shot.  Together they make a pretty lethal team.  Your CPU partner plays according to her skill level and does a good job of covering you during the game.  There are times when you’ll find your partner better at spikes than you are and so it’s often wise to pass the ball over to them.


You can also change partners and this is where the game’s unique qualities shine through.  Besides having different playing skills, each girl has her own individual personality.  Each girl likes different things and in order to change volleyball partners, gamers are going to have to figure out what each girl likes and offer gifts according to their tastes.  Each night when your character retires, Zack sends gifts to the room that you can keep or wrap up to give a girl you want to partner with or purchase gifts in any of the shops.  Once the girl accepts the gift (you’ll know because musical notes appear above their heads) keeping them as your partner means you’ll have to keep winning matches.  You’ll find that players, especially ex-partners, will treat you differently during the matches.


Volleyball is not the only activity that goes on in Zack’s Island.  You can lounge by the poolside if you like and work on your tan (characters can tan to a darker shade if you use suntan lotion or not tan at all by using sun block). To earn extra money, there’s a Hopping game that has you jumping across the pool by way of floating cushions . . . and, believes me; it’s not as simple as it sounds.  And it night, you can go to bed or head out to the casino for some great games like poker, blackjack, roulette or even slot machines.


Graphics-wise, the game is magnificent looking.  One of the games that debuted with the Xbox was DOA 3, a game that was used as an example of what the console was capable of visually.  The result was a lot of dropped jaws and admiration for a game that featured highly detailed graphics with the smoothest textures ever seen on a game.  Xtreme Beach Volleyball, amazingly enough, improves the visuals.  The character models, for example, are no so detailed that you can witness every muscle at work when a character stretches or moves.  Spend too long in the sun without sunscreen and your character will visibly get a bit darker every time.  The backgrounds are also amazing and practically breathe with life.  Yes, this is one beautiful looking game. 


The sound could have been a lot better, but what’s featured here is really not that bad at all.  The sound effects, for instance, are wonderfully detailed so that you can make out the sounds of the waves and tropical birds.  Still, it’s the soundtrack that really could have used a better quality of tunes to the eclectic mix of soft pop songs as well as some reggae.  You can always change the songs on the play list by visiting the Radio Station on the island.  The voices found in the game are once again in Japanese with--strangely enough--the exception of the opening cinema that features the voice acting of Dennis Rodman as Zack himself.  However, you won’t find Rodman’s voice throughout the game.


While the main attraction is the lovely ladies of DOA, Xtreme Beach Volleyball surprisingly features the best volleyball seen in an Xbox game so far.  Not only is the volleyball in this game really challenging, but it’s also seriously fun and it is the best seen so far.  Gamers will also love all the outrageously fun options available to them.  If you like volleyball, gorgeous girls in swimsuits and great casino games, this game is a dream come true.   


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.5
The controls couldn’t be smoother than this and the most surprising part about it is that the controls offer more free movement than the ones seen in the DOA fighting series.  You can position your character around more freely to spike the ball or make pass the ball to your partner.  The frame rate runs so smoothly that the action just never slows down, making for a fluid match.  This is also the kind of game you can just pick up and play--a plus in my book.


Still, imagine a place where your biggest choice is deciding on lounging by the pool--working on your tan in the process--or playing a hopping game on a series of floating cushions.  You can also decide to go to the casino and play anything from blackjack to poker.  And you can deck out your character with different outfits and accessories in the Accessory Shop, Sports Shop or Zack of All Trades.


Graphics: 10
Aside from the obvious eye candy that is the gorgeous ladies of DOA, the character models are amazingly realistic to the point that gamers will marvel at the considerable detail placed on things like muscle tone to visible facial expressions.  You can change practically any part of your character’s outfits and even something as insignificant as their fingernail polish to what they wear on their hair.  Their movements are even smoother than those seen in DOA 3 and make realistic gestures such as adjusting their swimsuits or brushing their hair back.


Zack’s Island is also the most gorgeous place with it’s sparkling aqua blue waters that sparkle with the sun and the swaying palm trees that happen to catch a cool breeze.  It’s wonderful to see that your characters can interact with the surroundings when they’re not playing volleyball but when they are, they kick up the realistically rendered soft sand.


Sound: 8.0
Depending on your musical tastes, some might not find the pre-teen pop hits of Christina Aguilera or B-Witched all too pleasing to the ears.  That’s not to say that the music is bad; there are some great reggae music by Big Mountain or Bob Marley himself and great original instrumental pieces that play for you in the casino.  The rest might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but thankfully you have to option to use your own tracks saved on the Xbox hard disk and substitute them with the tunes you didn’t like.


The voices are all in Japanese; of course, they’re translated to English by way of subtitles.  Still, there’s something rather comical about the way they talk.  The majority of them sound like little Japanese schoolgirls but at least they are never annoying at all.  The sound effects are also pretty good, especially when gamers are playing the Hopping game.  Listen closely and you’ll hear the swaying palm trees with the light breeze and the sounds of seagulls in the distance.


Difficulty: Medium
Like any good fighting game, each character has his or her own unique style and level of skill.  The same can be said about this game, only style is replaced with reflexes.  You’ll find that certain pairs together become lethal opponents while mismatched pairs make for easy opponents.  Not only do the matches provide unique challenges, but so does maintaining fruitful relationships.


Concept: 9.5
Not quite a straightforward sports title . . . or casino game for that matter, Xtreme Beach Volleyball dances between these genres making this something entirely different.  Aside from dressing the ladies up in various swimsuits (many of them very skimpy) and accessories, the game allows you the freedom to partner up with other characters or challenge different characters that just happened to have switched partners.  The casino games are also great, offering real casino blackjack and slot machines.   


Multiplayer: 8.8
The game excels as a single-player game, but thankfully there’s an Exhibition mode that allows gamers to play with a friend.  All the eight characters are available to choose from and so are the swimsuits you purchased in the single player mode.  This is just a fun mode to share with a friend either as a partner or as a rival.  Either way, this mode is a welcome addition.


Overall: 9.2
Xtreme Beach Volleyball is really one of the most unusual and unique games seen in a long time and its rather refreshing antics make this a wonderfully rare treat.  One might not see it by the looks of it, but this game contains the most solid and fun beach volleyball action that would make a serious sports fan proud.   Do not pass up the opportunity to play this different but enjoyable title, you won’t be sorry.


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