And if the fighters look great, their environments are doubly so. The biggest levels are now enormous, sprawling affairs, full of steps to be knocked down, windows and walls to be pushed through, and water to wade through while you’re trading blow for blow. There’s an amazing jungle temple with an audience of jeering monkeys, a fantastic Vegas street-scene with cars streaking through while bystanders idly watch the action, and some ludicrously pretty scenes in a Kyoto garden. The lighting, with some beautiful HDR stuff has to be seen to be believed. I’m told that some have found DoA4’s graphics underwhelming – that it looks too much like a current generation game. Perhaps they’re playing it on a 14in ALBA TV, because on a half-decent high-definition screen that’s simply not a sensible conclusion.
Admittedly, there are some rough edges. For the most part, the hair looks amazing, but there are times when it just flows in the wrong direction or simply looks odd. There are also two stages – an animal filled safari scene and a dinosaur filled research area – that look thrown together, with odd shadows missing and the local fauna seeming mute and unresponsive. If we must pick holes in these wonderful graphics, then these are probably the biggest ones to pick.
In terms of characters, we get the usual DoA stars – Ryu (ninja), Bass (redneck wrestler), Lei Feng (kung-fu babe), Kasumi and Ayame (ninja babes) – plus the return of some old favourites such as Christie (kinky leather-clad assassin) and Brad Wong (part rock-god, part drunken master). New contenders include Kokoro (wannabe geisha), La Mariposa (masked wrestler in bikini) and Eliot (wussy-looking young apprentice). Kokoro has a nice range of high-speed punches and deceptive combos, while La Mariposa offers a more direct fighting style than most of the wrestler types, making her a good bet if you like grappling but want more straight offensive power and speed. Eliot seems useless at first – and worst, they’ve gone and made him British – but he’s actually fast and fluid if you can chain his moves together. All in all, this is a great roster of fighters, and the fact that most feel cribbed from Tekken or Virtua Fighter stereotypes can’t change that. If only Tecmo could do something about the single-player storylines. The central plot seems to have something to do with persecuted ninjas and a plan to blow up the sinister DOATEC headquarters, but if you can work out what’s going on you’re doing a whole lot better than I. At one point a fight breaks out over a vegetable. I ask you, why?