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Dead or Alive Ultimate (Xbox) artwork

Dead or Alive Ultimate (Xbox) review


"Perhaps Dead or Alive Ultimate's biggest surprise lays in the fact that both games are just as enjoyable today as they were all those years ago. It's a glorious, double fisted collection made all the more memorable by the love and care Team Ninja have shown in designing its exquisite outer shell. A point that's been further demonstrated by the presentation of DOA2's freshly rendered opening few minutes."



To some, the Dead or Alive series has always been about the blistering one on one fighting action. Then again there's another train of thought that says bollocks to all that, what we really want are the lusciously animated 3D babes, gargantuan bouncing breasts and all. Who's right? Unfortunately there's no one correct answer, but it is as such that I'd like us to try and be adults for a few minutes and focus our attention not on the superficial, but on how playable Team Ninja's latest Dead or Alive entry really is. There'll be no talk of massive mammaries, barely a whisper of the soft and tender jiggles, and the less said about how all this rampant womanly charm makes us feel, the better. After all, we're grown men perfectly capable of enjoying the fast paced action for what it is. Do we really need to comment on the seemingly constant stream of panty flashes as well? Hell no! Let's show our women folk we've got more going on upstairs than first meets the eye and partake in an intelligent discussion of Dead or Alive Ultimate's lightning fast combo action instead.

To all our darlings then: please pardon the bedazzled, glazed over look in our eyes. It has absolutely nothing, what-so-ever to do with how well Kasumi & Co are responding to our joysticks. Their perfectly rendered breasts bouncing, jiggling, and swaying hypnotically from side to side to... side... to... oh dear, this is going to be much harder than I thought...

Seriously though, setting aside the all too delicious eye candy for just a moment, Dead or Alive Ultimate represents something of sweetened bonus for long time fight fans and new kids alike. Comprising of reworked and heavily updated renditions of both Dead or Alive 1 and 2, the Ultimate compilation goes a step further by taking the action online for the very first time. Kasumi vs Ayane. Ayane vs Helena. Lei-Fang vs my good self. Whatever the grudge match may be, the freshly implemented Xbox Live support has served to elevate these two already phenomenal fighters far above and beyond the common rank and file of their competitors. And with some surprisingly robust network code riding shotgun, players can fully expect the fast paced action to remain as fun and fluid online as off. That's not to say it's all broadband and good laughs however as Team Ninja have covered their bases with a range of genre standard single player modes that are unfortunately the very definition of generic. Tag team, one on one, survival and *yawns* a little something called time attack. Uh-huh, it seems that the usual suspects are present and accounted for though in their place imagination may have been left by the wayside. Let's give it a wave as we pass on by then...

But even still, who can complain when we've got such technically perfect action to enjoy? Tapped off from memory, the A B A B X Y Y style combo strings prove to be instantly accessible to newbies while packing in all the depth long time fans could possibly want. Whatever your ranking may be however, please know that both DOA 1 and 2 are games that reward players who stay the course and beef up on the techniques required to become competitive. Learn the timing needed to take advantage of the many counter-attacks and you'll be standing tall. A punch throwing, arse kicking, 99-59-88 power house with all the right moves. The hurt flowing smoothly and responsively from your fingers tips, to the control pad, to the poor sap laying battered and bruised right there on your TV screen. Boo-yah, can you feel it yet boy? Before we go thinking ourselves all that however, be warned. Team Ninja have put together a potentially vicious AI that knows a thing or two about sneaking comebacks and shattering confidence. The fact that it's also one of the cheapest SOBs around doesn't help matters much either. Reacting with an almost inhuman level of speed and accuracy, the AI will smash it's way through your self-esteem faster than some of us could conceivably cop a panty flash. And believe me, that's some serious speed we're talking about there!

As annoying as the AI gets, DOA2 has no problems pulling players back for more thanks to its impressive line-up of bonus costumes and other assorted unlockables. Swimsuits for Leifong, school uniforms for Kasumi, and let's not forget Ayane's own personal wardrobe of woohoo as well. Oh la la, it's almost enough to make your head swim! Of course that's not to say that the other 9 characters have been forced to go without, it's more a matter of how Ryu Hayabusa's nth ninja uniform will totally fail to inspire in the face of Kasumi's high school bloomers. And that statement's only as dirty as you want to make it. So please, for all our sisters then... be good. Further extending the love-in is the way Team Ninja have packed the game with a veritable avalanche of hidden easter eggs that reward players for knowing their franchise history backwards. From the ever elusive prototype Xbox to portraits of DOA3's own Christie and Hitomi, the constant tipping of Team Ninja's hat is guaranteed to please even if the AI does not. And just for the record guys, you can still increase the jiggle by lying about your age in the main menu. Series veterans will of course know what I'm referring to, everyone else should just consult their fathers. The female form is truly wondrous is it not?

Equally as exciting, albeit in a geeky "whoa, would you check out the textures on that!" kind of way are DOA2's sprawling stages. With enough variety to satisfy even the most demanding of players, they represent quite possibly the most dynamic and interactive arenas ever constructed for a one on one fighter. Land a punch squarely on your opponent's chest and they'll be flung far across the screen, hopefully through a window and into an entirely new area all together. Oh yeah, and it feels good too. Excitement such as this has always served as DOA2's calling card and it's an adrenaline rush that never gets old. Meanwhile many of the original stages have been redesigned to include a greater number of "interactive elements", effectively rendering everything old, new again. Not something we're used to seeing where remakes/updates are concerned, but kudos on all the hard work! That DOA2 also goes the extra mile and bothers to include a handful of never before seen arenas only serves to further its overall credibility with players. An African savanna, dry and weathered by the midday sun. An empty city basketball court in the dead of night. Toss in a herd of wild elephants and a car chase respectively and suddenly we've got some serious wow factor going on here. So much so that even your inner graphics whore is sure to feel just a tad overwhelmed, perhaps left a quivering mess by the joygasmic love on display...

So tightly presented is everything that there's even a certain thrill to be found in seeing the original DOA tidied up and looking its Sunday best. First released in the arcades way back in 1997, it was never going to hold a candle to the sublime visuals of its successor, but even that hasn't stopped Team Ninja from showing this aging classic the respect it so much deserves. Even still, some players may find themselves put off by DOA1's all too obvious retro origins. It won't matter that the combos are just as fast and the action just as smooth. Heck, chances are you won't even play it enough to notice the ease of which counters seem to flow. Sad, that's what it is. As is the way with such things the problem lays with us, superficial beings at heart who like our graphics detailed and super luscious, exactly what the original DOA is not. Consider it training for the main event however and you may just be able to spend a few hours wrapped up, warm and fuzzy in its near retro embrace. Kick, punch, slap and tickle, eventually stepping up to the Big Leagues where you're probably going to get squashed in a matter of seconds. If not by the competition then by those bouncing, jiggling, oh so enticing, voluptuous breasts. Swaying hypnotically from side to side to... side... to... damn it!

She still kicks high!

Perhaps Dead or Alive Ultimate's biggest surprise lays in the fact that both games are just as enjoyable today as they were all those years ago. It's a glorious, double fisted collection made all the more memorable by the love and care Team Ninja have shown in designing its exquisite outer shell. A point that's been further demonstrated by the presentation of DOA2's freshly rendered opening few minutes. If the stunning CGI sequence doesn't get the pulse racing then wait until Aerosmith's hit #1 song "Dream On" starts to pluck at the old heart strings. Then sit back and cry as a young Ayane and Kasumi's friendship is destroyed in the blink of an eye, ultimately paving the way for years of hostility later in life. Yes, like I said before, this is a package that salutes gamers for their years of support. So what if the AI has its problems? And who cares if we've seen the single player modes at least 100 times before? Granted such issues detract from Dead or Alive Ultimate's otherwise overwhelming sense of excellence, but the online support clearly makes up for many an indiscretion. And then there's the polish, the speed, the technique, the wow. All vying for your attention while you find your eyes are no doubt being drawn to something they perhaps can't resist. Something that as grown men we should be perfectly respectful and mindful of at all times... the babes. Come on guys, it's all about them babes...

Pros
----

* Two classic fighters for the price of one
* New online compatibility ensures that the competition always stays fresh
* With 12 fighters initially available and another 3 locked away, there's always a new technique to learn
* The action while deep remains instantly accessible
* A wide range of counters ensure you'll never feel truly helpless
* Tight controls make even the most complicated of attacks a breeze
* The patented DOA stages are as big as ever
* Awe inspiring levels of graphical sheen make DOA2 one of the prettiest fighters around
* "Dream On" proves to be a perfect mood setter

Cons
----

* A cheap AI infuriates as much as it challenges
* Generic single player modes
* DOA1 may seem too retro for some

Rating: 8/10

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Staff review by Michael Scott (December 08, 2004)

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