Bump, Set, Spike your controller!
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an international female volleyball player? Well Women’s Championship Volleyball might be what you’re looking for. That is of course, if you want to know how it feels to be on the Olympic court drunk and blindfolded. Agetec hasn’t always delivered the best product, but it seems like they went out of their way to make sure you wouldn’t just be disappointed, but that you would also learn to hate volleyball all together.
The box promises in-depth player/team development as well as a rich customization and training feature for crafting your own star. In theory you’re supposed to be able to assign a captain that will boost moral and improve stats all around. You can also decide where you want to place your players based on their individual stats and special skills. When getting to the meat of it however, it all becomes confusing and time consuming. Training a team isn’t even an option, although it seems like you’re working hard to make the perfect squad, once you get on the court the fifteen minutes or more you spent deciding where and how to allocate the players seem to mean nothing at all.
Customizing your own character is just as aggravating. Your skill set covers all the basic volleyball moves from different serving styles to team motivation influence as captain. To improve your skills you have to choose from a number of randomly generated attribute cards which may or may not actually help your avatar fare better in the game. Not only is it poorly designed, but it takes an inexcusably long time for such a seemingly easy and linear mechanic developed for years in sports game franchises.
As agonizingly long as it takes to prepare a team or player, or going through the poorly put together and surprisingly unhelpful tutorials, it will not prepare you for actually playing this disaster of a game. The button layout and controls change every split second depending on what’s happening on the court. A good example is just the “X” button. When serving you have to hit the button when the gauge reads max (ala Madden field goals or Tiger t- offs) and it performs a jumping floater serve. It then becomes a pass function when receiving the ball. After passing you can then set the ball to the center of the court with the same button. Once the ball is set to the attacker you can hit “X” to attack normally or press it with the R1 button for a Wipe attack.
To block an incoming attack is also “X”. So in five seconds it’s possible to go through five control schemes; and that doesn’t include the moving, player switching, power gauges for every other action, and formation changes necessary to have the players not just stand there like zombies. It sounds insane, but every button changes like this. Even if the game came with a keyboard it would still be overly complicated and stupid. As much as the controls suffer from a stunted sense of player needs, so do the graphics.
This graphical throwback to PS1 makes a laughable attempt at all things decent about PS2 game development. With only slight differences in appearance like hair style and jersey colors, the characters models appear ripped off directly from The Sims, and even move like the mumbling (and successful) homebodies when not darting and jumping in random directions. The stadiums fare no better, with almost no definition in the crowd. The court markings and net itself are equally undefined with the Agetec banners lining the courts being the only things you can plainly make out.
The experience isn’t helped by the inane sound effects and commentators either. They say things that seem like a mesh of sound bytes just randomly strung together. A parrot repeats back things more intelligently than the brain-dead announcer/noise boxes. Aside from the insipid commentary, the grunts and whistles (all sounding the same no matter what action is being taken) are the only things to notice. You’re better off turning your television to mute and sitting in silence.
Your career will never seem satisfying as all the game play modes are essentially the same. Even the teams with claimed strengths in different categories play the same and offer no better control over what happens than any other team. Perhaps if they had put in some sort of playable training or mini-games for improving the different teams, it would make it more enjoyable to play as a favored country or to develop a career path for an individual player. How the developers managed to miss the mark on every important tool for enjoyment in a sports game is astounding.
It is a great thing to bring light to an under promoted sport such as women’s volleyball, but in this case it’s like Ronald McDonald promoting P.E.T.A. It doesn’t really help. So whatever you do, DO NOT BUY THIS GAME. With any luck its failure will serve as an example to other terribly contrived sports games that they should stay dormant in their dark holes.