Review by Receiver17
"Guess I'll go play Tekken...."
Dead or Alive 4 is the next entry in Tecmo's fighting series featuring the ever popular, ever sexy, and ever bouncy DOA vixens. It always seems as though the game never got the respect it deserved; what with the core gameplay coming off as the ugly friend standing beside the beauty of the female characters, who, ALWAYS get the attention of gamers. Does the fourth entry finally redeem it as a contender in a sea of top fighting games?
Story- 6/10: When it comes to fighting games, story is something that takes a seat at the back of the bus, usually because it's so convoluted it makes no sense (Mortal Kombat), is virtually non-existent (Virtua Fighter), or is too complicated to matter (Soul Calibur). Dead or Alive is no exception, with each entry Tecmo tries to make more sense of it. The main story of DOA 4 revolves around the Mugen Tenshin clan finally taking revenge against DOATECH after it's years of constant anguish and pain. At the center is Helena Douglas, the sole heir to her father's corporation as she struggles with her duties as the head of the company and her sense of justice against the evil projects it creates. The one problem with the story is that it only centers around about six out of the entire roster, with every other character having lame throwaway reasons for joining the tournament. You'd think Bass would stop showing up, since he's failed to get Tina to stop pursuing other ventures in, what, three games now?
Graphics/Sound- 8: The 360's power really shines! Backgrounds are beautifully rendered, from the lush trees of a savanna to the brightly lit streets of Las Vegas, not to mention the new hair motions for certain characters. They seems to flow like water down their shoulders. However, the characters look about the same as they did in previous incursions on Microsoft's system, but they're nothing to moan about. As usual, the voice acting is done in Japanese and characters now register grunts and cries of pain when they take damage, a new point in the series. This is something I truly like, since it adds a new element to the characters; especially when you're fighting a tough opponent, only to land that final blow that sends them across the stage with a death knell.
Gameplay- 4: This is when the game begins to take a turn. I for one can say that I've always been happy with Dead or Alive; I've always taken the time to learn my characters moves and become somewhat efficient with using them. So in a nutshell I can say I'm pretty good at DOA. That was until DOA 4. Most people's gripe with DOA has been the "rock-paper-scissors" countering system, which became a bit harder when in DOA: Ultimate, they reversed a counter button, making it harder to interrupt enemies attacks suddenly. I have personally never liked, since you the player are the only one who has to make a change in your tactics to learn that that single maneuver has changed while the AI does not. Also changing, is that the lowest difficulty setting is Normal, but the insane AI makes it seem as though your fighting on Very Hard. The computer is constantly on the attack, punishing you for anything missed and doing near perfect countering. I've found myself repeating the first and second stages of modes at least three times because I was whooped, and many times got defeated flawlessly. At this time I realized that I was doing what many detractors of DOA complain about : button mashing! I could only keep up when I was wildly mashing anything to get the computer off my back and let me breathe. Also new to the game are bounces which can set you up for one of the AI's massive combo's, that will no less, send you into a wall and cause even more damage. Even more puzzling is the ability to be hit while on the ground, and if your hit twice, your character returns to their feet automatically, which destroys the opportunity for wake up games on YOUR part.
The computer of course, will be tech rolling and back on their feet to knock the hell out of you again, where as I was mashing buttons to get my character back on his feet, because oddly your always doing pained animations on the ground that let the computer hit you til you auto-recover. And my biggest gripe are the fact that game has revamped certain characters old moves into new stances, but since the AI in ALWAYS in your face attacking, it becomes harder to execute EVEN THE STANCE before your knocked out of it, let alone the attacks IN the stance. Also, I found myself tossing out low jabs nonstop, which I find dis-heartening, since in other games like Virtua Fighter where it's constantly used by the computer to stop your assault, I was doing it OVER AND OVER just to get them to back up! Still new and frustrating are throws that don't have that animation of a grab that clues you into dodging them. Instead there are a ton of new throws that look like the start of an attack and if you try to counter them, your opponent gets a Counter or Hi-Counter, which can essentially take you out of the match. And of course, let's not forget the final boss, Alpha. Now DOA has had some hard bosses, but they WERE BEATABLE. Tengu left himself wide open, and Genra was simply a case of waiting and dodging. Alpha is essentially Kasumi on crack; she can teleport and attack you from behind, she'll toss out a throw FROM NOWHERE and score a Hi-Counter, causing even more damage, and not to mention her combos. She'll start doing a spin like a ballerina while kicking you, and god help you if you're trying to counter it, because mistaking a high kick for a mid kick will let her score Hi-Counter as her combo continues, then you'll be sent flying across her stage once it ends, and with the added environment damage, you're dead in nearly twelve seconds. All in all, the AI is RUTHLESS.
Playtime/Re-playability- 5: Because the game is maddeningly frustrating, you should play this with a friend, since the only thing to unlock are old characters from past games, and costumes. That's it. And some characters aren't even worth it; like Gen Fu or Leon, who have already been replaced by Eliot and Bayman. Lei-Fang has about four costumes while she has three color variations of each one that are unlocked like a SEPARATE costumes. Why can't I just press an alternate button while selecting her dress to make it blue? Why do I have to beat Story Mode to do that? Not to mention unlockable characters with no Story Mode must go through Time Attack Mode to unlock costumes, which ALWAYS ends in an encounter with Alpha. But unlike Story Mode, you'll have to win TWO rounds against her. Why all this frustration for a single costume? And costumes, mind you, that are either nothing special, or simply returning outfits from DOA:Ultimate!
Final Recommendation: Rent this game, have a fun weekend with a friend, then return it and then forget about Dead or Alive altogether.
I hate to say it, but if this is the path DOA is going down, count me out. Dead or Alive 4's awesome graphics and classically interactive environments can't save it from it's unfair and unbalanced AI, odd Mode choices (there is no Tag Battle Mode, only Tag Time Attack or Tag Versus, which is a single match against the computer, and yet there's an album for fight pictures?) and lack of overall content have made me take a second look at this series. Bottom line; I wasn't having fun, and not because I wasn't winning as often as I'd like, but because I was losing three times as much as I was winning. This isn't the Dead or Alive I've enjoyed playing and it never will be again.
Reviewer's Rating: 2.5 - Playable
Originally Posted: 07/29/09
Game Release: Dead or Alive 4 (US, 12/29/05)
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