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Dead or Alive 4 preview

One of the most impressive pieces of footage from the Microsoft E3 2005 press conference was of Team Ninja's Dead or Alive 4, the latest installment in the bone-crunching brawler from Team Ninja.

One of the most impressive pieces of footage from the Microsoft E3 2005 press conference was of Team Ninja's Dead or Alive 4, the latest installment in the bone-crunching brawler from Team Ninja.

Given Team Ninja's enthusiastic reception of the Xbox -- releasing such titles as Dead or Alive Ultimate, Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, and the critically acclaimed Ninja Gaiden -- it's not entirely surprising to see Dead or Alive 4 on the Xbox 360. And, we suppose the pure visual quality of the title isn't all that surprising either, especially considering that Ninja Gaiden is still one of the best-looking games available for any current console.

Yes, oh ye of little faith, DOA4 looks good. The five-minute-long video shows a number of fighters, including some new faces as well as some old favourites, and it also showcases the trademark multilevel fighting arenas of the series. The first image is of the self-proclaimed "ultimate Ninja in the universe", Ryu Hayabusa, who seems content to stand around looking ominous atop some anonymous high-rise building in an urban landscape. The camera doesn't stay on him very long, though, as it quickly flips to a Japanese setting, featuring a bridge surrounded by cherry blossoms, on which a new character is performing a slow-moving kata. Soon enough, Kasumi comes in to attempt to deliver a beatdown, showing off some of the new multitier-level features.

One of the noticeable things throughout the level, and throughout most of the levels featured in the video, is that many of the barriers separating high portions of a level from the lower portions aren't actually destructible. Rather than a cliched explosion of wood or glass, many of the barriers in DOA4 are solidly constructed, forcing the character thrown into it to bounce up and over it before falling back down to the lower level of the arena. And indeed this is true in this level, as Kasumi is quickly stunned and knocked into the wooden handrails on the bridge, bouncing high up into the air, and then falling into the water underneath the bridge. The unnamed new character, a Japanese female bedecked in traditional dress (save for her practical sneakers), quickly jumps the railing to follow the action down into the ankle-deep water, where the fight continues. Kasumi turns the tables, though, performing some of her classic maneuvers to beat the new character down, and finishing the bout with the oft-imitated wall-jump dash maneuver.

That's just one fight, though, and three or four others are shown in the video, each showcasing a new character or a new arena. Some of the noticeable features include a long set of steps that act as a barrier between the upper and lower levels of an arena. Rather than being simply kicked off the top of the stairs, though, one of the new characters is grabbed by the neck and dragged face-first down the entire flight of steps. In another level, featuring a Las Vegas street motif, one of the combatants actually gets run down by a police car, which seems to be a randomly appearing mobile obstacle that players will have to either avoid as they fight or shove their opponents into.

Two of the constant elements of Team Ninja games are random wackiness and well-endowed females, and DOA4 seems to be continuing this tradition, sometimes even in the same character. For example, one of the new characters is a busty female wrestler, who appears in full wrestling regalia, including a mask. Zack's trademark alternate costume, in which he appears to be a fully grown version of Tinkle from The Wind Waker, is also apparently going to make a comeback, as he's shown in it while fighting a skeleton king, of all things.

All in all, DOA4 seems like it'll be a faithful continuation of the previous titles in the series, featuring loads of intense hand-to-hand combat, multitiered arenas, and interesting new characters.

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