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Dead or Alive 4

Developer: Team Ninja | Publisher: Tecmo
Players: 1 to 4 Player Game | Release Date: 12/29/05 | Genre: Fighting

And here we thought this game would never be released. Tecmo's Dead or Alive 4 on the Xbox 360 has quite possibly been one of the oddest releases we've tracked in a good while. Originally planned as a launch title, the game was delayed a week, then three days, then another two weeks, then one day, another week, another day and finally we have the game in our grubby mitts. Now that I've been able to spend some quality time alone with the game and with some friends, it's time to take a look at the game and see how it fares against the other Xbox 360 titles.

Let's start with the obvious: DOA 4 is drop-dead gorgeous. Screenshots are ok, but in motion it is even better. The characters' clothes are insanely detailed down to the tiniest details such as logos, ribbons and buttons. The character models themselves don't seem to have changed too drastically from DOAU, but then again, they still look amazing and the animation is, as always, superb. The biggest improvements visually are seen in the arenas themselves and the backgrounds. The 3D work is amazing and the texturing easily rivals the best out there. The grass, stones, pavement and water, oh the water, they all look beautiful. Even the CG scenes have improved. The new pre-rendered movies are the best I've seen. It's obvious that some serious work went into these.

Now here's a surprise, for once, the music in DOA is above average. Yes, we still have to put up with some Aerosmith, but aside from that, the background music is really solid and some tunes just stick with you (in fact, I've got one stuck in my head right now). There are a few awesome new techno/rock beats along with some remixed versions of past DOA music. The sound effects and voices have always been solid and they remain so with this release. One thing I really like is that now almost every character in the game has a "system voice" track that becomes available after completing the sparring exercises with a chosen fighter.

It's often been said that you can't have a good game with outstanding graphics alone, and suffice to say, DOA 4 doesn't stop with the visuals. The gameplay has been tweaked up a bit. Nothing too major, but you'd be surprised how much the little changes affect the gameplay. One of the most noticeable things is the shorter counter window. Your timing to pull off a counter move must now be near perfect; naturally, this makes it considerably harder to do. Also, even when you do pull off a counter, it won't do the massive damage it did in past games in the series. This puts more of an emphasis on your attack strategy and makes it harder to rely on turtling to get those wins. In addition to the counter changes, Tecmo also added new moves for several characters forcing players to find new strategies and fighting styles. Some characters now have new combo throws and there are quite a few new combination reversals as well.

All of the aforementioned tweaks actually have a pretty large impact on how the game plays. It's still traditional DOA brutal fast, but it does feel a bit different. Which in the end means the developers did their job; they changed the gameplay enough to offer new depth, but kept the same overall feel. That's not an easy thing to do. You'll definitely have the chance to experience the differences for yourself with the load of game modes packed into DOA 4. All of the modes from previous games have come back including Story, Survival, Team Battle, Time Attack and Online. Ah, yes, online; this is where Xbox Livers will spend a good deal of play time.

The online mode in the game is great. Generally, the action moves along at a nice pace with little lag. There are times when the lag gets bad and sometimes downright horrendous, but those situations are rare and should be expected with any online play experience. The online mode offers a lot of new features. You've undoubtedly seen pictures of the crazy lobbies and funny avatars and I can safely say that these additions are awesome and add more humor to the game (which already has some pretty funny stuff in it). Online you can visit Zack's specialty shop and purchase new lobbies, new things for your current lobby, new accessories for your avatar or even costumes for the game's characters.

Ok, so I've gloated on the game for a bit here; what about the bad stuff? Luckily, there's not too much to speak of. As mentioned earlier, lag can become a problem, but this is pretty rare. The other problem is mainly the cheap AI of the boss, Alpha-152. Teleporting around like it's going out of style, throw techniques capable of decimating you in three moves and insane combos that can drain well over fifty percent of your health are just some of the frustrations you'll be against. Some may say that's nitpicking, but it is pretty lame. One other disappointment was the unlockable costumes. Most of these are the same ones from old games in the series or simple color differences from existing costumes.

At the end of the day, DOA 4 is the reason I bought my Xbox 360. I haven't been very impressed with the games on the system just yet, but now I can soundly say that this game justifies the purchase. I know I will be playing it for a long time to come, and I'm pretty sure you will too if you decide to pick it up. The game offers great action, great online competition and laugh-out-loud funny CG animations all for sixty bucks... or fifty if you're Kaleb... what's up with that, dude? (Editor's Note: I can't help it if the Gamestop clerk can't ring up the game right.) So there you have it, Dead or Alive 4 rules; don't miss this amazing game!

By Ryan Schaefer - 01/02/06
ESRB Details: Blood, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Violence
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Screenshots for Dead or Alive 4

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