Dead Or Alive 2 (PS2) - Mike Bather - 9/10

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Dead Or Alive 2 [game information] Version Tested: PAL Genre: Fighting Publisher: Tecmo Developer: Team Ninja

The ladies with the hugely inflated breasts are back for the 'Hardcore' PS2 version with a few extra levels for the Tag mode, two new playable characters, many more costumes but unfortunately no nudity. As with the previous outing on the Dreamcast the action is fast, violent and stylish but troubled by a lack of any real apparent depth compared with other beat 'em ups such as the Tekken series.

Kicking off with a nice intro that is comprised solely of cut scene footage and in game action you are introduced to the characters, mostly from the original game and it looks nothing short of fantastic. The modes of play are a pretty standard affair and include Story, Vs, Team, Time Attack, Tag Battle and Survival, my own personal favourite being the survival mode, unfortunately set in the bland but functional Danger Zone arena. In addition to the standard modes taken from the DC version there are two new additions called Battle Record and Watch. Battle Record allows you to choose two characters, record the scrap that follows and then play it back, altering camera angles. I'll leave it up to your imagination as to why Team Ninja actually incorporated this feature, but I expect it is to do with the fascination with anime females in Japan…The Watch mode basically does what it says on the tin and is of fair use to see moves or combo's you have yet to see.

Regarding the Story mode I still have yet to grasp what the heck is going on and do not feel that it is really needed. Fights kick off with a cut scene depicting the two opponents growling at each other but then roll straight into the actual gameplay itself, really impressive stuff. All the characters, apart from Tengu and Bayman, are playable in the story mode and completion of this, accompanied by the collection of items in Survival mode, unlocks the characters costumes. Any fan of the original DOA may be a little disappointed here as there just isn't as many costumes to be unlocked. It's also a little unfortunate that some of the additional costumes are stinky, to say the least.

The way the stages are set out with multiple levels is a true step forward for the Beat 'em up genre that has gradually been getting rather stale since the release of Soul Calibur. The amount of joy you get from counter attacking your opponent and then belting them off the top of a waterfall, through a stained glass window or over the edge of a glacier to the level below is exceptional. The effects that accompany such actions guarantee a grin of pleasure if you're playing alone or a mocking comment coupled with a sly grin if you're beating down one of your friends. I can guarantee that you will sweat on Vs once two players have mastered all the counters and many of the available combo's.

The Tag mode is a lot better executed than TTT's as well. Instead of the lazy tacked-on feel of the Tag mode in Tekken where the characters just step in and out of the action, DOA2's characters leap in from the boundaries, throwing in a quick somersault here and there to boot. The Tag moves are simple to execute and depending on the compatibility between the two characters chosen deal various amounts of damage. They also look damn good too, with some ridiculously over the top moves. Unfortunately, without a multitap and even four friends in the near vicinity to play with I have yet to experience the full four-player action…

Apart from the excellent graphics, lighting effects and super smooth action this game has a real hidden beauty. Not appearing in the well endowed female characters showing their underwear, the multilevel arenas or the extended array of counter attacks but appearing in the pure simplicity of play that goes nowhere near the complexity of Tekken with its 'button for each limb' set up. Dead or Alive 2 works with three buttons set to punch, kick, 'free' and grab (free + punch) and is a million miles away from the daunting task that is Tekken. The 'free' button in conjunction with a low, high or middle directional tap executes the counters and the left analog stick enables you to quickly move around the opponent.

Grabs and combo grabs are dealt with by assigning two buttons to one and as you progress in the game and check out the sparring mode you soon find that there IS a hidden depth and that there are a fair few moves that can only be done by pressing three buttons at once, but they can all be assigned to one button, for example L2. Once set up this does open up more opportunity to expand your game and it is possible to string together the odd ten hit combo with certain characters, but I have yet to see whether or not you can do it with all of them.

Sonically DOA2:HC remains much the same as the DC version. Unfortunately it is not my personal choice, to say the least, yet it remains suited to the in-game action. Sound effects are great though and a point I should mention is the game doesn't translate to English at all with pre-fight verbal battles sounding ludicrous. Do yourself a favour and use the nicely retained Japanese speech.

So there you have it, a highly recommended and playable game with some excellent new features such as the multiple level arenas to revive the Beat 'em up genre.

Game Score: 9/10 Reviewed By: Mike Bather