by Douglass C. Perry
October 4, 2005 - Tecmo's Dead Or Alive 4 was on display at MS's X05, and boy was it a luscious, delightful graphically scintillating affair. Running into the white Sega tent, I sat down to the only people who would be nice to enough to let me play the game, and this small trio of people also happened to be three of the hottest chicks at the event. Fine with me, I can't beat up chicks in real life, but I can in the videogame world Woot!
Just kidding. It turns out that not letting the girls win - ever - pretty much means they'll want to leave. And that's just what they did. After beating each one of them two or three times in a row, they left on friendly terms. Note to self: Always let the girls win. Second note to self: Beating GameSpy's Will Tuttle at this game is even easier than beating those girls.
In all seriousness, Dead or Alive 4 plays very much like Dead Or Alive Ultimate, but it's about 10 times prettier. The game runs at a blazing 60 fps, and the characters all move with incredibly agility, animations, and instant reactions. The lighting is especially gorgeous. In the open street level, skyscrapers, trains, the blinding lens flare sunlight, reflections off glass, and so many other things showed how illuminated and brilliant looking the game is.
The breast physics are essentially the same, with general boob heaviness remaining consistent with previous DOA titles. This is something one must always pay attention to with the most precise measuring meathods (i.e. honing in on the boobs themselves and staring for a great long while). And the fighting physics follow suit with the boob physics. If you've played DOAU or DOA3, you'll feel right at home with DOA4.
You'll see more cloth and hair physics, which are independent of the fighters' bodies, and the result is a greater sensation of human motion and fluidity. Oh yeah, and lots of short skirts show off great amounts of women's underwear. In the motion department, a few characters skated a little as they moved, something that looks like it will probably be tuned as they game gets closer to completion.
Crowds will react to your movement too. A couple was watching as I was fighting, and they stood behind street guards and rails, and when I threw somebody close to them, they ran away from the action. As we moved a little farther away, the couple inched closer to the rails and clapped as we hammered away on each other.
The interactive breakaway sections worked exquisitely. If you kicked an opponent down the stairs, you could see their health meter gradually dropping. When you throw them off a balcony and watch them drop, you instantly jump down after them and watch as the recovery animations shows off their pain. If you're on a bridge and you smack an opponent with a brutal combo, the bridge railing will crumble and you'll jump down into the knee-high river and finish the fight there. The breakaway walls and backgrounds, introduced years ago, are still remarkably entertaining and worth exploring as a side mission to basic fighting.
Of the 23 total characters, 11 were playable. We played as the Lei Feng, Ryu, Ayame, Zak, the new blond male, Leon, Tina, and others. The move list was blocked out, so we couldn't fiddle with that much, but knowing a few things, we busted out high and low attacks, threw several characters around, and pulled off nice special attacks to boot. The throws worked well, the reversals also felt good - and both the reversals and the recoveries reacted immediately without delay.
The game offers several modes of play, including Vs, Sparring, DOA Online, Story, Time Attack, Survival, and Team Battle. We were only able to play in Vs, but we learned that they online mode is especially funky. When choosing DOA Online, players meet in lobbies filled with surrealistic stuff like bizarre characters, pumpkins, skeletons, ghosts and chickens. There will be 10 different lobby themes and a number of avatars.
For most casual observers, Dead Or Alive 4 looks like a high-res visual upgrade that really serves no other purpose than to look pretty on Xbox 360. This kind of thinking is likely to get you killed by a dedicated DOA player, who would tell you the two new characters add depth, while the new levels and the speed and instantaneousness of the fights gives everything a new balance and flow.