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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Fighting

 

Publisher

Tecmo

 

Developer

Team Ninja / Tecmo

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

December 29, 2005

 

 

- Good-looking game

- A good roster of past, present, and new characters

- Offers up quite a challenge for "pro" players

- A variety of arenas

 

 

- Casual players will have a very tough time with the AI

- Countering system takes much concentration

- Zack Points used during the online mode are a waste

 

 

Review: Dead or Alive 3 (XB)

Review: Dead or Alive Ultimate (XB)

Review: Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball (XB)

Review: Soul Calibur III (PS2)

 

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Dead or Alive 4

Score: 7.8 / 10

 

I've always liked the Dead or Alive games for their accessibility.  If a nuanced approach didn't net a win I could always fall back on button mashing.  With the fourth iteration of the series (not including Xtreme Beach Volleyball or DOA Ultimate) button mashing falls be the wayside.  More accurately, it's driven to the middle of nowhere and left for dead.  So if you've only ever been attracted to the top-notch graphics and jiggle factor knowing that you could stumble through with a certain level of "proficiency" you will ultimately be frustrated with the beat down that Dead or Alive 4 serves you with.

 

dead or alive 4          dead or alive 4

 

If you hope to have any real success you'll have to master "countering" whereby you can turn almost any opposition attack into a crushing counter attack.  This means that even the worst pummeling can be turned in your favor.  Getting to this point takes much practice and a lot of concentration since you necessarily have to anticipate moves, which is a shame because most of the fighting arenas are terrifically detailed, like the subtle heat waves rippling up from the savannah on the Africa stage, so you'll likely miss being able to appreciate the small details.  Human players don't have the same level of perfection as the AI controlled characters.  They have the ability counter your every move and set on higher difficulty settings -- there's no easy mode -- the attack buttons should be forgotten because the AI will make you eat every punch and kick.  It becomes a battle of counters which effectively saps the fun out of the experience unless you're a masochist or such a hardcore fighter fan that you're willing to forgo fun in favor of challenge.  The move roster for each character is extensive and to truly master each character, particularly Ryu, you do have to put in the time. (Sparring mode comes in handy for practicing the basics.)

 

Old and new characters make an appearance.  The familiar return -- Hitomi, Leifang, Ayane, Bass, Kasumi, Lisa (sorry, La Mariposa), Tina, Christie, Zack, etc. -- but the new aren't all that drastically different from the returning characters.  If you want to have any hope ofunlocking all the characters you'll have to play through the story mode with each character.  This gives you the basic feel of each character -- fighting style, speed -- which makes is easy to figure out which fighter(s) you want to master (before heading online).  Although you can win with any fighter, some of the characters feel somewhat unbalanced, but in particular the "boss" that concludes most of the story threads, Alpha-152.  Here's a character -- a Cortana-esque version of Kasumi -- that's about as cheap as they come.  She can teleport any time and anywhere in the ring and dish out damage like it was going 

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out of style, sometimes slapping off half your heath bar in a matter of seconds or suddenly becoming a countering machine.  Opinion may be fractured on this but I think compared with other Dead or Alive bosses, Alpha-152 is the most difficult (and frustrating) boss to defeat and because you're forced to face off against her multiple times (if you want to unlock the likes of Helena and SPARTAN-458) you'll face a fair amount of frustration.

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Besides the standard versus, time attack, tag matches, survival, and story modes, Dead or Alive 4 features a full complement of online fighting.

 

The online mode is very similar to Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate. Players assemble in a room of up to sixteen players and watch two of the combatants fight, while waiting for your turn to come up. New to Dead or Alive 4 is a lobby, where you can run around in customized avatars if you don't feel like watching the battle. Winning fights will earn Zack points, which can be used to customize your little persona or buy costumes you haven't earned yet. This feels unnecessary and almost a bit wasteful, since it would've been more fun to buy accessories for your fighters a la Xtreme Beach Volleyball.

 

dead or alive 4          dead or alive 4

 

Regardless, the whole thing exudes a very arcadey feel, although oftentimes it feels like you're spending more time watching fights than actually fighting in them. There are quick match options, or you can run filters to search for rooms for specific criteria. This is especially important in finding players suitable to your skill level -- taking on SS-ranked players when you first begin is likely to infuriate. Although the game rates connections before each matches, there's still some occasional stuttering even on the best of lines. Occasionally, it makes countering too easy and can easily ruin matches. Otherwise, the boisterous online mode makes up for the cheesy AI in single player, providing you can find players who don't just spam attacks with Jann Lee.

 

One of the mostly unreported features of Dead or Alive 4 is the ability to enter a camera mode to take pictures of the action for later viewing.  The problem with this is that the game puts a lot of "speed blur" on the fighters, which results in a blurry messes unless the characters are standing perfectly still.  All those great character models suddenly look like hell.  I wanted to be able to create some interesting wallpapers for the dashboard menus, that would have been neat.  Admittedly this feature may be buried somewhere but I have yet to find it.  You can also create video saves of your versus bouts.

 

Fighting games usually prove their worth over the long term and how they hold up against new games in the genre.  Currently, Dead or Alive 4 is the only fighting game available on the 360 and with only Rumble Roses XX on the distant horizon, it looks like competition for will be a long time coming.  While the package is certainly one of the best-looking fighting games ever, the overall gameplay is hit and miss (though it hits more often than it misses) but with human opponents it can be good fun.

 

- Omni and Kurt Kalata

(February 17, 2006)

 

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