Title  : Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball
Platforms  : Microsoft Xbox
Publisher  : Tecmo
ESRB Rating  : Mature
Game Rating  : 8.4
Review by  : Ken Gagne

There are many reasons you'll want to play this game. Or ignore it. Or cry for its censorship. Love it or hate it — or me for reviewing it – the assassins, ninja, and wrestlers of Tecmo's fighting games exert their nubile selves in Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, for the Microsoft Xbox. 

This game is rated "M" for Mature, due to its sexual theme. The unique quality of DOAXBV isn't in its gameplay as much as its visual appeal. The volleyball players are solely Amazons with bodies taken from magazine foldouts. These buxom beauties have no qualms exhibiting their bounties to peeping gamers. While there is absolutely no nudity, sex, or anything else illicit, there are plenty of subtle overtones and shameless movements. When the action gets heated, you best keep your eye on the ball, though, as the matches can grow genuinely tense, regardless of its participants' endowments. 

The volleyball action is simplified, with two buttons and much assistance. Your avatar will automatically leap when presented with an opportunity to spike, which is the only real way to earn points. The greater the victory margin, the greater the cash prize — which can be spent on adorning your athlete with swimsuits, hair bangles, footwear, and more. 

Yes, this game lets you play dress-up with these life-size Barbie dolls. Collecting all the revealing outfits and accessories is at least half the game's fun. But from an aesthetic perspective, what DOAXBV needs is a gallery where various pieces of clothing can be modelled. Some pieces don't go well together, or on certain figures, and it's a shame to not learn what a bad combination is until you see it on the court. 

The other women can be vicariously dressed by presenting them with gifts, which serves a more than visual purpose. These ladies are akin to virtual pets, and must be kept happy for them to perform well and choose to partner with you. Each woman has not only her own strengths and weaknesses, but also likes and dislikes; failing to pander to these tastes can leave you without a partner, forcing you to the sideline. If it's straight volleyball action you're looking for, the only sure bet is the game's Exhibition mode, which eschews any simulation qualities and heads right to the beach. You can bring a buddy to this mode, but not three, as DOAXBV lacks four-player support; a co-op mode for two people to play against the computer is also absent. 

Voyeurs will regret the exclusion of full camera control and slow motion during the replays, but will delight in the telescopic zoom and being able to set the girls by the poolside, where they lounge languidly. At night, gamers can enjoy the hotel's unadorned casino, where blackjack, poker, roulette, and slots prevail. 

Other than the game's natural curves, there isn't much to look at. Each of the four beaches can be played at day or night, and are the main settings of gameplay. The camera swings left and right depending on which side of the court holds the ball. The entire court is never shown in a single shot, so this constant motion may initially be dizzying to some players. The characters and ball have a floaty feel, seeming suspended in midair for the moment before a spike. 

There is plenty of spoken dialogue, though only purists will appreciate that it's in Japanese with English subtitles. A varied background of music is provided, with a default program that includes Bob Dylan, Christina Aguilera, and more. The player's own list of MP3s can be selected from the inbuilt hard drive as well. Strangely, the beaches' day and night settings have their own playlists, requiring players to select their tunes more than once. The game's ability to randomly shuffle through the playlist also seems handicapped, instead working through the songs in sequential order. 

I am not thrilled by media which objectifies and denigrates women. Yet for a young man to like pretty girls isn't perverse; it's healthy. Overall, I found this game to be more a source of mirth than anything else. I will keep DOAXBV in my game library not only to pursue amassing all the collectible items its shops offer, but for the same reason I kept the PlayStation game Spice World: to occasionally show to friends, who will exclaim, "I can't believe they made a game like that."


This article is copyright (c) 2003, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 03-Feb-03