Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360) review
"November 22, 2005 was the day Microsoft finally launched its brand new console, the Xbox360. While Dead or Alive 4 is a bit late for the launch party, the amount of polish and features more than makes up for it. Like the previous Xbox, Team Ninja welcomes the new Microsoft system with another solid addition of the Dead or Alive series. The Dead or Alive series has always been the top-tier series for Itagaki and Team Ninja. The series has always been infamous for its overly large assets and its r..."
November 22, 2005 was the day Microsoft finally launched its brand new console, the Xbox360. While Dead or Alive 4 is a bit late for the launch party, the amount of polish and features more than makes up for it. Like the previous Xbox, Team Ninja welcomes the new Microsoft system with another solid addition of the Dead or Alive series. The Dead or Alive series has always been the top-tier series for Itagaki and Team Ninja. The series has always been infamous for its overly large assets and its recurring sex appeal. However, the series is perhaps best known for its simplicity. Dead or Alive has always been easy to learn for newcomers, while still providing enough depth to satisfy long time fighting fans. Now, in terms of depth, the Dead or Alive series is far from comparable to the likes of Virtua Fighter, but Dead or Alive has its strengths, as well as its weaknesses. Perhaps, Dead or Alive’s biggest draws is allowing the player to pick this game up and just have fun with it. Yes, the combos aren’t “Virtua Fighter 4” complex, but that is the beauty of it all. Dead or Alive provides hours of entertainment without the frustration and immense learning curve to go with it. In my mind, Dead or Alive’s biggest strength is many fighters’ weaknesses.
Fresh off her previous victory, Helena once again enters the tournament, but this time there are fresh new faces, as well as previous rivalries and foes. Among these characters, there is the legendary Ryu Hayabusa, who is a master of ninjitsu. Then there are the infamous ladies of Dead or Alive, which includes Kasumi and Ayane. The new additions are also a welcome sight, as they offer different fighting styles that breathe a sense of fresh air into the series. Not only are there an abundance of characters, but each of them plays with great fluidity and enough variation that prevents character repetition.
The fourth installment still retains the same frantic and fast paced fighting that the previous incarnations were known for. If you’ve played the previous games in the series, then you should know what to expect because Dead or Alive 4 is similar in many ways. Considering the frantic action and the overall quality of the series, the lack of changes is not necessarily a bad thing. But instead, Team Ninja once again does a great job at fine-tuning the mechanics, and adding subtle changes and effects, so everything runs smoother and it leaves one with a strong sense of polish. The fighting in Dead or Alive 4 can be simple, yet at the same time have plenty of depth. While simple combinations can be abused and used effectively against the newcomers, you will find the results to be completely opposite against a season veteran. In general, Dead or Alive 4 boast simple combinations such as a flurry of punch buttons to long repetition of different punches and kicks that make it hard to counter, which allows for a plethora of move sets.
Another important aspect of Dead or Alive’s gameplay is the countering system that it uses. With the counters, you can reverse different angles of attack such as high or middle attacks. The countering system requires quick reflexes, as you try to envision and anticipate what type of attack it is going to be. That is why Dead or Alive 4 forces you to mix up your combos. If you keep abusing the same kind of combos, it only makes it easier for your opponent to anticipate it and reverse it. The counter system requires precise timing, and a simple slip up of mistimed counters can result in an opening for your opponent. Furthermore, the counter system provides plenty of nice defensive tactics with the gorgeous visuals and animation to match. The counter system provides a nice foundation for the fighting, as not only a defensive measure, but also a point of attack.
Dead or Alive 4 also has a plethora of characters that all have their unique fighting styles, as well as their own unique personality. You have Hayabusa’s sheer awesomeness that makes you feel like a man inside, and then you have the trickster in Zack, who offers plenty of laughable and hilarious moments. Suffice it to say, the wave of new fighters, along with old timers provides plenty of personality. The player will start the game off with a set number of characters, and through playing the story mode characters will become unlocked. One such character is from the Halo universe, which stands tall and empowering. Bungie was kindly enough to offer a Spartan who is similar looking to the Chief (some kids online still think it’s him) and Team Ninja made the best of it, as the Spartan has a nice set of moves (Grenade attack anyone?). Not to mention the characters are backed by lavishing good looks and appealing females. Hmm…
But while there are plenty of characters in this game, the amount of costumes is lacking in sheer numbers and quality. Seriously, where in the world is Kasumi’s Santa Claus outfit? While the amount of costumes the game still has should be enough for a large consummation of your time, you can’t help but realize that the costumes it offers is nowhere near as plentiful as Ultimate, let alone have the same appealing effect as it. And not to mention that most of the costumes were reused or similar to that of Ultimate. But despite that, the amount of costumes still far exceeds that of many fighters.
Perhaps my biggest gripe about Dead or Alive 4 is its ramped up difficulty. I know, I know, you’re probably reading this now and questioning my skill level, but I can assure you that the final boss fight is far from fair. For the most part, the A.I will offer plenty of aggressive action. The A.I will counter moves that you try to abuse and it definitely isn’t shy about dishing out some punishment either. At times, the A.I can hit you with a massive combo that just devastates your morale. But for the most part it is fair, so it only helps you prepare for your inevitable online matches with players around the world. What I do have a problem with is Alpha-152, the final boss for most of the characters in this game. In story mode, she is still tolerable considering you only have to be lucky once against her. But in Time Attack, she is relentless and unforgiving. To be fair, I’m not exactly what you would call a Dead or Alive pro, but some of her tactics are just off the wall cheap. For example, when you’re dominating the match with barely a scratch, then all of a sudden, Alpha will pull together a few massive combos and before you know it, you’re dead. What’s frustrating is when you have her in the middle of a combo, and she will teleport behind you and unleash one of those massive combos. Furthermore, her throws range from taking 33% to 60% of your life bar. On Time Attack, this boss becomes even more frustrating because you have to beat her twice. Consequently, Alpha’s cheap tactics offers a frustrating and disheartening feeling rather than a fun and cohesive match.
Dead or Alive 4 offers plenty of different features, such as your basic types of modes like survival or time attack, but perhaps the biggest draw about Dead or Alive 4 is the return of the online matches. I still remember the sleepless nights and the all nighters in Ultimate. If you played Ultimate, then the online lobby and different types of matches should be familiar to you, but with a new lobby system and a few added options, the online mode is definitely better off and feels more polished. Online matches allow for better competition and a sense of nostalgia due to the way the matches are set up. In a large room you will have to wait for your turn to fight. With that in mind, there will be chats about the game and giving you the opportunity to watch the tactics imposed by some of the people there, which feels just like the arcades years ago.
Even with the lack of costumes and an unforgiving boss fight, in many ways, Dead or Alive 4 is a big improvement over its predecessors, but one thing is certain, the game sports some lavishing good looks with lush and vibrant surroundings. The background is filled with detail and color that brings the stages to life. The stages are also highly interactive, which allows players to use it at their disposal. There’s certainly nothing more satisfying than watching your opponent get lifted high above the ground when getting hit by a car. Besides the interactive levels, the characters also sport an animated look that is quite appealing to the eyes. Oh, and did I mention all the girls and their assets? With all the gorgeous visuals and spot on animation, the characters look very good…literally. Each fight sequence feels like a high quality martial arts film. And some of the ending CG movies were so eye popping that the game just had a certain aura and jive about it. Dead or Alive 4 is certainly one of the best looking Xbox360 games and is truly a testament to the system’s capabilities.
With Aerosmith lending a hand in the musical soundtrack, the game has plenty of pleasant sounds. With some of the endings consisting of catchy songs that are not only unique, but it certainly captures a certain flavor that is rarely seen in today’s media. If you take Ayane’s ending into consideration, you will notice how pleasant the song is and how it brings out the emotion during that sequence. And to match the exceptional soundtrack, you have plenty of well-enacted voiceovers to go with it. With cutscenes in between fights, the characters will offer their one-liners in a nicely presented way. The voice acting also did an exceptional job at setting the mood and giving the player a perspective into the characters’ personalities. This is the case, when long time rivals, Kasumi and Ayane meet, and Ayane’s voice is just boiling with animosity. The game not only has some of the best visuals around, but the musical soundtrack isn’t a pushover either.
Dead or Alive 4 doesn’t stray too far from the formula that gained the series its notoriety and success. While the ramped up difficulty is a welcome challenge, the final boss dubbed Alpha-152 has some unwarranted challenge due to her cheap tactics (Especially in Time Attack). Furthermore, the game lacked the amount of costumes that Dead or Alive Ultimate had, so consequently the story mode wasn’t quite as rewarding and time consuming as Ultimate. But on a side note, some of the endings were so hilarious and others memorable, that the story mode is quite satisfying when you reach the end. Despite some of these issues, the game still has all the qualities you’d come to expect from a Dead or Alive game. With plenty of frantic and fast paced action, along with jaw dropping visuals and a topnotch online service, Dead or Alive 4 certainly brings plenty to the table for newcomers and season veterans. Even with some of my complaints, it is only a small matter when put into comparison with the amount of fun and long nights to be had with this game. Throw in the nostalgic online modes that offer plenty of incentives to improve and replay the game, Dead or Alive 4 is definitely the best in the series and brings a sense of closure to the series. And with that, I would like to congratulate Team Ninja on another job well done, and hopefully we can see more of the same quality titles from them in the future. Oh, and yes, do yourself a favor and pick this game up for your Xbox360.
Community review by galactus21 (February 19, 2006)
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