Jeremy Jastrzab
19 Sep, 2005

Outlaw Tennis Review

Xbox Review | Country Club sports just ain't what they used to be
Have you ever read a review on IGN or Gamespot about a budget title? One that was to be released at $US20 but if it made its way to Australia, it would be the full $100? Very recently, this trend it seems, has been bucked. Several titles have been recently releases at a RRP between $30 and $50. Today, we’re going to examine one of these titles, Outlaw Tennis.

Outlaw Tennis is the latest edition to the Outlaw sports series that included titles such as Outlaw Golf and Outlaw Volleyball. While not exceedingly popular, they are best known for their dirty, lewd humour, while providing a solid sports simulation. Outlaw Tennis does stray too far from this formula.

You start off with four stereotypical characters and there are a further twelve to unlock. Each of them is unique, in the sense of how they are portrayed. You’ve got characters ranging from a jail-mate, a stripper, an American ninja and several more. There is no fear or favour here as everyone gets a share of having the mickey taken out of them. There are plenty of jokes involving bars of soap, silicon, nether-region stuffing and plenty more of these kinds of dirty humour stereotypes. Not to mention a few that incorporate tennis as well. There are a large amount of courts, ranging from desert domes, ice pits and even (literal) hell, where devils and demons are watching you play.

Each character has an amusing entrance FMV and several choreographed animation sequences in game. Along with that, each character has several lines of voicing. They succeed in creating a personality for each character and causing a few sidesplitting moments. To add to that, the commentary is probably the most amusing and least repetitive that we’ve heard in recent times.

So many courts, yet they all feel the same?

So many courts, yet they all feel the same?
While it’s all driven by humour, it’s not the type of humour that everyone will be pleased. You know, the kind that sensitive mums get their knickers into a knot over and some people will try to take the moral high ground by harping that it’s immature and crude. Here at PALGN, we like to think of it as somewhat a clever and accurate (though stereotyped) portrayal of certain aspects and areas of society. Sure, some scenes and lines will wear thin after a while but there are others will keep you laughing every time you see or hear them.

So the humour works well, but what about the tennis? It seems that the game has been quite closely based off the Xbox title, Top Spin. The engines seem very similar (if not the same) and there has been an addition of several game modes that take a twist on the classic tennis formula. However, with the focus on the humour, there is evidence that the developers have not spent enough time with the actual game.

The new match modes are quite amusing as well. There are six new twists on the old tennis formula in all:
-Classic: A straight-up tennis match.
-Hot Potato: When a rally reaches a certain length, the ball will explode. The unlucky player whose end blown up, loses the point.
-Casino: Each shot played earns a dollar (up to ten). The player with the most dollars wins.
-Baseball(?): Each rally you win is like a “hit” that allow you to advance from base to base and each that you lose is like an “out”. Three outs and there is a change over.
-Football(?!?): Each shot advances the carrier 10 yards. Each rally you lose causes a turnover. The player with the most touchdowns wins.
-Pinball: These are discs on the ground that are worth a certain amount of points. Though only the server is able to score points.
-Ping-Pong: Play to 11 or 21 points.

Some of these modes are quite interesting while the sport hybrids aren’t as complicated as they might sound. On top of that the player has plenty of options. You’ve got stock-standard tennis options such as single or doubles play, advantage rules and win by 2 games. Then you’ve got Outlaw Tennis rules such as Outlaw blocker and Time bombs. The blocker is a square that moves along the net and time bombs appear at the point of anywhere a winning shot lands.

Natasha gives us a salute...we'd like to salute back

Natasha gives us a salute...we'd like to salute back
To take advantage of all these modes and additions, there are four different game modes: quick play, exhibition, tour and drills, with Xbox Live on Xbox as well. The first three allow you to take on CPU and real opponents in all the crazy options that you have mentioned above.

However, it’s only after you play through the drill mode that the faults of the game start becoming apparent. The allow you to hone skills and then increase each of the characters stats. However, the drill mode is extremely easy. This does you no favours, once you discover that when you’re in an actual game, the opponents can run you off with very little trouble at all. Even at the easiest difficulty level.

Sure enough the basic mechanics work well. The timing takes quite a bit to get used to but it can be done. However, things like slicing and spinning the ball are theoretically existent but practically not. The serve game lacks a target or reticule so attempting line serves or aces “down-the-line” is a literal hit-and-miss affair. While the actual tennis game seems a bit incoherent as well.

The problem comes form two aspects. Firstly, the game is based off Top Spin but the controls are nowhere near as fluid or as precise. If a player were to initially tackle the drills as opposed to playing a game, this problem would not be apparent. The drills are paced in such a friendly and slow paced manner that players are coaxed into false impression. Which brings us to the second problem, a spiked difficulty level. Once out of the drills, even the worst CPU player on the easiest difficulty level will wipe the floor with any new players.

The new and innovative "Underarm" camera

The new and innovative "Underarm" camera
Despite the fact that each player has their own set of statistically determined abilities, none of them really feel different to one another. This is a problem in itself, as all the players feel a bit slow and marginally unresponsive. It can be difficult to regularly time your shots correctly and due to the movement problems, often points that are lost are not your fault, but the fault of the controls. As mentioned, the physics of spinning and slicing feel non-existent. However, probably the strangest thing is that every time we picked up the game, it was as if we needed to get used to the controls a new. This comes down to the talent of the developers and the fact that the game is a budget title is no excuse.

Unfortunately, the game is simply too difficult for its own good. Even once the player is used to the controls, the CPU just has too great an advantage over the player. It doesn’t help when the best feature of the game is very sharp AI. CPU playes are excellent at predicting to which side they should hit the ball, to take advantage of the way you’re moving. Given that you’re not particularly agile, you WILL be exploited much more than what you’d like or what is acceptable.

The multiplayer, thankfully, is able to save some grace. Since both players are on a level playing field (AI-wise), the only issues that face the player the sluggish controls. Outlaw Tennis definitely makes for a very good party game, especially if you’re not in the mood for serious tennis. The new game modes are unique enough to encourage this. However, if you’re considering the game for Live play, we suggest that you aren’t the only one you know planning to own the game. The community isn’t very big and games are very hard to come by.

As budget title, Outlaw Tennis greatly exceeds expectations. It has a lot of crude humour and makes a very good multiplayer title, once you get past the control quirks. The new modes are something that enliven the game of tennis in a unique and intriguing way. However, even though the price is friendly, that is no excuse to make a game with such an unbalanced AI or sluggish controls. And it’s an indication of how far talented developers can go. In the end, fans of Tennis and beer games shouldn’t pass over this title.
The Score
It lacks the depth, polish and implemention of top tennis games but the humour and game modes allow to Outlaw Tennis to stand on its own. And given the price, some of the flaws are easy to over look.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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