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Chris Sell
28 Apr, 2006

Dead or Alive 4 Review

360 Review | More than just girls in bikini's?
As anyone in the gaming world over the last few years will know, the Dead or Alive games have always been better known for their flashy graphics and reliance on scantily clad woman to draw attention to them. Dead or Alive 2 on the Dreamcast was incredible for its time while the Xbox launch title Dead or Alive 3 still remains one of the best graphical showcases of the machine to this day. The series has always been somewhat of an acquired taste and even the most hardcore fanatic will admit that there are better fighting games around, so at a time where girls in bikini’s aren’t so shocking any more and visually we’re becoming harder and harder to impress, does Dead or Alive 4 have the gameplay to back it up?

The Dead or Alive games have always been based around simple control, and this version is no different. One button for punch, one for kick and a final button reserved as a ‘free’ command. As the Virtua Fighter series has also proved in the past, dozens of moves can be at your disposal with only the use of two attack buttons. Each character features between 50 to over a hundred moves each. The range from single button tapping blows, complex combo strings and even multiple throw combinations. An important part of a good fighting game is how well the moves produces actually match your button inputs. Take the original StreetFigher 2 for instance, the reason that worked so well is because the shape and structure of the button commands represented what was going on on-screen.DoA4 follows similar principles. Stronger moves are reserved for double button presses, low sweeps and chops are usually found on the diagonals while chargeable attacks often require you to pull back before releasing.

It sounds an almost trivial thing to mention, but such is the pace that DoA4 is played at, having instinctive attacks laid out for each character lends itself to some beautifully free flowing combat. Tecmo have given us easily the fastest game in the series. While not much quicker than Dead or Alive 3, it moves a fair bit swifter than last year’s Dead or Alive Ultimate. Not only does it give fights an added adrenaline boost, it tightens up the whole counter system. DoA4 ditches the 3-point system of DoA3 in favour of DoA:U’s slightly more complex 4-point setup. As before, by pressing Back + Free you will perform a counter hold to any mid-height punches. Diagonals must be used for any corresponding high or low attack, while mid kicks require a Forward + Free motion.

Jann Lee is as deadly as ever.

Jann Lee is as deadly as ever.
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Criticism has been leveled at the Dead or Alive games in the past for making countering too easy and overpowered. Here they seem to have found a much fairer balance. Firstly, the increase in speed means you have left time to react to things. While the frame window may be around what they were in previous games, the quicker pace of the game means the actual time you have to counter is smaller than before. Also, counters in general hurt much less than they did in previous games. While in DoA2 you pretty much had a round won if you countered two moves, DoA4 is a little more strict about how it deals the damage for counter holds and shifts the emphasis of the game to offense rather than defense. That’s not to say you can’t play a defensive game, some characters in particular have some devastating reversals so you’ll be able to find a few fighters that suit the style you favour.

Speaking of characters, everyone from both Xbox games are here along with three newcomers taking the total to over 20. The new characters are a nice mix of styles and fit in well with the DoA crowd. Kokoro, a Japanese geisha girl, is probably the closest thing you’ll ever get to Virtua Fighter’s Akira in Dead or Alive as her style is very strong, quick and precise relying on close combat blows and holds to dominate her opponents. The second new addition, La Mariposa, is a luchadora. Her wrestling-themed attacks involve plenty of grapples, flips, and kicks as well as some high flying acrobatics when cornered. The final fresh face is a high-school student named Eliot. Utilizing a praying mantis-type attack pattern he focuses on powerful hand strikes and quick movement. This is no surprise when you learn more of his background and realize that Gen-Fu was his trainer. All three are superb additions and arguably contain more depth than a lot of the existing characters. Once you become proficient with Kokoro’s close-combat techniques she’s amazingly effective for a more defensive minded player. The same goes for Eliot too. La Mariposa is a different kettle of fish altogether but can be equally devastating in the hands of an offensive thinking fighter.

The rest of the lineup have received extra tweaking and have a sprinkle of new moves or altered commands to get used to. Hitomi for example, who was somewhat overwhelmingly powerful in Ultimate, has been toned down, had a few moves changed and is much the better for it in terms of overall balance. There’s still a few issues with some of the characters being a little stronger than the others, but on the whole this is easily the most balanced game in the series so far. Some of the new changes have helped this. The addition of proper ground strikes and a stronger emphasis on air-juggles has given the game an extra layer of depth and strategy. While in past games going to ground was a safe place to hide for a few seconds, things are much different now and the overall flow of the game benefits as a result.

Lisa, I mean, La Mariposa is one of three main new characters.

Lisa, I mean, La Mariposa is one of three main new characters.
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Unfortunately, Dead or Alive still has a little way to go before it can match the likes of Virtua Fighter or Soul Calibur. Its first problem is its weak single player game. Virtua Fighter 4:Evolution set new standards in enemy AI, and for a game that’s running on much more powerful hardware than the PS2, DoA4’s AI is disappointing. It’s not just the enemy intelligence that’s the problem either, the whole setup of the single player game is overly simple. While Virtua Fighter is offering deep quest modes and Soul Calibur has its varied mission based campaigns, DoA4’s straightforward story mode, survival and time trial doesn’t really cut it anymore. Had these not been ruined by some shockingly cheap AI and final boss encounters it may not have been such an issue, but when you’ve fought 7 speedy rounds only to throw all your hard work away on a cheesy boss fight the motivation soon wears thin. Although a good player will be able to overcome such cheapness, those less gifted in the art of fighting games may be put off, especially as there is no easy setting.

But as with all fighting games, it’s in 2-player that the game really comes alive and Doa4 doesn’t disappoint here. As well as various offline versus, tag and team battles there’s an online mode thrown in too. Supporting up to 16 players, realistically it’s really only about 5-6 before lag problems start to surface, but that’s still a remarkable amount seeing as other games struggle to get simple 1v1 fighting running as smoothly as it does here. Every player online has a grade and it’s this grade that determines the quality of the opposition you can put yourself up against. Using the Optimatch you can search for any graded room you want. Fancy a challenge? Look for some SS or A rank servers. Or just play against people around your own grade. Grade points are shared each time you win or lose a fight, as is money. Money can be used in Zack’s Shop for all kinds of things. As well as things like costumes, you can purchase new lobbies or avatars for pre-match use. You see, each server contains a lobby where players can hang around outside of the fight. Want to take a few minutes break? Go back to the lobby. Want to arrange a fight with another player? Go back to the lobby. Here you can also watch the fight via the big screen located in the surrounding area. While not the huge feature it was made out to be it’s a nice to have something that tries to improve the social aspect of online gaming.

Just one of the many online lobbies.

Just one of the many online lobbies.
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Tecmo have always been one for graphical showpieces but it has to be said that Dead or Alive 4 somewhat disappoints in this area. It still looks gorgeous, the animation is smoother than ever (try going back to the old games after playing this and the difference is certainly noticeable), the FMV’s are typically jaw dropping and the background environments are simply stunning in places, but the game isn’t quite the visual powerhouse you’d expect from a Dead or Alive game. The biggest complaint would have to be leveled at the distinct lack of real time lighting and self shadowing. The intentionally anime-styled character models can be forgiven but without the use of shadowing and lighting they do sometimes look somewhat out of place in their environments. On the plus side the game does run and a rock solid 60fps, something that few 360 can boast so far.

In summary, Dead or Alive 4 is the best in the series so far. It’s more balanced than ever (in fact, if you’ve got a broadband connection the latest patch makes a few notable alterations to balance the game further), the added pace this version has is welcome and the new characters are each excellent yet delightfully different additions to the DoA roster. It shines strongly in multiplayer offering fast and frantic battles for both beginners and veterans alike both online and offline. But if you’re playing alone it’s not really worth your time. Cheap AI and simplistic single player modes won’t hold your attention for long, especially given the distinct lack of costumes compared to the wealth on offer in Dead or Alive: Ultimate so you’ll probably have seen everything there is to see within 10 hours. Those looking for some multiplayer fighting fun could do a lot worse than Dead or Alive 4, if all you’ll be playing is single player it’s very hard to recommend this at full price.
The Score
The best Dead or Alive game so far. The single player is weak so avoid paying full price if you don’t have a friend to player or access to Xbox Live. If however you do have either of those Tecmo’s latest brawler is well worth your time. 8
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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13 Comments
7 years ago
Nice review. I think this game is fantastic and the more I play it the deeper it gets and the more I'm hooked. A lot of people have complained about the AI being cheap, but if you actually get good at this game, it's quite challenging and rewarding.

I find the single to be rather well done too. Getting all the achievements is a big challenge and gives you incentive to play through Story/Time/Survival and get all the costumes and characters.

But I'm a fighting junkie, as I almost love all of these types of games...

PS - Everybody online uses Hayate. It's really annoying. Eliot is where my money lies.
7 years ago
I thought it was a good review too, but I digress I think the single player stuff can be quite deep and rewarding. Last night a mate and I unlocked the spartan and she's a great character....also the halo stage....man i'd add a whole point just for that....the music is legandary. Also I think it should be noted that although the single player campaign might not be as deep as other fighters (e.g virtua fighter, soul calibur)....but the stages are. There is one stage (temple with monkeys) where you can go down like 3 levels and then you can smash your opponent thru a wall down into another arena. I think the levels in doa4 add a lot of replay value because I love fighting in these areas. To me it's like an interactive asian martial arts movie.......basically it's great fun.

Also the stories for the characters goes into a lot of depth (maybe not as much as tekken games but about on par with soul calibur games)...and the FMV.....well quite simply the best FMV/Graphics I have seen.

I like using Hitomi and Leon/Bayman, but i'm learning to use Ryu and Ayane aswell.

Oh yea....also i've been playing doa since part 2 on dreamcast and having old characters return along with being able to change the voices for the announcer in the options are all great little features.
7 years ago
ugh the boot wrote
Also the stories for the characters goes into a lot of depth (maybe not as much as tekken games but about on par with soul calibur games)...and the FMV.....well quite simply the best FMV/Graphics I have seen.
I dunno man, I think the FMV is a bit rubbish compared to Namcos efforts...
7 years ago
leonmc wrote
A lot of people have complained about the AI being cheap.
The artificial intelligence isn't cheap, it's just harder compared to the previous instalments.
7 years ago
ZNMS wrote
The artificial intelligence isn't cheap, it's just harder compared to the previous instalments.
The boss is a pain in the ass to beat in Time attack, Having to win 2 rounds is rather hard for me since I suck at fighting games icon_razz.gif.

So far I have found the Survival mode to be the best, it feels like an addictive puzzle game, trying to beat your high scores, collecting special item etc..
7 years ago
leonmc wrote
Everybody online uses Hayate.
Weird I only ever saw one person playing Hayate, and that was me. Granted this was close to the european launch when everyone was playing with either a: Lisa (being cheap, mostly) b: a scrubby Hyabusa (main reason I stopped playing Hitomi) or c: a lame Zack (focusing on his 7 hit kick...whatever it's called, very easily taken down, second hit is easily countered).

Toward the beginning I varied a lot, but I realised I suck with everyone apart from Jann, Hayate, and Hitomi. Even then I'm not that great. icon_lol.gif Haven't played in ages, but that new patch sounds intriguing.
7 years ago
The AI isn't as well done as it was in ultimate imho (It is cheap). I've already found ways to abuse them somewhat, Alpha being the easiest out of them all.
7 years ago
There were some that had this grainy filter over them and they weren't that good....but i think it was Kokoro's.....man the graphics in that were amazing.
7 years ago
After trying it at the shop, I find the action to be faster, but the AI is extremely cheap. If I were an 360 owner, I would either sit back & wait for a price reduced, or until a better fighter is released.
7 years ago
Like most fighting games, there's little point paying full price unless you have human opposition, DoA is no different.
7 years ago
Can anyone tell me if those items you collect in survival mode have any use?!

Also by the time you see a price reduction there will be a better Xbox 360 fighting game.....it's a catch 22....n-e-ways....people who like DOA will buy....others....whatever..
7 years ago
ugh the boot wrote
Can anyone tell me if those items you collect in survival mode have any use?!
collecting all of them earns you an achievement, I haven't done it yet. Other than that I have no idea.
7 years ago
Anyone pretty decent at the counter thing? The damn final boss always gets me with it so I end up fighting it like 30-40 times before I can finally kill it... which makes time attack pointless to me icon_sad.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  Out Now
European Release Date:
  Out Now
Publisher:
  Tecmo
Developer:
  Team Ninja
Players:
  1-4

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