It’s been a very long time since I played Volleyball in any way shape or form, we have to go back 30 years to my school gym days in shorts and T-shirt when I would get friction burns on my knees and arms jumping low for the ball. It also feels like its been that long since we saw a volleyball game on our gaming screens; certainly a credible one.
When you look at the sports genre as a whole, there is actually very little in the way of choice. EA seem to have monopolised the market with their year in year out similar games. FIFA for instance is basically the same game every year, yet it always holds a top spot in gaming charts on release. I don’t understand why people rush to get it every single year. I can honestly say that I lost interest in that franchise about 4 years ago, there just wasn’t enough variation from year to year to warrant me spending £40/50 on a slightly updated football game. Then you start to look at other sports games and you struggle. Madden, NBA 2K and MLB The Show spring to mind, but these sports are still very limited in people taking a chance on making them.
Not as limited I guess as Volleyball however. There hasn’t been a game released for this sport for a good few years. Other than Mario and Sonic at the Rio Olympic Games 2016, I believe 2008 saw the release of Women’s Volleyball Championship on the PS2 as far as simulations go.
So Spike Volleyball is most definitely a simulation of the sport and surprisingly very easy to pick up and play. The one thing I was worried about when I was offered the game for review by BigBen games was how the controls would work. The success to a game will undoubtedly come from the controls within; make it too complicated and people will give in too easily. Thankfully the basic controls involve holding a button to do whichever type of serve you choose to power it up, let go and then press again to hit the ball at the optimum point. X button deals with the receiving of the ball to spike it to a player who will set it up and then Square, Circle or Triangle to spike it to the corresponding player who you think is in the best position. Once that player is selected, hold the X button once more to power your shot. On defence, blocking at the net is dealt with the press of the Square button and that’s basically it. OK, it may sound a little complicated, but you do have plenty of time to switch between the buttons you need to.
Black Sheep Studio has been tasked with trying to bring Volleyball back to the forefront of the gaming world, but the question is simple really; Have they actually pulled it off? I would love to say that they have and with flying colours. The game is great fun to play and does look nice, but, there are some major issues within the game.
Collision detection is horrendous and is only magnified if you have replays set to on. After every point won the replay kicks in and emphasises players swiping at fresh air when the ball is a meter or so from them, yet hitting it over the net. The only time that anyone ever actually seems to touch the ball is for the service. Beyond that the players are detached from the ball tot the point where I felt like I was playing some form of strange Star Wars hybrid where you ‘use the force Luke’ to move the ball. At times you think to yourself that the opposing team have no players anywhere near the ball and none have moved to attack it, yet the ball ends up flying up into the air by some mystical power and they continue with their attack. The problem with this I found was that I relaxed thinking I was about to win a point and in the end lost the point.
Beyond that, the game is actually good. The career mode sees you take on a team of either male or female players and the idea is to be the best team in the world by winning tournaments and increasing your world ranking. You can send scouts out to sign hopefully better players, but thats really about it. I would have liked to have seen some practice sessions where you can help your team members increase their stats. Beyond that you can customise tactics that can be changed in-game before you serve the ball or start to defend, but there’s no real sense that these tactical changes really do anything within the game.
Outside of the career mode theres online play which I didn’t get to check out as there seems to be few people who have got the game so far. Challenges which will reward you with ‘V-Credits’ which you can spend within your career to send your scouts out on the hunt for more talent. Friendly matches and then there’s.. Oh hang on, no there isn’t; that’s it for the games offering. There’s no real depth to the game which takes away from the idea of it being a simulation. Its certainly far from an arcade fun game and those V-Credits I mentioned?! Well, as there’s nothing to really spend them on, they stack up pretty fast.
As fun as the game actually is, it starts to become a little monotonous after a while and games are relatively easy to win; I have played through a full season and not lost a single game even on the harder difficulty settings. Its sad to see as this game should be a winner, but there really does need to be more depth to it. Hopefully in future updates some issues can be resolved like the collision detection as it is only on build 1.01 at the time I am writing this review as I personally do want to see this game going up against the FIFA’s, Maddens, NBA’s of this world, but its not quite there just yet.
As for a review score I seriously cant give it more than a 5/10. I really would love to give it more, but it needs that time and effort put in to it as it feels as if it was rushed out onto shelves.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment was provided with a copy of the game by BigBen and in no way has this influenced my review as per our Review Policy**