Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball Reader Review

I am sure my friend bought me this game because of the tits. Let's establish this before we go any further, because this is how most people view this title: a lurid game of cheap titillation. An image compounded by the E3 video depicting girls eating strawberries, and the TV advertisement showing a group of teenage boys salivating at the screen. When I unwrapped the game I laughed - after just completing Halo, and currently doing the rounds on KOTOR, I figured this gift wouldn't get much play.

So then why I am finding I play this game so much? The other day I clocked up three hours on the game, and I hardly noticed. I usually say that's a sign of a good game, but DOAX isn't a good game... Is it?

Well, let's start with the graphics. They have to be up there as some of the best graphics found on a console at present. The colours are as crisp and vibrant as a video game desert island should be. The light effects are superb, as the sunset gleams through the palm trees before a bout of pool hopping. But it's the animation of the characters where the game truly comes into his own. Yes, they bounce, etc... But the graphics are a lot more than that. In the aforementioned pool game, a girl hops from one end of the pool to another. Every stride, balance check and splash, is well done. All the frames of animation are present and, for want of a better word, they are complete. This is most unnoticeable when playing the volleyball game. No matter what action is taking place on the court there is no jerky action, no impossible moves as you wait for a animation frame to end. This helps solidify the game's world, and makes the game more immersive.

This is complemented by the game's soundtrack. A mix of Bob Marley, Christina Aguilera and chilled out easy listening provides a perfect backdrop to a summer island, and antidote to the "rawk" and hip-hop most EA games insist we listen too. Personally I have taken advantage of the customised soundtrack and have some pleasant Cuban music playing in the background to complete the Caribbean atmosphere. Other than that, the in-game sounds are sparse, limited to occasional encouragement (or otherwise) from the girls during matches.

To the game itself, which isn't really as focused on Volleyball as the title suggests - although there is an exhibition game option is you want to perfect your skills. That said, the Volleyball is done well, with 'A' and 'B' being the only buttons required. The left stick moves your character, and with the right you can position your partner. I find the game responsive, intuitive, and when the opposition are both up for a game, demanding (in a chilled out way).

The main point to DOAX is "Zack's Island", where you are given 14 days to make as much money as possible. The best way to do this is to win at Volleyball, in order to play Volleyball you need a partner, but she won't play with you unless you keep her happy. This is achieved by buying your chosen partner a gift, be it their favourite food, sunglasses, or a new expensive swimsuit. But you need to choose wisely, pick the wrong one, and your chosen target will bin the goods (no matter how expensive) and might even up leaving to play with someone else, and then you really are in trouble. Without a partner you have to try even harder to obtain cash. Some money can be obtained for the pool game, but the big money is found in the casino, which you can only visit in the evening. Here you can find slot machines, roulette, blackjack, and a horribly addictive poker game. And when the fourteen days are over your start again, either with the money you finished with, or afresh with a new girl.

And that is pretty much it. A game devoid of blood and guts, and as open ended as they come. There is a collect-'em-all element to the swimsuit and accessories - but in it's heart this game is a relationship game. It's about encouraging/bribing people to play with you, and to play badly when playing against you. It's one of the few games I know where your character has to be liked, a game with no real goal, a game you can dip in and out of, with an atmosphere of a summer holiday. Look past the tits and you can have a long stay at Zack's Island.

7 / 10

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