Review by AngelusDP
"The Birth of Next Generation Fighters"
DOA4 is the Xbox 360's first fighting game and as such sets the bar that other fighters will be measured by. Being the 4th in the series it has gone through a series of refinements over the years. The counter system is more balanced, and requires more careful timing. The levels now have small obstacles you can hop over in order to move forward and to execute certain moves off of. And this installment has even gone so far as to alter or completely remove certain mainstay moves from the games classic roster of fighters. Being a veteran Hayabusa player this was rather crushing at first, as Hayabusa and Ayane, two of the most popular and possibly overpowered characters in the game where the ones to receive the biggest changes. But do not let your hearts be troubled, change is good. While they do play differently many of their old moves are intact and or are preformed differently. The rest of the cast receives more subtle changes, and almost everyone now has a move that can be charged and released depending on whether you want the hit to be faster or more powerful. There are also four new fighters to choose from. Kokoro and Eliot. Both of who's fighting style are inspired by Gen Fu's. Eliot actually being his pupil, both of them are close range combo oriented fighters. La Mariposa (The Exotic Butterfly?) who has a Mexican Wrestling type fighting style which is very fun and interesting to use because she strikes a balance between the fast hands and throw oriented fighters. And Spartan 458, a character from the Halo universe. Her fighting style seems like a cross between Bayman/Leon, i.e. slow but strong, with a slightly higher emphasis on speed and less on killer throws.
The game in terms of speed and fluidity controls and feels virtually the same. However being knocked down this time can be a bit more devastating as it may be a few seconds before you can get back up again, leaving you susceptible to low attacks and standard ground pounds. Unfortunately damage incurred from getting pushed against a wall and wailed on has not been reduced, and God forbid your being pushed against a danger zone wall. In some respects it's good as it forces you to pay attention to where your character is standing. The environments are huge, so try to use them to your advantage. Also beware that the artificial intelligence this time around is no slouch, and has been beefed up to ensure you have to try hard to beat it. Also the final boss is not the cheapest ever, but it's close.
Many have complained that the character models do not look terribly different from the previous few installments of the game, in particular when compared with those visuals found in Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate. This must first be addressed. The character models do not look terribly different because they looked so perfect to begin with. Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate sported some of the best if not best graphical offerings on the Xbox. Team Ninja crafted the characters looks to near perfection and have always pumped out the graphics of whatever system they are developing for. Now even though the character models do look similar there are noticeable differences. Obviously there is a higher polygon count, there are now more subtle details such as individual veins, freckles, wrinkles. The cloth affects are very impressive. Every characters clothing save a couple of ultra tight ninja jumpsuits has fabric that can be blown by the wind, and some have fuzzy clothes that actually looks like fur, Such as Tina's cat ears or Gen Fu's Zebra Stripes. And well of course the eye candy of the female characters and their ahem... various gravity defying physics is self evident. But the real graphical upgrade comes as always in the form of the sprawling multi-tiered environments some of which look about four times better and are twice as big as those seen in Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate. The games lighting affects are also the best I have ever seen. Don't expect any fighting game on any system to look better for several moons. The games endings are also HD cgi movies that are very well choreographed and shot in exquisite detail regardless of how convoluted some of the endings (Kasumi's) may be. A story in a fighting game is a luxury after all.
The sound affects, and voice acting are both well done. The music as with the rest of the series is a jumble of a few memorable tracks, and most that while not really bad are largely forgettable. Once again the game features a couple Aerosmith songs. I am left to wonder whether the creator is close personal friends with Stephen Tyler, has lined his pockets, or is an avid stalker of the rock star. However the Xbox 360 allows you to play any music you want over the games normal soundtrack, as is the case with every Xbox 360 game.
Somewhat improved over Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate. But not without its problems. The biggest of all being lag. Sometimes it feels like your playing someone sitting right next to you, sometimes it feels like watching sea turtles race through a pool of molasses. Part of this is due to congested servers, part to peoples individual Internet connections and part to the games programming. Their are also apparently glitches and rank exploits that can be performed but Team Ninja has promised to fix this through patches. One of the oddest and yet most original new additions is the game lobby, where with points received through winning matches on line you can buy different avatars to romp around with in the pre game, and even buy accessories for them as well as additional lobbies. However earning money is quite a long and difficult process, and all the additional accessories/avatars/lobbies ain't cheap. But it is an interesting distraction none the less. The game modes available are the same, Winner Stays, Loser Stays, Tag, Tournament, Survival, Ku mite.
Dead or Alive is my favorite fighting series and there is no doubt that this is the best installment of the long running beat'em up. As such my opinion may be somewhat biased. However I am not blind to its faults. It is a worthy fighter for any fan of the genre, many will think however that Soul Caliber III is better and they may not be wrong. But there is no denying that DOA4 is a great game, and if you are looking for a next gen fighter well you really have no choice now do you ;).
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 02/03/06
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