I can enjoy food again and I owe it all to Acclaim and its newest PS2 title, Summer Heat Beach Volleyball
. Not because of the beautiful ladies or because of the visions of Mai Tais and Coconuts running through my head, quite the contrary. My taste buds are functional again because the solid and addictive gameplay have helped the wash the bitter taste that Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball
left in my mouth earlier this year.
Instead of designing a collection-based game masquerading as a beach volleyball game, Acclaim instead opted to do the unthinkable and actually develop a game that looks, plays and feels like actual beach volleyball. Comparisons to DOAXVB
will now cease because the two have very little in common. In all actuality Summer Heat
is very much like Sega’s Beach Spikers
for the GameCube and that bodes well for PS2 owners who have been looking to get in to the action.Summer Heat
doesn’t depend on gratuitous nudity or special effects to succeed. Yea I know it’s a shock considering the current state that “volleyball” games have been in as of late. It might also shock you to learn that Summer Heat
doesn’t have a gimmick or cheap trick that makes it exciting, instead it chooses to focus on the actual game of (gasp!) volleyball to deliver an enjoyable experience. There’s a wealth of material here and instead of leaving gamers with a thinly disguised collection game with some volleyball elements sprinkled about, Acclaim has created a full-fledged volleyball title that should quench the thirst of anyone who has been looking to cut their teeth on a true simulation of the sport.
As is the case with the other well-known volleyball titles of this season the action is strictly 2-on-2. Scoring is rally-based, lending the game a simplified feel that makes it easy for casual volleyball fans to keep track of the action. The gameplay is grounded in reality meaning that there aren’t any super shots, extraneous upgrades or whacked-out gameplay elements that would be out of place in the actual sport.
A little something for the ladies... and John
From the start gamers will be treated to the usual modes that are found in your garden-variety sports title; Arcade mode and tournament-style modes are the order of the day here. To spice things up a bit the guys at Acclaim came up with an interesting way of showcasing the various trophies and bonuses that you can win in the game. Instead of having to sift through some garden-variety menus the designers opted to create a 3D beach house that gamers can wander through. It’s nothing groundbreaking or innovative but it’s nice to see that companies are still trying to find new and creative ways to showcase their goods.
Speaking of creative, Summer Heat
is one of the first volleyball games to feature both male and female players. That’s right ladies no longer will you have to watch your men fawn and drool over big-breasted women. It’s your turn to drool over dreadlocked-hunks with an affinity for prancing around in Speedos. There’s a great selection too, Black, White, Hispanic, whatever your taste is the game will suit your needs. In all there are about 20 different men and women that you can play as, each with their own unique attributes and abilities. Because the various players have different strengths and weaknesses, it’s paramount to select two players that complement each other well. Can you imagine that? There’s more to the selection process than picking the two girls with the largest boobs! What’s this world coming to?
After you’ve selected your team it’s time to wait for the game to load. Get used to that spinning sun icon in the bottom left corner because you’ll be seeing a whole lot of it during your time with this puppy. You know how you’ve always got that one buddy that wants to eat while playing games so he pauses it to take bites while everyone has to sit and wait around for him? This is the game for him because he won’t have to take small bites while the game is going, he’ll have more than enough time to finish his small burger/taco/12 foot sub while you’re waiting for the game to load. Seriously, it’s that bad. Going from screen to screen takes an eternity and while the beach house is pretty decent, it’ll make you think twice about going to it without a purpose or reason.
When the game finally finishes loading, and you shave off that massive beard that has been accumulating, it’s time to get down to some seriously addictive action. Gameplay is simple and requires the use of only three buttons. Initially the game is a bit confusing as it takes some time to become accustomed to the functions of the buttons, but when you’ve got it figured out the game is pure volleyball enjoyment.
To make things a bit easier on the players on-screen indicators aid in both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. In addition to having indicators that help position your players for sets and passes, there are also indicators that help you guide your spikes for some more precise aiming. This takes the guesswork out of most of the action and allows you to perform accurate and calculated attacks. It’s also realistic as well as players have a limited arc to which they can hit the ball. For instance a player setting on the left side of the net won’t be able to turn his body all the way and hit the far right corner of the court. There are other bouts of realism sprinkled within as well, not every ball hit into the air can be spiked over the net like in most other games. Instead you’ll have to plan your attacks and set them up if you wish to get the most out of each and every possession.
The inclusion of on-screen indicators might appear to give the defense a distinctive advantage but there’s nothing farther from the truth. Skilled players can change their attacks on the fly and actually use the indicators to their advantage. Defenders who rely too heavily on the indicators can easily be fooled by a simple press of a button. Suddenly that powerful spike to the far side of the court has become a gentle dink over the net. There’s a lot of strategy inherent in this title and although players will be able to get by on the basic premise of button mashing, advanced players will be able to pick them apart and reveal their weaknesses with ease.
The only game where you'll think "Hey, she's left handed!" instead of "Look at those massive jubblies!"
There are some nice visual touches such as deformities in the sand, but this isn‘t the type of game that will win people over on graphics alone. However, the sand is nice enough to the point where my girlfriend gets amused by saying “look at the sand! Look at the sand! Look at the sand!” as she runs back and forth and messes it up. But then again, she’s easily amused by bright and shiny objects so maybe that’s not saying too much.
Most of the player models are basic and passable, but nothing to get too excited about. They’re generic at best and suffer at the hands of some pretty weak animations. On the visual front there is very little deviation from one character to the next. All of the players will perform the same idling, hitting and diving animations over and over again. It gets old and repetitive at times and to make things worse there are some pretty inane animations as well. Some of them are weak but most of them are just downright laughable. At times you may wonder if you’re watching beach volleyball or the fifth grade ballet. Then again the game is more about substance than looks so one can forgive it for its lack of panache and flair.
One can’t, however, forgive it for its numerous audio errors. For starters the soundtrack contains a song from the recording artist Pink, and it only gets worse from there. Not only because of the song selection, which contains a handful of generic beach-like tunes, but because of the technical problems that mar this reeling aspect. Sometimes the music will cut in and out or even disappear entirely, leaving you with the ambient gameplay effects. Then again maybe this isn’t necessarily a bad thing considering the game actually supports a Dolby Pro Logic II setup. Still though, it’s a wonder that no one picked this up during QA because it’s a bug that is easily replicated.
As if the mysterious sound problems weren’t enough there are some stability issues at hand as well. In the Arcade mode the game crashes at random without warning, ruining most chances at enjoying this title. Again, this is another error that can be easily recreated. It makes me wonder why this too wasn’t picked up during QA.
That’s not to say that this is a horrible game; as long as you can stomach the various stability and audio issues you’re in for a pretty great treat. Dust off that old multitap because you’re going to need it. Remember when your girlfriend laughed at you when you go stranded in the middle of nowhere because you decided to blow your paycheck on that old thing instead of filling up your gas tank? Prepare to get revenge because this is the first Volleyball game to have four-player support. There are some decent four-player games available on the PS2 but this is the
title to own if you’re looking to put that puppy to good use.
It’s also relatively easy to pick-up-and-play, making this a great choice for parties and small gatherings. And while it has well-endowed women prancing around in bikinis its done in tasteful fashion, making this game suitable for younger, non-hormonal driven audiences. Then again the game isn’t too conservative either so maybe both daddy and
little Billy could derive some enjoyment for this title.
If you’re looking for a beach volleyball title run out and get this one right now; it’s worth every single cent of its budget-sized price tag. There’s absolutely no reason why a fan of beach volleyball should not get this title, it’s that damn good. It doesn’t exactly have the highest production values ever seen in a video game but it has some pretty solid gameplay. In the end isn’t that all that really matters?