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Now, the worst accusation against DoA has always been that it’s all about the visuals, not the combat. In fact, I’d say this is more than a little unfair. Sure, Virtua Fighter has a more elegant, balanced and precise fighting system; that’s why it’s always going to be the choice for the hardcore fighter, and why it’s always going to be a bit impenetrable for the novice. Tekken, meanwhile, has a more straightforward, uncompromising brutality, and probably the more exciting collection of combos and special moves. However, DoA’s system is accessible, versatile and deep, with a great range of moves, counters and combos, and a grappling system that actually works. I can appreciate that, on a technical level, it’s not quite up there with Virtua Fighter, but (whisper it) it might actually be a bit more fun to play.
It’s not dumbed down, either. Button mashing will get you part of the way through the single-player mode, but at some point you’re going to have to think tactically. And while there will be times in the seventh or eighth bout when the computer player demolishes you without mercy, there is always some way out, either by playing to the strengths of your character, or by playing against the weaknesses of his. Only on a few occasions did I feel that I could only win through persistence and luck.
And the single-player mode continues to hold my interest long after I’ve seen enough to write this review. Partly, that’s because I’m curious to see what more ridiculous or worryingly pervy costumes the game might have in store, but it’s also because the unlockable characters and levels are worth the winning. As you may have heard, a female Spartan from Halo and matching space station arena are there for the taking, if you have the time to spare. DoA4 holds a horrendous “just one more go” lure for me. However hard the kicking, I just keep coming back for more.
However, as everyone knows, the real key to a fighting game’s longevity is the multiplayer action. One on one on the same TV screen, DoA4 works perfectly. The solid roster of characters offers plenty of variety, and there’s always some hope if someone feels unbeatable in an evening of winner stays on. If only the same could be said of the game’s online mode.