Dead or Alive Ultimate ReviewCain Dornan
Since the birth of the fighting genre back in the days of arcade-only video games, a large range of different fighting-genre franchises have come and gone, with each offering a somewhat unique style that either gathered a band of followers or simply drove them away. With the creation of home console systems, the fighting genre has been there from the beginning. Numerous franchises were created or killed throughout the growing generations of home entertainment systems, with a number of outstanding franchises creating their home in the hearts of gamers. Amongst the likes of Tekken and Virtua Fighter, the Dead or Alive series has offered a different style of fighting games that has allowed beginners to quickly pick-up-and-play, whilst allowing experts to master the numerous moves and combos to become an unbeatable force. With the birth of the franchise into stunning graphical glory, beginning on the Playstation 2, the Dead or Alive series began to be noticed by both hardcore and casual gamers around the world. DOAs female characters, namely Kasumi and Ayane, quickly became industry icons. Dead or Alive Ultimate takes the series online with the remake of the original Dead or Alive for the Sega Saturn (a mere freebie with little gameplay value) and Dead or Alive 2 for the Playstation 2. Excluding the additional Dead or Alive 1 bonus disk, the end result is a solid fighter that enhances what made the second in the series a success, and adds the ability to utilize Xbox Lives full potential.
The heart and soul of Dead or Alive Ultimate is clearly the remake of Dead or Alive 2, which offers vastly improved visuals, additional modes and various other improvements. The additional disc that includes the original Dead or Alive, on the other hand, is essentially a mere freebie disc. The game has hardly been touched from its original state, apart from the addition of the online playability. The end result is that little time is spent playing the original, with the remade Dead or Alive 2 being the key attraction. Therefore, this review will be focused on the Ultimate version of Dead or Alive 2.
The Dead or Alive series key characters make up the total of fifteen playable characters, including three unlockable characters. At times this number of characters feels rather small, considering that a majority of current and past fighting titles offer considerably more. Alas, veteran players of the Dead or Alive series will appreciate and welcome the inclusion of the key series characters. Each character offers a range of varying costumes, with many of these opting in as unlockable items.
Apart from the online mode through Xbox Live, a number of offline modes are on offer, with the majority of these being available in the original Playstation 2 version of Dead or Alive 2. The Story Mode makes a return, however additional cutscenes have been included, which reveal further details on each characters history. The additional cutscenes offer very little additional depth, however, and the Story mode can be completed in roughly five minutes. The only main value of the Story mode is that the majority of unlockable costumes are obtained through the Story mode. Considering that some of the female characters offer some 10+ costumes, it is likely that you will find yourself playing through the simple, yet enjoyable Story mode multiple times with each character.
The Survival mode makes a triumphant return, with the additional ability to play Tag Team Survival. The Tag Team Survival mode works essentially the same way as the single character versus character makeup, requiring players to compete against a continuous flow of competitors whilst collecting pickups that are acquirable after defeating an opponent. With the ability to upload your Survival scores to Xbox Lives ladders, the Survival mode offers considerably more gameplay life than the simplistic Story mode.
The Time Attack mode, as the title suggests, requires the completion of multiple battles in the shortest time possible. Points are awarded for the shortest time of completion, and by considering that the Time Attack mode is somewhat more difficult than the other modes, some solid fighting skills are first required in order to achieve a decent score. As with most of the modes, the ability of uploading your Time Attack records to Xbox Live is available.
Tag Team Battle allows up to four players to compete tag-team style, allowing players to quickly switch between two characters whilst fighting.
Team Battle Mode allows you to select a team, which ranges between two to seven fighters, and compete against another team with the same number. The battles are continuous, with a defeated player being replaced with the following fighter on the team. Once all fighters on a team have been completed, the game ends.
The Sparring mode is essentially a training mode, allowing you to practice a characters moves on a dummy fighter. A variety of options are available for the dummy fighter, allowing you to set the dummy to a moving, blocking, offensive or defensive target.
Finally, the Watch mode, which is basically useless, allows you to pit computer-controlled fighters against each other in either standard or tag-team battles.
The fighting engine in Dead of Alive Ultimate allows beginners to easily pick-up-and-play, whilst allowing more advanced players to perfect powerful combos or grab moves. Although an array of seventy-odd moves is available for each character, the simple tap of a button or two easily performs a large majority of these moves, allowing beginners of the fighting genre to easily accomplish. Thankfully, developer Team Ninja have included a reversal system, which is essentially a counter system, allowing you to recover and use opponentss attack against themselves; a useful ability once perfected.
The key attraction for Dead or Alive Ultimate is, of course, the online play. Rather than creating rooms for specific player versus player or tag team battles, a virtual arcade is implemented, allowing players to freely enter and exit battles or watch any battle that they wish. Implemented into this virtual arcade world is several different multiplayer modes on offer, which includes Winner-Stays, Loser-Stays, Team Battle, Survival, Tournament and Kumite.
Winner-Stays is simply a series of challenger-orientated battles. If you win a match, you take on the next challenger, and continue doing so until you are finally defeated. Loser-Stays is essentially the opposite to this, allowing less-skilled Dead or Alive fighters to continue fighting until they finally win.
Team Battle pits two teams, consisting of up to eight fighters, against each other with the team with fighters still standing winning the match.
The Survival mode consists of one champion and up to three competitors, which the champion takes on one at a time. Whoever manages to beat the champion gains the position.
Tournament mode is basically a complete all-on-all mode, and allows the ability to compete in single-fighter or tag team battles.
Kumite is similar to Survival, however the single designated champion remains the champion even after being defeated. As long as the champion remains in the game, he will continue to progress through all competitors forever.
The online mode generally runs lag-free, however there are occasions when slight slow-downs are experienced. Although they dont generally occur often, experiencing lag whilst competing can quickly become annoying, and can also cost you a win.
Apart from the occasional lag, the online mode on Dead or Alive Ultimate is excellent. The modes work well and the numerous rankings and ladders on offer are very pleasing.
As with the previous titles in the Dead or Alive series, Dead or Alive Ultimate offers hardware-maxing graphics that is pleasing to the eye. Character animations offer extremely high and realistic detail. The stages offer simply amazing visuals; from the swirling of leaves through to the blinding blast of a snow storm is all presented in amazing detail. Environment interactivity further improves the overall impressive visuals: throwing a fighter through smashing glass, a crumbling wall or even down the steps of the Great Wall of China has never been presented before in such stunning detail. Its graphics such as these that add greatly to the gameplay.
Whilst youre drooling over the fantastic detail to character animations and level detail, 5.1 Dolby Digital sound further improves the gaming spectacular. Although the music sounds far superior and more catchy than what it is in basic stereo, the sound effects are, by far, where the sound aspects of Dead or Alive Ultimate shines. Slamming a character through a painted glass window or through a stone pillar sounds very impressive.
The Playstation 2 originally offered a more solid array fighters when compared to the Playstation 2s Tekken and Virtua Fighter series. Team Ninja has now turned the table with the release of Dead or Alive Ultimate exclusive to the Xbox. Apart from the relatively small collection of fighters on offer, Dead or Alive Ultimate offers solid gameplay modes and stunning visuals and sound, in addition to the much-anticipated Xbox Live, all combines to create a stunning fighter.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.