|Dead or Alive 4(2005)
Available for: Xbox 360
It’s a real shame that “Dead or Alive 4” wasn’t around during launch time, because it’s easily the best 360 game currently on the market. And how exactly is a fighting game better than deeper launch titles like “Perfect Dark Zero” and “Call of Duty 2,” you ask? Quite simply, “DOA4” offers everything you could want in a next-gen launch title: recognizable franchise characters, a booming online community, pretty graphics, enhanced “jiggle physics,” and an easy-to-learn combat system for anyone from ages 9 to 99. This isn’t to say that “DOA4” is perfect - because it’s far from it - but if this is the kind of content gamers are to expect on the 360 in the near future, then anyone lucky enough to have already nabbed a system is in for one helluva year.
Not much has changed since Japanese game developer Team NINJA released their last installment of the infamous fighting series, but then again, there wasn’t much to fix. Most of the fighters from the third chapter remain, with a handful of newbies making their first appearances, including Kokoro, an apprentice geisha; a female Luche Libre who calls herself La Mariposa; a high school student named Eliot; and an unlockable female Spartan (from the “Halo” family) named Nicole. It’s also interesting to note that these four entries are some of the best fighters amongst the large cast of characters. La Mariposa is by far the most mysterious of all, but you’ll learn more about her secret past by completing the single-player mode and watching the end cutscene where she is finally unmasked. In fact, every character (save for Nicole, who you can’t use in single-player) has an end cutscene you can access after beating the Story mode, but most aren’t as entertaining as La Mariposa’s.
As in past games, the Story mode is short (lasting only eight rounds each), but offers the same challenge with each new character you select. This is a good way of determining where your strengths and weaknesses lie, since no two fighters are alike. Other modes include Time Attack, Survival, Team Battle, Versus, and Sparring, but none of these are much fun to play for more than a few hours. Instead, gamers will find themselves pulled into the world of DOA Online where they have the freedom to go one-on-one with fellow gamers across the world. This is where “DOA4” should really shine, but unfortunately, it only sparkles, due to an at-first confusing lobby and a foolish setup that has the gamer waiting longer than he actually gets to play.
Still, despite the many problems with DOA Online (including casual lag and frequent freeze-ups), the overall experience is still fairly enjoyable. Playing anonymously doesn’t come without its problems, however - as I experienced my share of rude players - but for the most part, the DOA community seems friendly and very helpful to novice gamers looking for a little tutoring in between rounds. “DOA4” isn’t the most groundbreaking title you’ll see all year, but it’s entertaining to play and incredible to look at. Team NINJA has delivered stunning graphics, from the hair on every fighter’s head to the surrounding environments filled with everything from flowing rivers to dangerous, oncoming traffic. “Dead or Alive 4” is far from being the best game of the year, but it’s certainly one that every 360 fanboy will want to check out.