Summer Heat Beach Volleyball

PS2

Review by Greg Wilcox

Acclaim

Sports

Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 7

Overall: 7


Xbox and Game Cube owner s can stop thumbing their noses at the PS2 crowd- the system finally has its own beach volleyball game, and itís a good one. Summer Heat Beach Volleyball comes to you courtesy of Acclaimís Cheltenham Studios, and while it borrows some elements from Beach Spikers and DOA Beach Volleyball, it also has enough of its own personality to make it a worthwhile purchase.  The gameplay is a bit better here in my opinion and Summer Heat has male and female players, a welcome touch. Of course, this simply means that you can get a few matches in with your significant other without feeling too guilty about leering at polygon babes, if youíre picking up the game for that reason.

Thereís an excellent tutorial that not only teaches the basic and advanced moves, it also unlocks a great player to use in either single or multi-player matches. The controls are quick and simple to learn and you can easily swap positions with your CPU-controlled teammate. I alternated between playing the net and letting the CPU handle setting up shots, and staying backcourt to tap the ball to the CPU, and found few out and out screw-ups either way. Sure, your buddy will sometimes dive the wrong way for a ball or hit a few out of bounds, but thatís how it happens in real life sometimes. Summer Heat does reward power players a bit more than it does finesse freaks, however.  You can exploit the opponentsí weaknesses and run up some pretty high scores before they get on the board, but theyíll play you just as hard (or cheap) if given the chance. On one hand, it makes for a breeze in Arcade mode, but against live players things can get plenty exciting.

In addition to Arcade mode, there are Tournament, Exhibition, and Training modes plus a load of mini-games that range from extremely cool to downright silly depending on how many live players join in. Thereís also a Beach House Mode that has over 200 unlockable items and features to find as you go through the different gameplay types. Everything from sunglasses and bathing suits to extra music and videos from Acclaim games can be found here. Sure, itís an extension of what DOA BV did earlier, but itís a lot less blatant in its exploiting of its polygon cast (if youíre concerned about that sort of thing). Actually, Summer Heat isnít as eyebrow raising as DOA, but thatís both good and bad.

The girls and guys look good here, but are just a bit too shiny (must be the sunblock). Some of the animation is quite nice, but a few transitions are slightly awkward on some moves. Itís fun to see players react to scoring points or missing shots, and I hope if thereís a sequel, even more moves are added. The control and overall speed of the game more than make up for any issues and you probably wonít care after a few matches. If you absolutely, desperately NEED some sort of hottie scale, Iíll humor you for a moment. DOA BV is the stuck-up rich girl who finally dates you (after you beg all summer), and leaves you with a nasty surprise afterward. Beach Spikers is the girl next door you held hands with as you carried her books to and from school (and who moved away before you got so much as a kiss). Summer Heat is the cute girl with glasses who youíd never think of asking out, but end up having a total blast when you finally do get together. Since Simon & Shuster Interactive didnít send me a reviewable of Outlaw Volleyball, I canít say a peep about that game, but Iíll go on record as saying a knee to the groin does not sound like a hell of a whole lot of fun.

The environments in SH are huge and full of stuff, but the extended flybys and TV-style intros just reveal that everything looks too almost clean and simple. Iíd have preferred more detailed textures overall, and larger, more boisterous crowds. As it is, it seems as if youíre playing at a family bar-b-que, and half the family is at the mall shopping. The sand deforms nicely when youíre running about, and the instant replays are handled well (you can skip through them if you like).  Musically, the game has a fun, bouncy tune from one of our favorite ďwhere is she now?Ē gals, Kylie Minogue, along with tracks from Pink, Sum 4, and other bands. Depending on your musical tastes, youíll either crank it up, or turn it off entirely after the songs repeat too much. SH is one of those cool games that would be even better with a custom soundtrack featureÖcan you say enhanced Xbox version?

Of course, if youíve a PS2 and are looking for a volleyball game, you canít go anywhere else but here. Summer Heat Beach Volleyball succeeds at what itís supposed to do, which is to bring a fast-paced and fun to play game of v-ball home to the masses.  Itís also very reasonably priced at $29.99, and you donít have to worry about getting sunburned and sand in your shorts while youíre playing. Unless you take your PS2 to the beach, that isÖ

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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:33 PM