Dead or Alive 4 still not very lively

Dead or Alive 4 Review

From the slew of previews it's possible to work out what's happened with DOA4. Not only did this crucial title slip and miss the US launch, but it's still not ready - that doesn't mean they aren't prepared to ship it though...

Clearly, Team Ninja were under enormous pressure to have this game ready for launch, and every day beyond that point that they held it back would result in a flurry of nervous phone calls from Microsoft. The pressure seems to have resulted in little more than a spruced up port of DOA3 with a side order of DOA Ultimate.

Microsoft's solution to a missing title was to push out endless previews, screenshots, sneak-peaks and other hype through the usual media - in the hope that this would maintain interest in the title long enough for them to actually get it onto shelves.

The end result is the hype-machine was over applied to a title that just wasn't worthy of it. Anyone who believes the hype may end up a little disappointed should they decide to buy it.

In terms of what's actually been delivered, it seems we have a repeat of the DOA3 scenario: a game all but identical to its predecessors, but with the addition of slightly more interactive backgrounds. DOA4 repeats the pattern: again more improvement to the backgrounds but elsewhere the game remains much the same.

Is this why we rush out and spend cash on new consoles? To get the same old games rehashed? By letting this game out in such a lacklustre condition Microsoft are hurting their new platform and turning off people who are thinking of an upgrade.

OK, there are some multiplayer elements for Live but they only work well when everyone involved has a fast link. Team Ninja have done this game-play already in an Xbox game (DOA Ultimate), so you'd expect it to be spot-on-perfect, but it's not; none of the problems from DOA Ultimate have been resolved.

Of course, it's hard to see how to innovate new game-play with something like this. Perhaps a 'story mode' that actually has some sort of story rather than snippets of dialogue that are infamous for its incoherence?

While there was scope for a leap in visual quality, it's no surprise we don't see it: Team Ninja hasn't really had time to work out how to get the most from the 360, or how to develop art for it. We end up with some really detailed looking trees, bushes and floors, but the characters are still carved out of soap.

I've always like the stylised look of the DOA character models and textures, but on the 360 I expect an incredible level of detail in the character animation, and it's not present. Where are the blushes, the scrapes and scratches, the bruises, the angry flush or blood to an enraged characters's face? We get none of them, and little in the way of additional subtlety in factial animations.

We're also still presented with characters who execute kicks in thin air just the same as kicks that impact a solid block. We had better reactive and realistic looking fighting in some ancient PSone games (such as Tobal). Why aren't we getting it in the flagship fighter for the NextGen 360?

In the end the feeling I get is not very different to the one I got from the disappointing Virtua Fighter 3 when it released on the Dreamcast. When it released the arcade machine was acceptable, but it was years before I obtained the Dreamcast version and the game had aged badly.

Unfortunately, there isn't much of an excuse for the lack of newness in DOA4. TN have been treading water since the brilliant DOA2 on the Dreamcast: a title that looked so good it had a huge edge over brand-new PS2 titles that were being released at the time (such as the awful looking Tekken Tag). Since then we've just had very minor upgrades and new play modes that are mainly window dressing.

As for the online component: in the end, I'm not in the least interested in playing a fighting game against people online. There's no more satisfaction in beating them than in beating the computer. Where's the fantastic cooperative play (online or otherwise) and huge sprawling battles of great games like Guardian Heroes? Don't tell me the mighty 360 isn't up to delivering the game-play of a near ten year old Saturn game with some modern graphics and more moves...

Is there a solid reason to own this if you already have DOA2 or 3? I'm not sure. If you own a 360 you might be itching for a new fighting game to play on it, something to really show off the visuals. DOA4 doesn't seem to be either of those things. If you already have DOA Ultimate for online play, then there's almost nothing new for you in DOA4 at all.

With an effort like this, it's probably just a matter of time before some new kid on the block comes and kicks Team Ninja's teeth in and delivers a NextGen fighter that really packs a punch.

If you don't agree let us know, or post us your own review of the title. All points of view are welcome.