Summer Heat Beach Volleyball Review


Poor PS2 owners. They have the largest library of games of any of the big three systems, but have been missing something that Xbox and GameCube gamers have been able to enjoy for some time now. Some would say that this is more of a tragedy than an oversight since we're talking about beautiful women in bikinis jumping and diving on the sand during hard-fought games of beach volleyball. The Xbox's Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball and the GameCube's Beach Spikers are exclusive to both platforms, so PS2 owners have been left out in the cold. Until now that is. Summer Heat Beach Volleyball (SHBV) finally gives PS2 owners their own private beach, and all of the eye candy that comes with it.

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See why they call it Summer Heat?

SHBV features two-on-two volleyball played on one of twelve different beach locations around the world.  There are several modes of play which include an arcade mode in which you play a series of progressively more difficult matches, the US Tour which is a series of tournaments of various styles, and single match exhibitions.  To ease you into play the game also includes a good set of tutorials that cover the game basics and some strategy.  Winning at the arcade or US Tour modes will reward you with unlockables such as swimsuits and accessories for the players or music videos.  The unlockables such as videos can be watched in the game's beach house, but for some unknown reason you'll be the only one who ever visits there.  In a game that so proudly flaunts bikini-wearing babes you'd think that they'd show up to lounge by the pool once in a while.  Finally there are three unlockable mini-games.  The first is called Nerd Smash and involves competing with another player to spike the most balls into pop-up targets consisting of a whole host of critters and inanimate objects.  The next is called Beach Bowls and is pretty much the same as a backyard game of bocce ball.  The last is Ice Court in which you must spike the ball into your opponents' court.  The difference here is that the court is made of ice and the players can fall through the court.

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Hey! Keep your eye on the ball!

Now for the gameplay, since it's all about the volleyball, right?  The control scheme is pretty simple.  When digging for the ball, one button passes to your teammate and the other sets.  The difference between the two is that with the first you'll get to take the spike shot and with the other your teammate will.  There's a bit of timing involved in making a good pass or set - a colored circle under your player indicates the optimal time to release the button.  When spiking you can try to power the ball, go for a touch shot, or dink the ball back over the net by pressing one of three buttons when spiking.  When aiming your shot an arrow appears on the court that shows where your shot will land.  The better timed your spike, the more control you have over the placement.  Both teams can see the other's aiming arrow, so you know exactly where you need to be to dig the spike.  This makes it easy to defend against the AI on the easier skill levels, but on the highest level the computer becomes a lot better at trying to trap you out of position.  The AI for your teammate is competent, but not outstanding, and is far better at spiking than digging.  Most games I found myself roaming the backcourt, digging and setting to my teammate and letting her take care of the kill shots.

So what about the players?  They look good and are modeled nicely with realistic movement and plenty of between play animations.  As mentioned earlier, though, there is no off-court quiet time when you can simply admire the players so you'll have to make do with the game's replay feature.  The women don't quite compared to those in Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball and there is no real interaction with the women as in that game, so if you're primarily looking for a babe-watching fest you may feel a bit disappointed.  On the plus side the volleyball is a lot better than that in DOA: XBV, and the game even includes some guy players for you women gamers out there.

In The End, This Game Hath Been Rated: 73%.  SHBV is not a real volleyball sim on par with other sports sims out there.  Its gameplay is competent, but not challenging enough to hold the interest of sports game players for the long term.  Think of it as a day at the beach during the summer - a nice little diversion with some pleasant scenery.