Compared: July 23, 2003
Welcome to our first 4-way comparison feature here at GCM; a project that was over a year in the making, not that we took that long to write it but it took that long for all the companies to release their respective titles. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this particular article is that all four games span all three of the major next-gen consoles. For a lot of you with only one system your decision may already be made, or at least is a bit easier than those with multiple systems. Only two of the titles share a common system (the Xbox) and even then I think you will see that there are very distinct differences in both features and gameplay that will likely appeal to a certain type of gamer.
I should also point out that GCM did not officially review the Beach Spikers game from SEGA, but we have played it extensively and the resulting score is what it would have received had SEGA chosen to allow us to review their game. It's normally our policy not to review titles that weren't provided by the manufacturer, but in the interest of a thorough comparison we've decided to outline the finer points of this game here in this review.
Round 1: Gameplay
Beach Spikers is a flawless representation of tournament style beach volleyball with all of the emphasis going into the gameplay. Control is very simple relying on two buttons used individually or together to execute all types of plays ranging from serves to spikes. The in-game interface is excellent with nice a great targeting system, player interface, and ball travel indicator allowing you to setup for the blocks. Rather than providing a large cast of characters you get to create your own choosing country, hair, face, and swimsuit. Throughout the tournament mode you need to monitor and make the appropriate morale adjustments to your partner through praise and reprimands. That is the extent of any character development.
DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball take a very simple approach to the sport reducing the game to two buttons and very little strategy. This game concentrates more on building relationships with the other players and buying them gifts to earn their favor. With diversions like a casino, and poolside mini-games and photo ops, it’s often hard to remember the focus of this title is a volleyball game and very hard to be taken as a serious contender for realistic gameplay.
Outlaw Volleyball takes an irreverent approach to the sport of volleyball borrowing on the sexy character styles of DOA but implementing a sophisticated gameplay model that rivals Beach Spikers. The target interface is terrible and the opponent AI is insanely difficult but there is a strong multiplayer component to ease your pain. The RPG-like stat building of your characters is one of this game’s strongest aspects and the mini-games and challenging drills add to the fun.
Summer Heat Beach Volleyball is your PS2 alternative to the sport of volleyball and while it tries to emulate the sexiness of DOA and the sophisticated gameplay of Beach Spikers it falls somewhere in the middle. It does offer 4-player support like all the others but you’ll need a Multitap to take advantage of it. This is one of only two of these games that features male characters – Outlaw Volleyball being the other.
The winner of this round has to go to Beach Spikers. While Summer Heat has the better interface and more realistic controls it also has some overbearing and unrealistic AI that takes a lot of the fun out of the game. DOA and Outlaw tie for third with their fantasy approach to the sport.
Round 2: Visuals
Summer Heat Beach Volleyball has some nice graphics but certainly nothing that can compare to the other games in this shootout. There is a variety of characters and various swimsuits and plenty of animated jiggling going on. The courts, beach house, and overall interface is nice and quite acceptable for PS2 technology. The surreal sheen on the visuals along with the flashy motion blurs and starbursts are nice additions.
Outlaw Volleyball has some amazing visuals, both in character and court designs. The mo-capped animation of the characters is flawless and the intro and post-play and post-game animations are hilarious. Visually speaking, this is the most fun you can have with a volleyball game.
Beach Spikers takes a more subtle approach on the graphics. The models are flawless with smooth textures and realistic swimsuits filled by realistically proportioned girls. While they try to market the game as “sexy” the conservative sports attire never results to gratuitous thongs or revealing tops and easily earns the only “E” rating of the lot.
DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball is all about the titillation and seduction of impressionable males (and probably a few females). As evidenced in the FAQ’s and chat rooms, everyone’s goal in this game is to earn enough money to put their favorite girls in the most revealing of swimsuits. The environments are gorgeous, bordering on photo-realistic and even the casino animations are better than most gambling games.
DOA and Outlaw tie for this round. Both games have awesome visuals with DOA going for “sexy” themes in exotic locations and Outlaw going for more of a “slutty” character theme in grungy real-world environments. Beach Spikers offers a very pure and flawless character design in a totally realistic world tour mode. If accuracy is what you are after then Spikers is your game.
Round 3: Music & Sound
DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball has a large selection of licensed music you can enjoy during your island activities. You can also create your own custom playlists although this is known to trigger a game-locking bug. Other than Dennis Rodman as Zack, all of the girls speak sub-titled Japanese that you can eventually translate into “set” and “spike”.
Beach Spikers offers a token amount of music for menus and such but the game relies more on the realistic sounds of tournament volleyball than anything else. Again, if realism is what you are after then it doesn’t get any better than this.
Summer Heat Beach Volleyball offers a modest selection of licensed tunes but the sheer length of the game will have you repeating many of the eleven songs, even during the same match. The music is good quality; we just need more of it. The inclusion of music videos for several of the songs as an unlockable bonus is a great idea.
Outlaw Volleyball has such an amazing soundtrack they even released a standalone CD with 25 tracks from the game. Ranging from rock, rap, pop, and hip hop this game is guaranteed to get your feet taping and if not you can always insert your own custom playlists. The comedic commentary of Steve Carrel combined with all the humorous dialog from the cast of characters is a huge plus for this game.
This is a tough call but I have to give this round to Outlaw Volleyball simply because of the commentary that is almost more fun than the gameplay. Musically speaking, I prefer the authentic island flair of the DOA soundtrack. The music in Outlaw is great but actually better outside the game and Summer Heat has great contemporary tracks but not nearly enough of them to keep you from going insane before the first tournament is over.
Round 4: Other Deciding Factors
I always feel compelled to mention the need for a Multitap on 4-player PS2 games then berate Sony for having the audacity to release a system with only two controller ports. So all games support four players but you’ll need hardware to do so on Sony’s box.
All of these titles offer various mini-games and challenges although the extracurricular activities in DOA have nothing to do with volleyball. The drills in Outlaw Volleyball do the most to improve your actual gameplay while the games in Summer Heat are simply fun diversions.
Of course the biggest feature and the one that awards this round to Outlaw Volleyball is the support of online play. Making full use of the Xbox Live service you can play 2-on-2 games with anyone else online as well as download future bonus content as it becomes available.
All of these games are fantastic and great fun, and since these games are all system specific, choosing the right game for you might be as simple as picking the game for your system. Owners of two or more consoles may have a tougher choice ahead.
Even so, here is a side-by-side feature comparison for those looking to make a statistical decision.