More like Dead or Alive 3.5...
Besides sounding a bit catchier when said aloud (go ahead try it ... see, we told ya!), SPOnG thinks that it may have been more appropriate to designate this particular game with a ".5" moniker ahead of a great many other "Next Gen" whipping boys. Every time a sequel to something videogame related comes out, be it systems or games, some naysayer will always make a ".5" comment and think they are clever. Generally its unwarranted hate-mongering, but in this case we feel its oddly appropriate.
To be clear from the off, we here at SPOnG are dedicated devotees of the Dead or Alive series. We have hammered all the previous DoA games, Beach Volley Ball included. Indeed, memories of the superlative breast animation in that particular DoA title still leads to misty-eyed recollections throughout the office. What we are not
fans of, to be very clear, is the awful 1980s synth-pop band Dead or Alive, fronted by freakish duck-faced Big-Brother transvestite Pete Burns. We never had any of his records, and we sold our little sister's ones at the car boot sale years back.
We even have to admit to having more than a few DoA figurines around the office and this reviewer even has a snazzy wrist band, won fairly and squarely in a DoA 4 tourney at Zero Hour. So rest assured, we come to the lastest in the series as hardened fans. We do have a Tekken fanboy in the office, but we regularly mock him for his idiot choice of favoured beat-'em-up. In our opinion this is akin to supporting Man City over United. Stefan may disagree with the rest of us on this. But, in our collective opinion, he would also be wrong. Again.
On to the game. Now, in suggesting a ".5" moniker, we are in no way implying that what is on offer is a bad game. Far, far from it. At a whole 0.5 better than DOA 3, how could it be? What we are saying is that it?s just not quite
the next generation of Beat 'Em Up. In fact, on a regular TV it might even be difficult to distinguish from the not long ago released DoA Ultimate. Sure the models have more polygons, and the textures are crisper, but all in all it is not leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor in any way.
For instance, a few levels include water, not a new feature, but the effects of said water are barely any better than previous versions, possibly worse in some ways. In DoA 3, in the underground ice cave level, one could splash through the water and it would physically ripple to match your footsteps, which was an awesome effect. Not so in DoA 4. Instead a fancy texture trick is used that makes the reflections and the surface of the water appear to undulate, but when viewed from the side (where most fighting game cameras are located in our experience) the water stays as flat as a Tekken arena.
The hair and cloth is again made of segmented sheets of polygons that fold and sway in a somewhat realistic fashion, but are not really drastically better than previous versions. With the power of the 360 available we would think they could have at least broken them up into smaller pieces to make folding more natural and clipping less obvious, but as far as our eyes can tell they seem to be about on par with what we have already scene.
The character models are a slightly different story. While they aren?t as drastically improved as we might have hoped (see, for example, the Fight Night 3 demo) they are true to the games predetermined style. We ideally would have liked a bit more of a realistic look. However, despite all of our late night prayers, the anime-ish models and textures remained. Also, having not long ago played DoA Ultimate, in which several characters have as many as 20 costumes, the step down to 5-7 per character is a bitter pill to swallow.
Aside from the water complaints the backgrounds are by far the most impressive visual feature in the game. Some have tons of different animals/people wandering around, others, like the ?Gambler?s Paradise Level? seem to extend on and on forever, and some have as many as five separate tiers to fight through (maybe more, one of us is usually dead after that many falls).
One seemingly glaring exclusion in this, and several other "Next-Gen" games for that matter, is dynamic lights and shadow. Why is it that Splinter Cell, that came out on the Xbox in 2001, still has more realistic lighting than a lot of 360 games? Not to suggest that all games need the ultra dark Doom 3 style of lighting, but when a character is under streetlight and throws a punch, we expect their arm to cast a shadow on their body. This one feature, in SPOnG?s humble opinion, could have done so much to really give this whole thing a more next generational feel.