Game Description: Dead or Alive 3 gives gamers the ability to enjoy a richer, more intense, action-packed experience than was previously possible on a video game system. Dead or Alive 3 is a 3D fighting game transplanted from the arcade to home, specifically for the Xbox. Tecmo has done extensive research into the technical capabilities of the Xbox and is convinced it is the ideal platform on which to showcase the latest entry in its extremely popular franchise.
Tecmo's Dead Or Alive series has, unfortunately, always been the Frank Stallone of fighting games. The original was released to a small Japanese audience on the short-lived Sega Saturn, and its subsequent 1998 release on the Playstation played second fiddle to Namcos blockbuster Tekken 3. Its acclaimed sequel, exclusive to Segas Dreamcast console (also short-lived), was overshadowed by the popularity of Namcos masterful weapons extravaganza Soul Calibur. Now, however, Tecmo is trumpeting its third installment in the series as a flagship title for the young XBox console. The Dead Or Alive series has always been a bit of sleeper hit, having never gathered the following of franchises such as Tekken or Segas Virtua Fighter. However, its understated presence belies the ingenuity of its refined fighting engine that is striking in both scope and balance. Perhaps now the game will finally get the attention it deserves.
Dead Or Alive 3, though not dramatically different than its predecessors, is a thoroughly perfected and substantially in-depth hand-to-hand fighting game. Initially, it seems to be quite the opposite; the speed of the game is considerably faster than that of Soul Calibur or the Virtua Fighter series, so timing attacks and counters can seem very random and is rather difficult to become accustomed to. However, a little time spent learning the nuances of the game will reveal a complex system of combinations, throws, stuns, reversals, feints, and counterattacks. The series calling card—the "free" button, which is used for blocks, dodging, and reversals—gives the game a balance between depth and accessibility that is unrivaled in the genre. While some patient studying will pay off with more complex combinations and faster reflexes, the ease of control coupled with balanced offense and defense lowers the learning curve considerably.
Thirteen characters have returned from the previous Dead Or Alive installments, with three rookies being thrown into the mix. Once again, the female characters are scantily clad and well endowed (although interestingly, the game lacks an "age" meter, which in Dead Or Alive 2 could be used to adjust the bust size of the female fighters). They all have interesting and well-varied fighting styles (I was particularly impressed with the new character Brad Wong, who uses drunken-style kung fu), and no particular fighter—save perhaps the Bruce Lee clone Jann Lee—stands out as being either too weak or unfairly strong. Each character has well over 100 moves and combinations. Also making a comeback (albeit un-dramatically) is a completely incoherent "story mode," in which a weird and incomprehensible plot is told via terse dialogue prior to each match-up. Complex plot devices are generally a bit of a joke in fighting games, and unlike Soul Calibur (which, through its unlockable art cards, told a coherent and interesting story), Dead Or Alive 3 continues the lackluster tradition.
The fighting engine itself is remarkable. Ive often heard that the Dead Or Alive engine lacks the depth of its kin, such as Virtua Fighter and Soul Calibur. However—as both a fan and knowledgeable veteran of those games—I contend that Dead Or Alive 3s depth not only rivals that of its brethren, but in many respects surpasses them. Dont be fooled by the brisk pacing and ease of use—this is a game where knowledge, practice, and strategy are far more valuable than frantic button mashing.
The system shares structural similarities with both of the aforementioned fighting games. Attacks are divided into high, mid, and low. Each character features a staggering arsenal of punches, chops, elbows, kicks, knees, stomps, throws, holds, and counters. Certain moves will cause an opponent to stagger, opening them to additional moves or throws depending on the situation. Other moves will momentarily stun the character, again leaving them vulnerable. Timing and distance affect the amount of damage incurred by blows and counters, and certain moves can be used to break down an opponents defense, opening them up to further attacks. The entire system of counters further adds to the challenge. Inevitably, players who fail to vary the timing and distance of their attacks will find themselves face down in a hurry.
In structure, Dead Or Alive 3s engine is well balanced, well varied, and complex while not being overbearing to the novice. In practice, Dead Or Alive 3 is a remarkable tour de force of quick thumbs and adept strategy. As with the Dead Or Alive 2, the environments are multi-tiered, interactive environments filled with obstacles and uneven surfaces. However, the role of the environment has been significantly expanded. There are now more throws and combinations that utilize walls and other objects in the environment, and there are even more objects scattered throughout each level. For example, some levels feature slippery surfaces that will throw opponents off balance when certain moves are used. Set up your opponent at just the right angle, and your character will send them flying into a tree or rock for extra damage. The characters even have the ability to rise at an angle to the wall when they are cornered, allowing them a momentary defensive edge. When the increased role of the environments is factored in with the complexity of the fighting engine, the depth of the game really begins to show through. A skilled Dead Or Alive player knows not only when to execute the right combinations and counters, but how to integrate the environments to his or her advantage.
Lastly, it would be a cardinal sin to overlook Dead Or Alive 3s stellar graphics. While the game certainly looks impressive in pictures, the superb lighting and smooth, lifelike animation has to be seen in motion to be truly appreciated. Just listing all of the subtle graphical details could fill a small book. Effects such as fire, water, reflections, sunlight, and debris are of unrivaled quality. Ive often succumbed to a deadly blow or two while being momentarily distracted by the richness and realism of the environments.
With such an exceptional fighting engine, gorgeous-looking interactive environments and varied characters, what keeps Dead Or Alive 3 from scoring even higher? Unfortunately, it lacks the creative variety of options available in other fighting games. To its credit, the team battles are very well done and the games practice mode is by far the best in the genre. However, an overall lack of unique features (not to mention the outright laughable story mode) gives the game limited value for solitary players. Nonetheless, it is not only the pinnacle of the series, but a challenging fighting game whose exceptional melding of accessibility and depth makes it both enjoyable and rewarding. Despite its quiet history, Dead Or Alive 3 is here to be heard.
I'll admit that I'm not much of a fan of fighting games on consoles. I usually spent my time playing the Street Fighters and Tekkens in arcades because I believe the experience of a fighting game is much more exciting when you're actually playing against a human opponent. Considering that most of the people I hang around don't really care for video games, it's been hard for me to ever have a good experience with a fighting game at home. I always end up convinced that the computer cheats and is out to get me (which aggravates me to no end).
But that doesn't mean I don't have any fun with console fighting games, or that I can't appreciate their worth. Although I don't consider myself anywhere near as versed in the genre as Mike is, I would like to think I know a good fighting game when I see it and Dead Or Alive 3 is a good fighting game. Even though I spent most of my time with the game alone, I still managed to get a kick out of it.
Being a newbie to the Dead Or Alive franchise, the one gameplay element that really stood out to me was the expansive and interactive environments. Just when you think you've seen the whole level you'll pummel your opponent through a wall and open up something you've never seen before. And with new environments come new obstacles that you can use to your advantage. I was always looking for that tree or light post that I could back my opponent against and knock them out. It's all great stuff, and it really adds a deep element of strategy that is lacking in most fighting games. Not to mention that it also does a great job of immersing you into the game.
I would definitely agree with Mike that Dead Or Alive 3's fighting engine is complex, yet it's very easy to pick up. I started out mindlessly mashing buttons in the beginning, but slowly began to see that it's probably the worst tactic you could use in a fighting game like Dead or Alive 3. The actual fighting is very precise, and I started to see the great advantages of counterattacking and reversals, which are impossible to accomplish with button mashing. Dead Or Alive 3 invites everyone to give it a try with open arms, but like any martial art it takes dedication and concentration to become skilled at it.
In the end, Dead Or Alive 3 is a little shallow, mainly because their isn't much to do when you're by yourself. The gameplay modes become repetitive and quickly run out of steam. Like I said before, I find that fighting games on consoles lack the social interaction aspect that really makes these games shine, and Dead Or Alive 3 is no exception. If I had a bunch of gaming friends who were willing to come over and play all the time, it probably would've been more fun. Dead Or Alive 3 is the kind of game that I wish I could walk around the corner to an arcade, change out five bucks and start taking turns around the cabinet with.
According to ESRB, this game contains: Mature Sexual Themes, Violence
Parents should be aware that although the game is focused on martial arts fighting, there is no blood whatsoever. The sexuality on display is a little over-the-top though, and may not be appropriate for kids.
Fighting Fans, rejoice. This one is a keeper. Its easy-to-use system makes it enjoyable for novices, but the depth of the engine will keep veterans coming back for more.
Xbox owners should enjoy showing off the power of their new console with the games stunning visuals.