Outlaw Tennis Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 6.0
Gameplay : 6.5
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 6.7
Review by Alex D.
The Outlaw bunch has returned once again, but this time, to crash the sport of Tennis and provide their own “in your face” take on it. Following in the steps of the previous Outlaw titles, the game provides an interesting spin (no pun intended) on the country club sport, along with a few new intuitive modes of play, the obligatory cast of quirky characters and even online connectivity via Xbox Live. Although it seems like an attractive purchase, the game does fall flat in a few notable areas, mainly due to its boring and repetitive humor; however, the low MSRP does make it slightly more bearable.

When on the court, Outlaw Tennis handles somewhat similarly to the benchmark of tennis games: Virtua Tennis on the Sega Dreamcast. It’s a given that the NPCs and the general level of technical detail of the Outlaw series isn’t on par with its competition, but it still provides somewhat of an entertaining experience. The controls are intuitive and surprisingly responsive, while things like the type of court you’re playing on will directly affect the general handling of both the ball and yourself.

The Outlaw series was made popular thanks to its extreme and outlandish take on sports. The game throws in a bunch of characters based on shallow stereotypes and gives them the possibility to beat each other senseless. Although beating your opponents to a pulp can be particularly satisfying, the combat system manages to make it more of a chore than anything else. All that is required is to mash the four face buttons on the controller faster than your opponent. In the case that you’re victorious, you’ll receive a turbo power-up that lasts 30 seconds.

Let’s delve more into detail about this “turbo” mode. Each player comes equipped with a limited amount of turbo, but can use it at any time. When activated, it gives players and opponents alike an extra edge by allowing them to move much more quickly, which can turn the tables on a serve in a matter of seconds. The meter regenerates slowly over time, and winning volleys gives you a small boost as well.

Outlaw Tennis features a cast of 16 characters, each created with some shallow and pedantic stereotype in mind. Veterans of the series will see a few familiar faces, such as Ice Trey, Donna and one of the more popular characters, Summer, the blonde stripper/physicist. Some of the new playable stars seem a little more inspired and witty, much like the tennis playing ninja named Bruce Lieberman and the conventional 70’s Norwegian pro, Sven Svenvenvenson.

In addition to having funky names, appearances and horrible one-liners, every character has a specific set of attributes that gives you some indication of how he or she will comport themselves on the field. Your player’s stats can also be upgraded via a series of training drills, which take the form of amusing mini-games. The perfect example of one of these exercises would have to be the one where you must direct your shots at a line-up of butchers approaching an innocent cow. In the end, these training drills are very reminiscent of those that could be found in Virtua Tennis.
Alongside the training exercises, Outlaw Tennis features a variety of different and peculiar playing modes, many of which seem mundane and more like filler material. To begin, “Hot Potato” plays exactly like a regular round of tennis with the exception of a meter that progressively increases. Once at maximum capacity, the ball explodes and if it’s on your side, you lose. Secondly, a mode entitled “Ping-Pong” plays exactly like a match of table tennis, with the exception of the table being a tennis court. Another mode dubbed “Pinball” places actual pinball flippers on the court. There are a few other modes, notably “Football” and “Baseball” that apply notions of each sport to the scoring method, but as with the other modes, they are simple and easy to get accustomed too. Outlaw Tennis also comes equipped with straight up, plain tennis matches. There’s a “Tour” and an “Exhibition” mode that shouldn’t need any explanation. These modes also apply to the Xbox Live portion of the game.

Visually, Outlaw Tennis isn’t horrible, as it does manage to keep you concentrated on the action, but it certainly doesn’t bring the console’s hardware to its knees, even on the PS2. The environments are well varied and distinctively unique. Ranging from Mexico to a slaughterhouse, all the way up to the Arctic, each court has a nutty feel to it. The models seem to have received the most care. They are all superbly detailed, although each character seems to have the same set of animations. The special effects such as turbo mode and the likes are not over the top or overly impressive, but they certainly get the job done. After each point, a short “humorous” skit is played; these are rarely funny the first time, let alone after a second time, but thankfully, they can be turned off via the options menu. Although this isolates many of the annoyances, it also defeats the purpose of the game.

The aural department of Outlaw Tennis is one of the game’s weaker aspects. The soundtrack features a slew of different songs that range in variety, as if it couldn’t decide upon what it wanted to be. Stephen Colbert, renown for his role on “The Daily Show,” voices the announcer, providing annoying smart aleck comments throughout the game, which become extremely tiresome and repetitive, but then again, some might actually find Outlaw Tennis genuinely funny. If you’re of my opinion and become rapidly annoyed, the announcer can be turned off. The rest of the voice actors do a sufficient job at playing their parts, considering they are a bunch of unknowns. The sound effects are rather plain and boring as well, consisting mainly of grunts, shouts and the sounds of rackets hitting the ball. They get the job done, but barely.

Overall, Outlaw Tennis is a game that reeks of mediocrity. If you were a fan of the lowbrow, unfunny humor present in the previous titles and if you enjoy “tennis,” then you might have a pleasant experience. With a low price tag of $19.99, the game seems a little more recommendable, even with its annoyances. If Outlaw Tennis simply had plain tennis matches without the “in your face” attitude, it would be much more appealing and amusing. As it stands, the most irritating segments of the game can be toggled off and the multiplayer aspect is somewhat amusing as well. The graphics and the soundtrack are average, but the “Tour” mode is lengthy and interesting while it lasts. Outlaw Tennis does have a lot of potential, but sadly, it falls short.