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Dead or Alive 3 (Xbox) artwork

Dead or Alive 3 (Xbox) review


"Dead or Alive 3 is all instant gratification, and that's what makes it special. The fighter is generally a genre for the dedicated and the steadfast; the fighter is inherently opposed to the intensely goal-oriented, save-every-five-minutes ethos that prevails in other genres; the fighter is an endless war of one-on-one matches waged against all comers. Only your skill will save you. "



Dead or Alive 3 is all instant gratification, and that's what makes it special. The fighter is generally a genre for the dedicated and the steadfast; the fighter is inherently opposed to the intensely goal-oriented, save-every-five-minutes ethos that prevails in other genres; the fighter is an endless war of one-on-one matches waged against all comers. Only your skill will save you.

Virtua Fighter or Tekken rewards hours and hours of training with an empowering, sublime feeling of mastery. Dead or Alive gives you that feeling, or a reasonable facsimile, at any rate, almost for free. It's simple, flashy, and fun. The “story" this game weaves is literally incomprehensible, even by meager fighter standards, but you'll probably spend very little time in the skimpy one-player mode. This is a game to be enjoyed in a lighthearted, social atmosphere. Think of your experience with Dead or Alive as getting three-quarters the payoff for one quarter the effort.

The single important innovation (although that's probably too strong a word) here is the 'counter' button. An undeniable staple of any fighter veteran's repertoire, the counter often requires a level of dexterity and focus that newer players just can't muster. Here, you just press 'X' and an opponent's attack is instantly reserved. Don't worry--the timing required is such that matches never degenerate into ugly
X-mashing fests, and the constant threat of being countered imbues each battle with a thrilling immediacy. You will have some awesome fights. There will be brawls that hinge on bursts of aggression and others that hinge on patient parrying. There will be flowing, back-and-forth, push-and-pull exchanges of Zen-like focus that come down to the final blow ("Will he hit or counter?" you'll think frantically). And after you've learned this game well, you will inevitably have a confrontation where you school a zealous newcomer with counter after counter, effortlessly flinging him face-first in the dust--you'll be that kind of unflappable master one in no time.

Much of this appeal rests on the shoulders of DOA’s superior visual polish. The counters, or any attacks for that matter, wouldn't be half as cool if they weren't animated so damn well. Tecmo puts a premium on hot graphics and large-breasted girls, and Dead or Alive is arguably their flagship franchise. Other things tend to fall by the wayside. The characters--always such a key facet in a fighter, the heroes and the villains all at once--are supremely uninspired, unless variations on the same 24-inch-waisted, 37-inch-busted digital creation floats your boat, in which case I'm guessing you already own this game. But it's not a huge deal, because everything, including the environments, looks awesome. This is a launch title that's still practically cutting edge. DOA is a game of martial arts, not fireballs or laser beams, and it does what it does well: seemingly every move is brilliantly choreographed. Even now I'm consistently amazed at the game's fluidity and its realism, or rather how faithfully the combat recreates that of good martial arts movies.

With its small (by comparison) amount of techniques and its emphasis on fun, accessible action, Dead or Alive is a party game with almost limitless appeal. You can bust it out again and again for short bursts of fun, although it's certainly not something you can fiddle around with for hours on end. This is not a game whose allure is forged in all-night training sessions or sweaty quarter-munching sessions in the arcade: it's all there on the surface. I'm not sure exactly what to make of Dead or Alive 3 coming close to achieving sublimity through superficiality, but my gut tells me I like it.

Rating: 7.5/10

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Community review by careless_whisper (June 03, 2005)

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