Dead or Alive 4
Just like this review, Dead or Alive 4 was a little late to support the launch of the Xbox360. Especially in Japan, where fighting games are extremely popular, this toned down the enthusiasm a bit. In our parts the genre is less popular, but the beautiful screenshots and movies that kept coming out did manage to warm us up for DoA4. Next to Soul Calibur and of course Tekken, this is still one of the most popular fighting series in gameland. And this episode won’t change a thing to that.
This is a game that you can experience in two ways. Either you look at it as a button-bashing party to run through on your own, enjoying the babes and unlocking extra costumes, or you can delve into it, learn all moves, subtleties, characters and opponents by heart and practice months until you have no match on Xbox Live left to beat you.
No matter which type of player you are, there something for everyone. DoA4 doesn’t change much from its predecessors. The gameplay is fundamentally the same but after a while you’ll notice the changes that have been done. Things have gotten a lot faster and the reversals, counters and throws are harder to perform than in version 3. Attacking is still the message so button-bashing can still get you plenty of wins. If you invest a lot of time to get to handle your character, then you’ll be able to stand up to your friends who state that such games only exist to bash your controller.
The controls are simple in use with a button for kicking, boxing and defense, and next to that only the left thumb stick to vary your kicks in height. Of course the same goes for the dozens of combos that are possible. Most fights end up very fast and spectacular with a lot of variation, painful beatings, lightning fast takeovers and powerful attacks. Although it’s hard to argument, the feeling you get is perfect, everything reacts as it should, and you always have that unique experience that what is displayed on your screen is based on what you do with your hands. Also I have to add that everything loads very quick, something very nice to see in these times of UMD’s!
The makers have also done their best to put enough variation in the rest of the game. For instance there are the tag-events in which you play two by two, eventhough you can control only one character at the same time. The arenas you get to work in are very different and vary from jungles over a platform between futuristic skyscrapers and a Japanese village, to a neon-lighted street in an American city that looks to have run away from Jurassic Park, with T-Rex. On top of that, every map is filled with interactive elements that you can use to bring additional damage to your opponent. Windows shatter, you can kick your enemies from stairs or in front of wild animals, taxis break your legs if you don’t get out of their way fast enough, etc.
As always, the characters are real pearls, and most of them you’ll probably know already. Think Ayane, Ryu, Leifang (my preferred long-legged beauty) and Tino, the female wrestler. Other familiars are Kasumi, Brad Wong and Christie. Amongst the new ones in town we count the no less dangerous Kokoro, the young boy Eliot and of course La Marisposa, the masked beauty with dangerous boobs. All characters look beautiful, have a ton of moves (80 is no exception) and the animations are a real treat for the eye. And then I haven’t even spoken about other lust-arousing properties of the DoA girls. Just like real!
For the fans of Halo there’s of course also Spartan 458, a Master Chief look-a-like that you can unlock (just like a couple of others). Certainly worth mentioning is that each character has its own playing style so that each gamer can find what he’s looking for. On top of that, the balance has been really well worked out so that there aren’t any characters that are specifically stronger than all the others, although I did have the impression that the faster fighters sometimes have an advantage thanks to their combos.
I already said how beautiful and detailed the models and animations are, but the same goes for the game in its entirety. Great and sharp textures (some outfits are really fantastic), beautiful and bright colors, tons of succesful visual effects and surroundings that aren’t only technically correct but also come over very inspired will make you forget the flaws, like the strange way the hair falls.
Lovers of Japanese will also be happy to know that everyone still talks in that language during the movies and fighting. The voice actors do their job exquisitely (although I didn’t understand a word) and the sound effects are how they should be. Cracks, rinkles, breaking of bones, and coming down of punches all come out of your speakers very hard and crystal clear. The soundtrack is less noticeable but didn’t bother me at all and on top of that you get treated with some numbers from Aerosmith at the beginning and end of the game.
To enjoy all that beauty you can of course bash each others face in numerous ways and that’s what DoA prooves with the different modes. Most known and fun for those that play alone is without a doubt the story mode. Here you need to finish 8 rounds against computer-controlled opponents, and in between you get cut-scenes until you reach the end and get to see an endscene. You won’t find a lot of storyline but nonetheless the breathtaking movies at the end are more than enough reason to go through it with each character. On top of that, every time you finish the storyline with a character, you’ll get a new costume, something that makes up a bit for the lack of depth of this mode.
In the story mode, as well as in the other modes where you face the cpu as opponent, the enemy AI is a point of controverse. Although it adapts itself nicely to your way of playing and quickly reacts deadly if you keep trying the same move, it can become very frustrating as well. Already the easiest setting for beginners is not so easy and especially the endboss, some sort of virtual Mrs called Alpha 152, can come out of the corner extraordinary. Bet that you’ll be doing the necessary swearing before getting her down, eventhough her defense varies strongly from one moment to the other.
Another good option is the Survival in which you get to face one opponent after the other and you just have to try to survive. Very addictive, especially seeing that you’ll get ranked on Xbox Live Leaderboards. On top of that you can unlock a ton of cool achievements just like a couple of nice gadgets. Next to surviving you can also get a sparring partner and fight two on two on one console and try out the Team Battle and Time Attack modes. There’s plenty of options, although it always comes down to the same and there’s an option lacking to learn and practice the finer touches.
These finer touches you’ll need if you want to get noticed in the online modes. You start in a lobby with your own avatar so that you can watch how two other players in the room kick each others asses while waiting your turn. That way you can let your fingers rest a bit in between fights and you don’t constantly have to start a new game or search for one. Very handy!
Lag, however, is te big enemy of this game at the moment, and although everything remains playable, we hope for a patch that will fix this. With some luck you’ll be able to find a good host and then the game is very enjoyable and will especially appeal to the hardcore fight lovers. The lifespan clearly gets prolongued extensively by this and it offers more than enough challenge to have fun with the game long after ending all offline content.
A long review for a short conclusion: Dead or Alive 4 is a top game with miniscule finishing that will appeal to any fan of the genre. On top of that, the varied selection of characters, the breathtaking graphics and movies, the many extras and appealing achievements and of course the multiplayer possibilities make sure that also the more sceptic gamer will feel the need to kick some butt. Meanwhile there’s enough depth, challenge and adjustments in the gameplay to also offer the hardcore audience a nice chunk of fighting pleasure. Must have!