Everybody was Kung-Fu fighting...
Most of us have absolutely no idea how to fight. I mean sure, we get drunk
and mad and try to kick and punch each other, but it always ends up looking
like a bad Three Stooges skit. Arms flailing and fingers flying, a street
brawl between two untrained fighters is one of the most ridiculous and entertaining
spectacles you can hope to see, coming in just behind blind midget breakdancing
and monkeys doing, well, anything.
Fighting games serve to satiate our total lack of combat prowess by letting
us pretend that we know all sorts of kick-ass martial arts. We can perform flying
round kicks, tiger punches, foot sweeps and dragon chops from the relative safety
of the couch. Really the only trouble we can get in is pulling a muscle while
attempting one of those Ultra Super Mega Street Fighter moves or staining the
carpets by stepping on a loose Cheeto.
So it comes as no surprise that two of the high profile games for the PS2
are brawlers. The first, Tekken Tag,
offered little new to fighting fans, opting instead to refine and perfect an
already proven system. The second is DOA 2: Hardcore, which, for all
intents and purposes, does pretty much the same thing, albeit with much bigger
Hardcore is essentially an enhanced version of Dead
or Alive 2, which came out for the Dreamcast in the US and the PS2 in Japan.
For the most part it's the same game, though Hardcore sports a few very
nifty new features.
But first, the basics. The fighting system in DOA is geared towards
button mashing, as there aren't a billion moves for each character. To combat
this, the game has a one-button reversal system that can counter just about
any blow. The result is a game of timing and tension rather than learning a
bunch of combos.
Visually, this ends up looking great. Hardcore is a very pretty game,
showing off the power of the PS2 nicely...though not any better than the Dreamcast
version. Still, the snow level looks amazing, as do the stages with sunsets.
The characters look terrific. Seamless polygons and incredibly lifelike movements
coupled with the reversal system and multi-tiered levels lead to one of the
most cinematic action games in town. You'll grab a kick in mid-air and counter
with a three-punch reversal, which sends your opponent sailing over the edge
of a castle wall for a 50-foot freefall drop. Then you pounce down after him
and continue the fight. This is good stuff.
Story mode allows you to take any of the 8 characters through a series of battles
to uncover their past. Or at least that was the concept, though the end product
is a thoroughly disjointed and ill-conceived excuse for a plot. I've played
through with every character, read the manual from cover to cover, and still
have NO IDEA WHAT'S GOING ON. Next time, someone hire a guy (or baby, or a chimp)
to write a decent story.
The other modes include Time Attack, Sparring and Tag Team, which pits 2 on
2. This allows for some brutal double team throws. A few new levels have been
added in Tag mode, which is a nice touch. One brand new mode altogether allows
you to actually record an entire fight for playback, so you can slow-mo the
massacre. It's really cool, though I wish they integrated it into the other
modes rather than make it an entire mode unto itself. Any garage band would
tell you that sometimes the coolest stuff happens when you least expect it,
not when you happen to hit the "record" button.
Survival mode has been altered a bit as well. Rather than just going for as
many kills as possible, you're going for points. The longer you last and the
more ass you kick leads to a higher score. You can also collect items, which
can give added health and eventually open up new costumes and stuff.
Speaking of which, there are a ton of new costumes to unlock, though doing
so is a royal pain. You have to beat each mode a million times with each guy.
Ah, nothing like a reward for repetition. Practice may make perfect, but I'd
gladly take "fun" instead.
Sadly, there are only two new characters, one of which (Bayman) is just a tweaked
version of a standard character (Leon.) That means that after unlocking everything,
there are only 10 playable characters. Considering what other fighting games
offer (Soul Calibur, anyone?),
this is a measly helping and was clearly just an afterthought. It's too bad,
really, since the gameplay is so fun.
What would DOA be without boob jubbling (which, by the way, is Tecmo's
technical term for the excessive breast bounciness)? The girls of DOA
let it all hang out, but I'm disappointed that they didn't integrate the jubbling
into the fighting. I keep waiting for a move called the "Slammary!"
The sound effects are fine, though the music is just awful. Can we stop with
the 1988 heavy metal guitar riffs? I didn't know Motley Crue had a patent on
The big question is obvious: how does this stack up against Tekken Tag?
Well, that's sort of like asking how Frosted Flakes compare with Fruit
Loops. They're both sugar-coated and they're both bad for you, but they
taste different. Tekken fans will probably dislike the somewhat limited
depth of DOA Hardcore, though the cool reversal system and tremendous
graphics make it worth the price of admission for most.