Dead or Alive 4 for the Xbox 360 follows along Tecmo’s high caliber tradition in showcasing the most important aspect on any given console: The graphics! The game has certainly shown great attention to detail, amazing lighting effects, and stylish 3D presentation. It’s not just the graphics that give Dead or Alive 4 the first bait but the phenomenal gameplay help secure the game’s fighting superiority. Dead or Alive 4 shares many of the same fighting mechanics of Dead or Alive Ultimate, which introduced players not only the ability to fight in tag team but also compete in various battles online. This fourth installment in the series takes the best of DOA Ultimate and spices them with a line-up of fresh characters, new moves, and the most complex countering system yet. If you have played any of the Dead or Alive games before, this should be familiar to you. It’s real easy to get into the action and the gameplay has good flow of the moves. Once you start the fight, everything moves amazingly fast! A match could be over within 60 seconds. Of course, it’s all relative and the techniques used for fighting depend mostly on strategy and planning ahead. With that in mind, players who carelessly button-smash their way to victory often fall as the easiest victims in the first round.

One of the greater highlights in Dead of Alive 4 is the counter system. It’s executed at a precise time the opponent tries to hit you with a punch or a kick. Reversing your opponent is much smoother in this version and it’s very satisfying being able to counter an attack against you, and witness a spectacular display of different bone-breaking throws take place. The best part of the reversal process is that the amount of damage that can be done to your opponent. It’s usually twice the impact of your regular attacks. Therefore, mastering the art of reversal may just give you the necessary leverage on defense against an aggressive assault. One of our favorite features online is the team battle mode that allows team up in combat. You and a friend can help each online fighting against the computer or human opponents. This feature provides a tremendous amount of replay value as it adds a dynamic challenge to the gameplay. The new line-up of fighters is another one of the many appeals of Dead of Alive 4. In this game, you have newcomer Eliot, a young kid that specializes in kung-fu namely the praying mantis; Kokoro, a martial artist whose expertise revolves around open palm attacks; and La Mariposa, a masked warrior who has killer grappling moves and deadly kicks.

The characters of Dead or Alive Ultimate are all here including Ninja Gaiden’s Ryu Hayabusa, Chinese Detective Lei Feng, and a Bruce Lee look a like by the name of Jan Lee. Their presence is much more intimidating this time out and they’ve got new range of combat moves to satisfy your beatings. What’s interesting about this roster is that it now includes Drunken Fist Master Brad Wong and a sly assassin named Christie from Dead or Alive 3. What’s more is that you’ve got Halo’s most prized possession, Master Chief Spartan-458! We are very surprised to see a Halo character make it through this game. But before you get too excited about this particular character, there are a few things you should know. Halo’s Master Chief is relatively underdeveloped in terms of her ability to fight, and yes, she’s female. She doesn’t have too many moves to work with and most of them are borrowed from other characters in the game. Her armor doesn’t even bring up any special shielding during combat. So what’s left? Well, she has this amazing grab that allows you to stick a plasma grenade into the abs of your opponent. And then Kaboom! Watch your opponent chucked into the other side of arena. The one thing we appreciate about Halo’s Master Chief is having her own stage. Her stage is a fine reproduction of the first level of Halo 2 with intergalactic vehicles that you can ram opponents into. Too bad, she isn’t the tough alien slayer that she portrays to be; but her presence does make a welcome addition to the game’s roster.

Another main attraction of Dead or Alive 4 is the fighting arenas. Not only are they exquisite in design but they are also made of multi-layer environment in which players could fall onto. So let’s say you start at the mountain top. You push your opponent out the edge and falls onto a second plain. He gets up and you hit him with a special combo and falls off again to another level below. Basically, he keeps falling off until he reaches the icy abyss. That’s the concept behind interactive multi-layer environment. In Dead or Alive 4, you can do more than thrust your opponent to the last ground. You can now smash your foes into glass window, fruit stand, kick them down a flight of stairs, or straight into traffic. These are a small sample of the interactive environments you can expect in Dead or Alive 4. These surroundings are not there just for the visual enhancements; these settings are there with a purpose. Dead or Alive 4 has several modes to choose from, but more often than not, you’ll be playing the story mode, tag team battle, and online mode the most. In the story mode, you tackle your way through eight rounds of one-on-one fighting. You’ll get a different ending for each character you use to beat the game. The nice part of the story mode is that you get to unlock the hidden characters as well as everybody’s costumes, which some characters have up to 10 outfits!

We had a great time unlocking the secret content, but it would’ve been nice if the story mode went deeper with each character’s history, exploring their relationship between each other and to learn more about their disturbing background. So far, the greatest asset that makes Dead or Alive 4 such an awesome fighter is its online mode. This is where the heart of the action is! You’ve got a long list of variants that you can play online including Kumite, where you (as a host) take on foes successively whether you win or lose. The number of participants allowed in a single lobby has now reached an astounding capacity of 16! That’s a lot of waiting going on! Fortunately you can reduce the period it takes to kill time by limiting the rounds of a match to three. Needless to say, our online experience has been relatively fun. We haven’t seen any lag in loading except some occasional hiccups when playing between matches overseas. Graphically, the game is just an amazing feat, from the detailed composition of each character to the vivid textures of the environments. There are also many other visuals you want to look at but you hardly have the time. The animation is filled with so much life that you could’ve mistaken it for a blockbuster movie. Everything is so razor-sharp it’s surreal!

To top off the incredible graphics are the great sound effects. The game has a way of making you believe that every hit you dish out has very painful impact such as smashing a character into a wall, for example. You could just feel bones crushing. Tecmo, the developer, really put a heavy emphasis on punches and kicks that create an image of physical force to the action. The game’s voice-over works are great, too! The Japanese actors fit their parts well and this aspect gives Dead or Alive 4 a native touch to it. In terms of music, the game has an upbeat flavor and features incredible soundtracks for several characters we know. And who could forget that Aerosmith’s theme? It’s still part of the game’s introduction. Dead or Alive 4 is truly an awesome fighting game no matter how you look at it. It may have a few technical flaws like unbalanced AI and occasional hanging online but they can be forgivable. Those who are new to the Dead or Alive series would have a difficult time adjusting themselves to the combat system here. At normal setting, the computer plays pretty cheap. But a little practice will get you up to speed. Tecmo’s slight tweaks to the fighting engine make this one smoother, faster, and more dynamic than any of the Dead or Alive games in the past. The announcement of delays is very frustrating, but because of the incredible efforts put into this title, the waiting part has certainly been worthwhile. If you’re looking for a high caliber fighting game that delivers great visuals and solid online experience, this is the best one yet.