January 19, 2006

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Dead or Alive 4
Tecmo
(XBOX360)

B

There are two things that every red-blooded video gamer enjoys. Boobies and punching. OK. That’s three things but bear with me.

Since the release of the Turbo Graphix 16 in, like, 3 B.C. the consoles of the day have all launched with a stable of moderately impressive games to support them. Sometimes a handful of gems sneak into this pack of bland gameplay (the highly polished Virtua Fighter 2 for the Sega Saturn still has a special place in my heart). More often than not, of the 20 or so games you can purchase (assuming you have any remaining cash after dropping hundreds of dollars just to get the console) at launch, perhaps two are good games, maybe four more are decent, but the other 70 percent are crap.

Dead or Alive 4? It edges out of the crap department and into “decent” territory. Mind you, for fighting games on next-gen consoles this is your one-stop shop. But in time, the luster of DoA 4 will fade. Yes, the graphics are impressive; the XBOX 360 is no slouch what with the lighting effects and textures and whatnot. Yes, the action is fast and controls responsive, but by now anybody publishing a fighting game had better have those concepts nailed down before they throw their hat in the ring. Does it bring anything more to the stage?

Eh.

No.

It’s a pretty contender, certainly. A finalist in the Mrs. Fighting Game USA competition, but it is by no means the top dog. Fight enthusiasts will likely get as much enjoyment, if not more, out of the multi-console Soul Calibre 3.

On the other hand, there are notable contributions to be found in this latest iteration of developer Team NINJA’s flagship title. Aside from the cheeky/misogynistic “jiggle physics” and lightning-fast combos and counters that make up DoA’s fight style, added attention has gone into expanding the signature multi-tiered arenas. More emphasis has been made to differentiate DoA 4’s environments from previous titles. Rather than the thematically varied but structurally similar layouts of prior DoA games, DoA 4 features landscapes that are wildly varied not only in appearance (my favorite being the cherry blossom wafted Kyoto in Bloom stage) but also in their play style. Fighters will be knocked about when crashing into crowd at the Coliseum or find them selves savagely attacked when they brush too close to one of the dinosaurs in the Experimental Playground.

It’s tough to judge a launch title. Comparing it to prior-gen games is unfair in both directions. Older consoles benefit from the experience and familiarity of developers, who often publish the best games in the twilight of a console cycle. And obviously the newest hardware will simply be able to push out more pixels and polygons and graphic effects. DoA has those in spades. It has solid gameplay that will fit comfortably into the hands of any fighting gamer. But while it ratchets up the graphic benchmarks of games across the board and includes moderate improvements to the series it’s not particularly impressive once the opiate of a new console acquisition begins to dull.

— Glenn Given

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