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10/23/2011

REVIEW: Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360)


Dead or Alive 4 is a 3D fighting game developed by Tomonobu Itagaki’s famous development company Team Ninja, who are also responsible of creating games like the Ninja Gaiden series. Like in every common fighting game, the objective is to use attacking and defensive skills to our advantage to KO the opponents. DOA4 is the first and (so far) only game of the series in the Xbox 360 and as usual with it, it features several modes for gameplay both online and offline, a huge roster of incredibly deep characters to choose from and multi-tier stages to fight on.

It is a very fast-paced fighting game where a single round can be over in about 10-15 seconds even if the players aren’t very experienced and the characters fighting are among the slowest which is something that has always brought the public to the franchise. There are more than twenty characters to choose from and all of them are different, each with an exclusive fighting style and command list that goes from the extremely fast Kasumi and Christie to the slow but insanely hard-hitting Bass or Bayman.

The characters retain their usual looks and designs from the previous games so none of them will be unrecognizable but many have drastically changed their fighting styles like Bruce Lee’s kameo Jann Lee or Bayman who now play completely different from their DOA2 and DOA3 versions. Of course, the girls are still extremely beautiful and do their eye-candy job or ecchi to perfection and as usual, all of the fighters will have a good amount of costumes to choose from so it’s almost impossible to not find a character to like.

The game looks very stunning graphically, especially on the characters. They all have a lot of details in their clothes that have gotten much better from the old entries of the series, like for example Leifang’s dress, Gen Fu’s martial arts suit and Jann Lee’s muscles. They look better than ever and in some cases the clothes themselves have movements that make them look very realistic.

The environments are great as well, there are many pretty-looking places like the top of a high-tech building, an African savanna with animals walking around (and a cheetah that just loves to run into careless fighters) or one of Halo 2’s stages from the beginning of the campaign of the game. But some of them use low-quality textures on the background and while polished because of the high-resolution, you can see that they were recycled from Dead or Alive Ultimate for the Original Xbox. Another negative thing to the visuals are some of the girl’s hair like Leifang that sometimes look very weird then she’s moving around but other than that the game looks very good.

Just like Dead or Alive 3 and Ultimate, DOA4 only has the Japanese voices which are all the same from the Original Xbox games except the new characters of course. The voices are all pretty cool and fit perfectly with each fighter, no matter if they’re yelling in an attack, screaming of agony or just talking in match’s intro. The same can be said about the sound effects. You can usually hear the sound of water, people cheering in the background or the “electric explosions” that happen when a fighter is thrown to the walls or floor of several stages.

The negative thing in the sound department is definitely the music. The only song that is really good is the one from the Halo 2 stage because it features the main theme from the game. Other than that, the music is not cool at all and will start to get very annoying quickly. Fortunately, DOA4 (like all Xbox 360 games) can be played using your own music if you have songs saved on the HDD or plug an mp3 device via USB. Choosing your own music really betters the game greatly.

Gameplay-wise the game is very easy-to-get-into but hard to master. There are only three action buttons: Punch, Kick and “Free” which is used for blocking and counter-attacks. The rest of the actions are done by mixing two of those three actions. You can move freely around the stages and each character has around 100+ moves which can all be done with those three buttons and the directional ones that can be either the D-pad or the left analog stick, whichever you find more comfortable.

Those counter attacks are defensive moves common to the franchise where by pressing the “free” button along with a set directional input, you can catch an opponent’s arm or leg to do a quick damaging animation and put you in an advantage. All the characters in the game have these and using them correctly can easily turn the tides in a close fight.

The combos and moves of the characters are generally easier to pull out than in other fighting games (with very few exceptions like Ryu Hayabusa’s Izuna Drop or Hayate’s Raijin throw) but while they’re easy to handle, the key to victory in DOA4 is to play lots of mind games, use the game’s rules to your advantage and avoid getting counter attacked. DOA4 features a juggle system when each character has a set of “launch” moves that throw their opponents to the air and give the attacking fighter the opportunity to land a few hits before they hit the ground.

By mixing the juggle system with the stun one, you can throw your opponent higher in the air if you stun them enough while they’re on the ground, if successfully pulled out, the launch blow will send the opponent higher and you’ll have the chance the land more hits before they fall down. This, of course, requires lightning fast combo execution and has a great risk of getting counter attacked if you start repeating the same stings over and over so the key is to get to know what each character is capable of.

Dead or Alive 4 features several game modes like Story, where you play a bunch of fights and watch a video exclusive to each character at the end, Versus, where you can play against a friend in either 1 on 1 or Tag battlers (2 vs. 2), Survival mode, where the AI keeps giving you opponents to defeat so you can beat a high score, Training, a mode you use to practice and get to know the character’s move and skills and of course, the online mode where you play people for points and get high ranks.

In the online multiplayer (which generally runs very smoothly, compared to other games of the genre), you can walk around a weird but cute lobby before getting into a fight using an avatar than can be a penguin, small ninja, crocodile and the such. You can buy them things to wear like glasses and hats with the “Zack dollars” you earn by winning fights. This is a fun way to hang out with people in the online and wait for your turn to play in the multiplayer, which is usually very competitive.

Being a fighting game with so many characters with so many moves and all those game modes give Dead or Alive 4 a pretty much infinite amount of replay value. No matter how good you think you are with a character, you’ll always be able to use new combos and find new and effective ways to use the ones you already knew. You can always try your hand with a new character and get good challenging fights either online or offline.

In short, Dead or Alive 4 is probably one of the best fighting games ever made. The insanely varied roster of fighters and stages, deep system it uses and all the game modes make each fight unique, challenging and fun. The game’s speed is lightning fast which makes it fun even if you’re only looking at it. Some of the background graphics and the music can have small negative things but overall, this is a great game that no one with an Xbox 360 should miss no matter what.


Pros:

-          More than twenty different characters to choose from, all with different fighting styles
-          Deep fighting system rewards high skilled players
-          Easy-to-get-into but very hard to master
-          The girls are extremely beautiful
-          Almost no lag in the online modes
-          Infinite replay value


Cons:

-          Recycled backgrounds from DOA Ultimate in some stages
-          The soundtrack is not very good
-          The Story is uninteresting and makes almost no sense at all


Graphics and Visuals………..9
Music and Sound Effects……..8
Gameplay……………………10
Replay Value………………..10

Overall Score……………….. 9.25 / 10

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