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February 8, 2002
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 Overall Score: *88*ESRB Rating: Teen (T)

Dead or Alive 3 [Microsoft X-Box] 

by Tecmo  Reviewed by: Mike David  


ScreenshotOverview

Hitomi, the Karate master, enters the tournament to prove to her father that she is the best. Tina Armstrong, the pro-wrestler, has entered the tournament with the hopes of launching an acting career. But if her father, Bass, has anything to say about it, she’ll stay a wrestler. GenFu fights in the tournament to raise money for his Granddaughter’s operation, while Jann Lee walks the lonely path of the wandering fighter, tirelessly pursuing the strongest of foes. But while these warriors fight, a hidden secret war is being battled for the fate of the world by the Ninjas Kasumi, Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate and Ayane, who have secretly entered the tournament to stop the evil operations of DOATEC and their genetically engineered (former ninja master) monstrosity, Genra.

Enter the tournament and fight as if your life depended on it (because it does). Dead or Alive smashes its way onto the Xbox and proceeds to mop your couch potato ass all over the floor. No fireballs and magic in this game, just good ole’ hardcore knuckle dusting and butt whipping. They don’t call it Dead or Alive for nothing.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

If console builders know anything, it’s "put a 3D fighter on the list of launch games." The Saturn had Virtua Fighter, the PlayStation had Tekken, the Dreamcast had the awesome Soul Calibur, the GameCube has Super Smash Brothers, the PS2 had Dead or Alive Hardcore and the Xbox has its successor, Dead or Alive 3.

Dead or Alive 3 (DOA3) is the latest installment of the popular franchise of the same name. Players select one (or two) characters from a list of 16 (initial) fighters. Each fighter has the prerequisite set of punches, kicks and throws that reflect their preferred fighting style. Several styles are featured, such as karate, jeet kune do, drunken boxing and ninjitsu to name a few. The great thing about these next generation fighting games is that they really study the moves of actual martial artists who have a working knowledge of the skills that are featured. Now, the outcome of these moves isn’t quite as accurate but the punches and kicks all look real -- real painful that is. Since the learning curve of the moves isn’t too complicated, players who jump in will be able to really kick butt right out of the gate, even if you are the consummate button masher. Additionally, the game recognizes the interactive environments and depending on your location in the fighting area, some moves are even augmented to reflect said location. In other words, performing a move in the middle of the ring and performing the same move while tucked into a walled corner may cause a different outcome.

Now, a lot has been said about the Xbox controller. This controller may look big and bulky, but the sensitivity and smoothness of the button configuration is so fluid that I can honestly say that performing the special moves is incredibly easy. It also helps that Tecmo didn’t have a bunch of 17 button press style moves. If the default setting isn’t to your liking, you can configure the controller to something you like a little more. The Xbox’s hard drive will remember your settings.

ScreenshotHardcore gamers will breeze through the game's single player storylines with little or no difficulty, and to say that these storylines are engrossing would be an outright lie. Players looking for a fighting game with depth will want to look elsewhere, as I was disappointed in most of the end movies that are unlocked once that character has been played all the way through. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more of the cinematics, including mini ones periodically through the tournament. A game that looks this good could certainly benefit from characters that we want to invest some emotion in. Take the character Genfu; here we have one of the noblest characters, an old man who is desperately battling through the tournament in order to get money for his granddaughter’s operation. Think of how much passion could have been placed in this nonexistent storyline. He’s an old, tired man, but the love for this small child gives him the inner strength to carry on, even though he stands no chance. Geez, I should be a screenwriter. Most of the storylines stank and I felt I was robbed in the single player game. The weak storylines are the reason for the two points I knocked off the score, keeping it from scoring in the 90’s.

As sorry as the storylines are, the game’s locales certainly make up for it. Multi-tiered environments, which really add that desperation factor, are present throughout the game. Players can be launched out of windows, off of cliffs out of buildings, through walls and smashed through the ice. It’s the best use of locations I have ever seen in a fighting game. Not only do you go flying once you have been launched, but your opponent jumps after you sustaining none of the damage you just did from falling 90 yards onto your neck. Plus, if you have completed the proper requirements, the levels open up a bit more to include different areas and different time’s of the day. There is just something about hammer kicking an opponent through a rock pillar and off of a massive cliff that puts a smile on my face.

DOA3 also features several modes besides the single player story mode. A time attack mode to see how many opponents you can dispatch and how quickly you can do it. A versus and tag-team mode, but more on this in the multiplayer section. A survival mode that sees how long you can fight off computer controlled characters before your health is completely depleted. Of course, there are tons of other options you can configure to your liking including clock time, round totals and the CPU difficulty.

Multiplayer

Fighting games have always held a special place for me since (in two player mode) the screen isn’t split. All the action occurs in one full-sized television screen. Ah, bliss. So, DOA3 features a two player versus mode that allows you and your “fill in blank” to kick the holy living crap out of one another without the danger of getting broken neon glass in your eye. But Tecmo has raised the stakes and utilized the four controller ports by allowing a tag team mode to occur. Yes, just like the WWF, you can fight and then tag in your partner to finish your victims off. It’s a really cool way to play with four people. My wife and I have already scheduled a tag-team match against another couple. It should be cool.

Graphics

Okay, I know, I keep saying things like “beautiful” and “gorgeous” in my reviews of Xbox games. But look at it this way, the graphics that the Xbox is churning out in this game aren’t even possible on any other console system. Skin looks like skin, with muscle striations flexed across the arms of the combatants. When you kick a character against a tree in the winter level, snow falls off of the overhead branches. The light sourcing, the frame rate, the textured graphics, it’s practically a selling vehicle for the Xbox. I’ve played HALO, and this game is even sharper in the graphics department.

Audio

I don’t like the band Aerosmith and, unfortunately, they have three songs featured in this game. But fortunately my TV comes equipped with a little device called volume control. Just kidding. Even though I don’t like the aging, decrepit band, I didn’t seem to mind since the majority of my brain was concentrating on the very beautiful women fighters of this game. And thank Tecmo that the Japanese dialog was left in, with the english subtitles at the bottom. The voice acting is given a bit more weight when it’s maintained in its intended dialect. Booms sounded good and I swear you feel every bone-crunching hit, since it was conveyed so clearly.

ScreenshotBottom Line

Dead or Alive 3 is a solid, solid game. I wish its storylines were more compelling, but since it has beautiful graphics, easy controls and decent sound, I guess three out of four isn’t bad. An excellent Christmas present for the Xbox owner on your list and a quality multiplayer game, as that is the anchor as far as replayability goes. Lastly, the game does have a certain sexual theme to it, with the more than generous depiction of the female form. I can honestly say that gamers who are mature enough to deal with it appropriately should play this game.

Review Posted On 12 December 2001.

 
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