This week, our Critical Reception column takes a look at Tecmo's delayed, yet eagerly anticipated Xbox 360 title Dead or Alive 4
– the first next generation 3D fighting game.
Reviews are resoundingly positive for the game, suggesting that the delay was well worth it. Game review tabulation site GameTab.com shows an average review of nearly 91%
across the board. There is little score variation between the various magazines and websites reporting, with the highest being GamePro's near-perfect 5/5
score. Reviewers were overall pleased with the game's visual presentation, with 1UP.com's James Mielke, who gave the game a score of 9/10
, stating: "It is clearly the best-looking fighter around, thanks to the 360's emphasis on high-definition, eclipsing even DOA Ultimate's
stellar graphics with a combination of high-resolution textures, brilliant lighting effects, and increased polygon counts on the characters."
The greatest shift, most reviewers agreed, was in the fighting system itself, which had previously been known for its rather simplistic grappling/counter system, yet dynamic action, had been tweaked and improved to good effect. IGN's Douglass C. Perry, who gave the game a 9.0
, particularly liked the fast pace and frenetic action: "...the speed with which each of the characters moves is incredible. This game blazes away at 60 FPS with nary a hitch, and the art team worked diligently to create smooth animations that blend between every move, fall, throw, and taunt."
As nice as that may be, the end result of the major tweaking may not be for everyone, as Perry continues: "DOA4
adds a significant move count to each character, while changing some moves around, which is bound to annoy regulars of the series... The counter system will, however, make or break your love for the game. While we weren't able to get an exact breakdown of the frame count in DOA4
, the window of opportunity for counters has probably decreased in frame count by nearly half." 1UP's Mielke agrees, noting that the game is quite different from other 3D fighters on the market: "If you're the type of person who prefers a tactical game of cat and mouse, with explosive bursts of action mediated by precision movement and an overall sense of the 3D space, you're probably better off playing Virtua Fighter 4
, for better or worse, is 95% offense, 5% defense."
Other minor quibbles keep the game from VF4
-like (or dare I say, 2D fighter-like?) precision, as Mielke mentions: "This is exacerbated by the fact that it's hard to determine whether many of DOA4
's moves qualify as a high or medium attack, as the animations aren't as clear cut as high, medium and low moves from other fighting games. Itagaki wasn't kidding when he said you'd have to master every character in order to know their moves, and anticipate what's coming when playing against them. But who really wants to do that?"
The online mode was universally praised, with Perry particularly noting the DOA series' pioneer efforts in online 3D fighting. "DOA4
's online game, the mode many fans are most anticipating, doesn't disappoint. In fact, the online mode, which is one of team's biggest technical challenges, is easily the most fun component of the game." GameSpot's Greg Kasavin, who gave the game a very slightly lower score of 8.8
, noted that the online mode boasts very little lag, other than in spectator mode. "We rarely experienced significant lag when playing online, even against overseas opponents, though the game did occasionally lock up or hang up for long periods of time in between fights, especially when we tried to access the Xbox guide." The game's increased single-player difficulty and AI was nearly universally lauded, with Kasavin expressing it lucidly: "You'll notice when playing against the computer in DOA4
that the enemy artificial intelligence puts up a very good fight, even at the default difficulty setting."
That all negative points of these reviews focus primarily on very minor details speaks volumes to the overall well-roundedness of the title. Greg Kasavin's end paragraph seems to sum up the general feeling: "It's simple: If you like fighting games, DOA4
is for you. Between its great selection of powerful fighters, its terrific action, and its addictive online mode, there's an awful lot to sink your teeth into, learn, and master in this latest and greatest installment in the series." Tecmo and Microsoft are clearly hoping that this will be just the game to give the flagging Japanese Xbox 360 sales a needed boost, as well as performing well in the West – and if so, Tecmo's Team Ninja head Tomonobu Itagaki will be getting a nice new year's bonus.