As far as egregious use of the word "remix" goes, Outlaw Volleyball Remixed is definitely guilty of abusing it, possibly even more so than the shudder-worthy Sprite Remix Aruba Jam. Going by the Hypnotix definition, a remix is when you take something that's old enough to walk (Outlaw Volleyball for the Xbox came out in 2003), add some inconsequential features (two new courts; dozens of new costume colors), and turn the graphics ugly. Remember when Russell Simmons had to have a fake funeral for "def?" Consider this the death knell for "remix." But, really, the most frustrating thing about Outlaw Volleyball Remixed is that, were it not for the stupid posturing and the fact that it's a clunky port of a 2-year-old title, it's not inherently that bad of a game.
Like every other Outlaw game before it, Outlaw Volleyball Remixed operates under the misguided assumption that if you match an ESPN2-caliber sport with double entendres, overblown stereotypes, and boobies, boobies, boobies, you'll get a winning formula. Such a crass, juvenile attitude isn't inherently a bad thing, but the way it's presented here comes across as coldly calculated to capture a specific demographic. All the energy expended on edginess and irony seems like a waste, and it would've been better spent polishing the parts of the game that actually matter.
The core mechanics of the volleyball game are pretty cut-and-dried, using an oscillating power meter to gauge your serves, using targets on the court surface to show where the ball is heading, and giving your spikes more power the longer you hold the button. In all, the gameplay is responsive, if a touch forgiving. Hard spikes are too easy to bump, and it's rare that you'll be unable to recover from a shot that ends up beyond the back line of the court, which can make for some lengthy volleys.
There are a decent number of gameplay options available from the start, and there's a fair amount of unlockable content, too. For a quick, straightforward game of volleyball, there's the exhibition mode, which lets one to four players set a variety of play variables, including scoring conditions and the number of points needed to win. For an even quicker game, there's the random play mode, which is identical, except that your characters are randomly selected for you. The selection of characters available at the start is limited to just four, though you can unlock many more by playing through the lengthy single-player tour mode, which puts you through a series of competitions on each of the game's 12 courts.
The unlockable characters have better stats than the starting four, though you can build up anyone's skills by going through the drill mode. This mode is essentially a series of minigames designed to test specific skills, such as serving, spiking, bumping, and blocking. It may sound like a boring tutorial mode, but the minigames can be both challenging and entertaining. If you'd prefer, though, there is also a dedicated boring tutorial mode, which gives you a noninteractive overview of the game's basic mechanics. It's fairly informative, although it would've been nice to test out the mechanics before jumping into an actual game. Plus, you'll likely get what you need faster by just opening up the manual or by simple trial and error. There's also online competitive support for Outlaw Volleyball Remixed, complete with an online leaderboard. There aren't an incredible number of people playing the game, and it also seems unfortunate that there's only support for one-on-one competition. Overall, the online support here is functional, if a bit spartan.
The default camera angle in the game is clumsy, and it does a poor job of keeping the action in the center of the screen. Thankfully, there are a half-dozen options for the camera placement, though we found that the following camera, which rests behind the team that currently has possession of the ball and rotates dynamically from side to side, gave the best overall vantage point (despite the fact that it occasionally lags behind the action, creating a nauseating effect as it plays catch-up). Though the default is for one player on your team to always be controlled by the CPU, you can choose to alternate control between the two characters depending on who has possession of the ball. And under either setting you can change the character you're controlling while on defense with a quick shoulder-button tap.
In keeping with the game's "extreme" presentation, there are a few specific mechanics in Outlaw Volleyball that set it apart from the other volleyball games on the market. Holding R1 will give your character a short burst of speed, which is a helpful crutch early on, and downright necessary when you start playing against some of your tougher opponents. Your players have momentum meters that increase as you score points and can be tapped to perform high-powered spikes and serves. Although the visual flourish given to these special attacks far outweighs their actual usefulness on the court. As you play, you'll regularly be given fight tokens, which can be activated just before a serve to put you and an opponent of your choice in a 2D fighting-game-style match. The player who wins the fight is given all of the other player's momentum. The fighting system is simple and clunky, consisting of a simple punch, a simple kick, and a simple block. Ultimately, all the gameplay mechanics that are used to set Outlaw Volleyball apart from other volleyball games, from the special attacks to the fighting system, feel like afterthoughts and don't really make the proceedings any more fun. If anything, they disrupt the pacing of the game and detract somewhat from the overall experience. At least you can toggle the fighting portion on or off.
The original Outlaw Volleyball looked pretty good on the Xbox for its time, but thanks to a lengthy delay between releases and a ham-fisted port job, Outlaw Volleyball Remixed retains almost none of the luster of the original. The environments are distractingly blocky, full of too many right angles, and they're covered with dull, blurry textures with a tendency to shimmer. The two new courts introduced in Remixed look especially simplistic. The characters still retain their near-toxic levels of naughty, men's magazine-style sex appeal, but the character models feel more mechanical now, especially since everyone shares the exact same canned animations out on the court. The female characters are voluptuous to an idealized extreme and clad in the minimum amount of skintight Lycra that the law will allow. This may be enough to distract the pubescent frat boy demographic, but everyone else will be left with a kind of dirty-looking volleyball game.
The sound design doesn't fair much better, as it is mostly dominated by lame, sophomoric comedy read by the game's announcer, the usually hysterical Steve Carell (The Office, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy). Though Carell brings more than enough enthusiasm to the job, the lines he's forced to read are riddled with weak, immature jokes that fall flat more often than not, and, by virtue of the constant repetition, become annoying quickly. The sharp wit and great comedic timing that Carell has displayed in virtually everything else he's done make the humorless jokes that much more disappointing. The game's characters also contribute their fair share of lame one-liners--usually having something to do with the broad stereotype upon which that particular character is based--though the game mercifully gives you the option to kill the commentary and skip the characters' speaking parts. Aside from all the chitchat, Outlaw Volleyball Remixed sounds OK, with good ambient sound from the crowd and a serviceable soundtrack predictably made up of licensed pop-punk, techno, and hip-hop.
Despite the threadbare graphical presentation and the suffocating attitude of Outlaw Volleyball Remixed, it's a game that's difficult to dismiss entirely, partially because the core mechanics and gameplay systems are quite sound, but also because it's being sold at bargain-basement prices. Consider that the options for PlayStation 2 owners looking for a volleyball game are few and far between right now, and you could see how one might be able to either ignore or embrace the pronounced flaws of Outlaw Volleyball Remixed, and manage to have a good time with it.