Reviewed on Xbox

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball

                 Reviewed By: David Janakes

Computer Platform: Xbox (Microsoft)
Produced by: Tecmo and Team Ninja
Price Range: $41-50
Learning curve time: 31-60 min.
Age level: Mature Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Genre: Simulation
Christian Rating: 3 of 5
   (some objectionable elements)
Gameplay: 4 of 5
Violence: 4 of 5
   (barely presen)
Adult Content: 1 of 5

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.  Illustration copyrighted.

When Tecmo first announced that Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was coming out for the Xbox system, they categorized it as the first-of-its-kind "fantasy sports simulation", starring the ladies from the Dead or Alive 3 fighting game. While writing this review, I found myself torn trying to categorize their latest endeavor as a simulation game or a sports game, since both elements are equally important in Xtreme Beach Volleyball. It successfully integrates a solid volleyball simulation, a relationship management system, and a complete gambling casino all in one.

DOAX centers around the voluptuous female fighters from Dead or Alive 3 arriving on “Zack Island” to participate in the fourth DOA tournament. Once they arrive, however, they discover that they were duped by Zack and are actually on a two-week vacation at his tropical resort. Not easily discouraged, the ladies decide to remain on the island paradise, spending their time playing volleyball, gambling, shopping and even just lying around on the island, soaking up the sun.

The game as a whole feels more like a dating SIM than a volleyball game, because the relationship management aspect of the game drives everything else. You can't play volleyball without a partner, and to retain your partner, you need to keep her on good terms. This is accomplished partly by playing well and choosing your opponents carefully, but also by lavishing expensive gifts on your partner. This requires that you learn each of their individual likes and dislikes and catering to them. This "gift giving" aspect to gain alliances is probably more challenging than playing the actual volleyball, because you could give really nice presents to your partner and still get ditched, simply because that particular girl doesn't care for those items.

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.  Illustration copyrighted.

Of course, the heart of the game is the volleyball, and it is here where the game truly shines. Despite the lightweight premise, this is still easily the best 3D volleyball game ever created. The controls are easy to master and consist of only two buttons (one for attack, the other for receive) and both analog sticks (one for your character, the other for your partner), yet they provide a remarkable amount of game control. Still, it takes quite some time to learn the dynamics of the game. You need to get the timing down on when to hit, as well as determine how hard to press the button, and the whole time you have to keep your eye on the other players and coordinate with your partner. And if that wasn't enough, the computer's AI keeps track of your volleyball skills and your opponents get easier or more difficult to match your playing as you progress.

Probably the biggest problem with the game also tends to be one of its greatest marketing ploys - namely, the scantily clad females with large breasts. It's clear that Tecmo was targeting adolescent males with all the “eye candy” in bikinis romping through the game. The game has remarkably rich scenery, and the girls spend considerable time just laying around the beach or playing the pool hopping game (which actually does improve one's use of the analog controls), just to demonstrate the detailed graphics. Of course it's over the top, and I'm sure that was the intent. I know that you won't find anything in the gameplay that you couldn't find at the local beach (although some of the more racy suits probably wouldn't appear at any but the most liberal beaches), but the overt sensuality is clearly the focus here, as if the volleyball was almost an afterthought. In fact, while Tecmo believed they would get a T (Teen) rating from the ESRB, they in fact received an M (Mature) rating, primarily because of a quick scene of brief nudity in the opening screen.

In addition to the issues raised with sexuality, there is also a gambling casino, complete with roulette, blackjack, poker and slot machines. There is a very slight amount of necessary violence while playing volleyball (some of the spikes can knock characters down hard) but nothing that compares with the usual DOA style of fighting. Some of the video clips are a bit racy (including a scene with Leifang feeding a strawberry to Hitomi on the beach) and some of the swim suits are excessively revealing. Although there isn't rampant nudity, I support the ESRB's decision to give it a Mature rating, because the entire game is, at the very least, extremely suggestive. As such, I cannot recommend this game for minors or anyone who has a problem with pornography.

Still, there are a lot of positive aspects to the game as well. As with The Sims, you can spend many hours just trying to build and maintain relationships. There are a lot of gifts being passed around between the characters, since a good volleyball partner is the most valuable commodity on the island. There is also the endless combinations of outfits and accessories. My wife spends many hours trying to coordinate swimsuits, hair bands, nail polish and sandals for the various characters, which they will wear during the volleyball competitions. This game certainly has its share of replay ability, thanks to the hundreds of collectible items and outfits, some of which are unique to specific characters. The multiplayer mode is a great way to compete with a friend, and the swim suits that you unlock on the island are available to your characters in the multiplayer game.

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball.  Illustration copyrighted.

Overall, the game is a lot of fun to play and can be quite addicting. The character models are all topnotch and the detailed environments are so realistic, you'll find yourself forgetting this is a computer-generated image. The controls easy to use, yet requires many hours of play to really get the timing down. If the game is lacking in anything, it would have been nice to allow for a 4-player multiplayer mode. Since the camera favors the side of the court where the ball is, I can see how this might have been difficult, but it would have been nice to allow for more than 2 players at a time.

From a Christian perspective, there are several issues with gambling and sexuality, especially since the game is likely to attract the attention of teens, regardless of its rating (even the commercials on TV seem to be targeting teens). And although gambling in the casino is not required, the mere fact that it is present in the game may cause some eyebrows to be raised. Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball certainly won't appeal to everyone, but those who take the bold step of seeing beyond the “hot babes in bikinis” may find a thoroughly enjoyable volleyball game.

Year of Release—2003

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Christian Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Films for Christ or the Christian Answers Network.

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