Saturday, 19 February 2005
Temco show us that the Dead or Alive series is still (Xbox) Live and kicking. Is it worth your hard earned cash?
The girls in Dead or Alive Ultimate have REALLY BIG BREASTS. Okay? Right, now that we've got that out of the way, and sold the game to all the frustrated teenage boys out there, we can begin the review.
Dead or Alive Ultimate is part of Temco's master plan to bring all of the Dead or Alive games to the Xbox. While the original game is left untouched (bar the addition of online play), Dead or Alive 2 has been given a lick of paint, online play, and plenty of added extras, just for you. Isn't that nice? Question is, is DOAU really deserving of the 'Ultimate' subtitle?
The fact that so many beat-em-ups nowadays insist on handing their characters some sort of oversized weapon to swing around rather than allowing them to battle it out the old-fashioned way is a rather irritating truth about how fighting games are progressing. In Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate, it’s pleasing to see your chosen characters battle it out across the beautiful environments using actual martial arts, just like the good old days. After all, who needs swords when you have walls? Most of the arenas in DOA2U are not only destructible, but are also multi-levelled – in simple terms, that means you can knock your opponent through glass, wooden doorways and walls, down stairs and over bridges. Not only does this (rather obviously) damage your foe, but it means that, pleasingly, the environment you’re battling it out in is constantly changing – no longer are you confined to the four walls (or as the case may be, no walls) of other beat-em-ups. Unusually for a beat-em-up, this adds an element of strategy into play – try and remain on the platform you’re on, or lure your foes close to the chasm behind you and hope they don’t manage to knock you over yourself?
A fighting game lives or dies by its controls, and DOA2U manages to tread the line between simple and deep, offering an intuitive and rewarding fight system – allowing you to pull off fancy moves with ease. Unlike some fighting games which have you tapping in a combo and watch as it plays out before you on-screen, DOA2U never makes you feel like you aren’t in control of the action on screen. Nor, at any point, do you have to input a tedious ‘X+B+A+Up then Left+X+Y’ style combo in order to perform a move that will actually do some damage – there are very few moves more elaborate than a couple of buttons and tilting the stick, and even if you decide not to use them, there are always plenty of other options available to you. This means that even a novice can soon get to grips with each character, but there are plenty more options available to experts.
Do you remember the good old days of videogames when people didn’t need a true incentive to unlock new items? When people would play games not just for the enjoyment of the game itself, but also the challenge of collecting hundreds of almost useless items? DOA2U brings that all back – there are literally tens of costumes to collect for each character, as well as a couple of extra characters and all the items to be found in Survival mode. For some obscure reason, collecting all of these optional extras is extremely compulsive, and because the actual fighting is enjoyable you’ll play through the modes repeatedly for the sake of a fancy new outfit.
And the game really is superb fun. Admittedly, it does have its faults - the AI has been known to be extremely unfair at times, even on the lower difficulties, and a few extra characters and destructible arenas would have been very welcome indeed. Also, if you’re expecting something with the depth of Soul Calibur 2, you’ll be very disappointed. But behind the stunning visuals, the somehow very moving intro movie, and the bouncing breasts of the DOA girls lies a solid, addictive and extremely entertaining fighter that deserves a place in anybody’s collection – and the Live modes are the icing on the cake. Though very few people are going to buy this for the included Dead or Alive 1 Ultimate, (the original game with Live stuck onto the end and no other enhancements), after extensive play we can tell you that, despite its age, it’s still a highly entertaining and functional brawler – but in all honesty, that forty notes you spent was on DOA2U. If you’re the kind of person who was happier with the Ocarina of Time bonus disc than you were with The Wind Waker, perhaps you’ll be thrilled at the prospect of playing the game that started it all. Admire the retro feel. Experience the classic gameplay. It’s all good. Whichever of the two games floats your boat, there’s loads of fun to be had with this excellent package.
If we wanted to be really critical, we would have given this game a lower score – but on the other hand, we had oodles of fun playing these two games, and if the flaws that they have don’t detract from what is nothing less than a superb fighting experience that really does deserve the ‘Ultimate’ moniker, who are we to criticise?