Review: Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 (XB360)


Dead or Alive Xtreme 2
Genre: Sports/Other
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo
Release Date: 11/13/06

Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball was a pretty polarizing title as far as opinions go. Whereas the normal DOA titles usually have a pretty wide frame of appeal, DOAXBV was a love it or hate it sort of game, due to A.) the silliness of the concept, B.) the focus on what MMORPG fans call “grinding”, IE repeating the same action for hours to make money, and C.) lots and lots of cheesecake. In Japan, polygon cheesecake is… well, it’s probably looked down upon, but it’s somewhat acceptable; here in the States, liking polygon boobage makes you a weirdo and a freak.

And yet, the title did pretty well for Tecmo and Team Ninja. Well enough that a sequel was planned, well enough that it was released, and well enough that it actually made its way stateside. DOA creator Tomonobu Itagaki made it clear that Dead or Alive Xtreme 2, no longer focusing on the volleyball aspect of the previous title, would feature more to do and would be a more developed experience. Which brings us to the subject of our review, DOAX2. Is it indeed a stronger sequel, as hoped, or is it simply more of the same in prettier wrapping?

Let’s take a look.


1. GAME MODES


There is, as expected, something of a story to DOAX2, but as a wise man once said, “it is only wafer thin”, so let us not dwell on that. As far as game modes go, well, the standard “Travel to Zack Island”, IE “play the game” mode is here. A new Xbox Live play option has been added, which is good. And… same console multiplayer has been removed. I cannot, for the life of me, even begin to comprehend what would possess Team Ninja to do this thing, but it’s obviously not a change for the better. There’s nothing else to the game beyond these two modes, though the single player is really the main attraction of the title, so it is what it is.

Game Modes Rating: 4/10


2. GRAPHICS


DOAX2 looks like DOA4.

This is not meant to be a condemnation; DOA4 looked pretty good when it debuted, overall, but the problem really comes down to the fact that, well, DOA4 looked more than a little like DOA3. DOAX2 obviously has its own sense of visual style, and whether or not you’re going to get into it or not is really going to depend on personal preference. The characters retain their Barbie Doll appearance, which is fine if that’s what you’re into, but in the wake of something like (if we’re going to compare, might as well be like to like) Rumble Roses XX, the characters look incredibly fake by comparison. Characters animate well, but the dreaded hair clipping problem (spaghetti in a Teflon pan) is still here, as is clipping with certain outfits, though this is less common. The effect everyone was on about, the more dynamic breast physics (they bounce independent of one another), has been toned back quite a bit, and looks more realistic, but it’s not quite accurate.

Hey, I just call it as I see it.

Animations also tend to be noticeably recycled in a lot of cases; the pole dance (don’t ask) uses one universal animation, and there’s no real variety to the “Be Friendly” animations either. Oh, and the toes on the girls still look weird, like the characters have block feet; normally this wouldn’t be an issue, but taken in context, it kind of is. The backgrounds by and large look quite nice, though, and the game looks vibrant and attractive in 1080i, at least. Overall, there’s mild variety to the visuals, and while they don’t push the power of the 360 to any sort of noticeable degree, they do look good enough that one would believe that they do look next-gen.

Graphics Rating: 7/10


3. SOUND

Almost all of the music in DOAX2 is recycled from DOAXBV. This means two things: first, if you loved the music, you’ll be happy, but if not, you’ll be thankful for the Custom Soundtrack support; second, it continues the “rehash” theme that permeates the experience. I listened to my own soundtrack, frankly, because if I NEVER hear Christina Aguilera ever again, it’ll be too soon, but your mileage may vary. For those that never played the first game, the tracks are all licensed, and are “island paradise” themed, so you’ll get some Bob Marley and some pop music. If that’s your thing, you’ll be happy; if not, dump some tracks onto the hard drive, or if you don’t have one, buy one.

The voice acting is as expected as well; the English voice acting is okay enough, but the option exists to switch to Japanese voices if you so desire. The English language set is nothing special, but not hurtful either, and the various actors do their job well enough. The sound effects are pretty good, overall, as the sounds of water (running and splashing) sound appropriate, as do the various effects when playing volleyball or playing in the Casino. The aural experience isn’t exactly top notch, but it gets the job done well enough that you should be able to enjoy it reasonably well.

Sound Rating: 6/10


4. CONTROL/GAMEPLAY


The world of DOAX2 is effectively played in one of two manners: you’re either finding stuff, or doing stuff. Finding stuff amounts to looking around the various areas of the game world, and is handled via a text based graphical menu system. You can cycle through the various choices provided to you, then make a choice and, if needed, cycle through further choices. When on Zack Island proper, you’re given several different locations you can visit, each of which offers all sorts of different mini-games that can be played and people you can associate with. You can also go to the Sports Shop to purchase various bikinis and such, the Accessory Shop to, duh, buy accessories, Zack of All Trades (har, har) to buy, uh, stuff that doesn’t fit into any other category, and the Radio Station, to set your tunes. When the day is done, you return to your hotel to rest and relax, and from there you can do a number of things as well, including give gifts to other girls, go to the Casino, and go to sleep. You can also sleep in, but this makes your partner leave you, so be advised.

As noted, when you go to each of the various locations, you generally meet up with other girls. This is where the social interaction dynamic of the game comes in. Essentially, each girl is different from the rest, in interests and personality, and if you want to make friends, you have to know what makes them tick. The game gives you a rough idea of what to look out for with the ladies, but you’ll have to use trial and error to really know what makes them tick. This is one of the more interesting dynamics of the DOAX franchise: giving gifts and such to make friends and get partners. In theory, you can simply buy items that cater to the base interests of the person you’re looking to partner up with, but in practice, this isn’t always possible, so sometimes you’ll have to make educated guesses. DOAX2 has added to the formula somewhat; when you give a girl a gift she really likes (assuming she can wear it), she’ll put it on right there on the spot (complete with a little Sailor Moon sort of animation) to express her gratitude. If a girl likes you enough, you can invite them to be your partner; by doing this, you can play against them in some of the mini-games, as well as play beach volleyball.

If no one is at a location, you can choose to either Relax (by yourself) or “Be Friendly” (if you have a partner). This essentially starts up little cut-scenes where the characters interact with one another, just for ha-has. You can also take pictures of these events if such a thing pleases you, provided you have a camera (one is provided to you at the beginning of the game, or at least one was provided to me), and it’s equipped to do so. This doesn’t really do much, but it’s amusing if you’re into this sort of thing.

And then we come to the mini-games. DOAXBV offered only two; Volleyball and Pool Hopping. DOAX2 offers seven, each of which is of variable quality. They are:


VOLLEYBALL: The crux of DOAXBV, you play two-on-two games of volleyball featuring the DOA girls. For those who’ve played DOAXBV, you should be able to pick the game up quickly, but for those who didn’t, it’s pretty easy to understand: A is for offense (set over the net, spike, serve), B is for defense (pass, receive), the left stick or the D-pad moves you around, and the right stick tells your partner what to do (be offensive, defensive, etc). That’s really about it. Your partner’s mood will affect how well they play; if they like you, they’ll play to the best of their ability… if not, they’ll play poorly. If your partner likes you, they’ll also compliment your well-done serves and spikes, which contributes a cash bonus. Each character also has specific things they excel or stink at (Defense, Technique, Power, etc), and if you keep that in mind, you can build complimentary teams. Unfortunately, you’ll have to look to the manual for those stats, as the game doesn’t tell you what they are; it’s good that they were included, but not so good that they don’t appear anywhere in the product itself.

MARINE RACE: You take on a race around the ocean on jetskis. It’s essentially Waverace 64 in style and design, so if you’ve played that, you’re good. A accelerates, the left and right triggers allow you to bank (lean into a turn), X lets you do stunts… it’s all pretty easy to pick up and learn. You take on other racers (dependant upon how many people are at the location when you go there and if you have a partner; basically, between two to four racers at a time) for cash prizes and whatever bragging rights you can attain over computer characters. You can also use your cash to buy new jetskis which go faster, turn sharper, have more turbo, or whichever.

POOL HOP: Jump across floating pool blocks to make it to the other side. You can play this by yourself or against an opponent. Each button does the same thing (IE makes you jump), but the blocks are colored, and if you press the button that corresponds to the color of the block you’re going for, you get more cash.

BUTT BATTLE: Smack your butt into an opponent’s butt to make them fall off of a block. Exactly what it sounds like. You use the left stick to try and hit or fake out your opponent. That’s… really about it.

TUG OF WAR: Also exactly what it sounds like: you try to pull an opponent off of a floating block without falling off of your floating block. Plays almost identically to Butt Battle.

WATER SLIDE: Go down a water slide on an innertube without falling off. You use the left stick to steer, accelerate and decelerate along the slide until you reach the bottom, one way or the other. Only one person can participate.

BEACH FLAGS: Spam the A button to outrace an opponent to a flag some distance away. That’s about it.

You can also go play in the Casino, as noted, where you can play such standard casino games as Blackjack, Roulette, Poker, and Slot Machines. These tend to be a losing proposition, even if you do know what you’re doing, so they end up being less than worth playing, though you need to play the slots to unlock the Stripper cinematic. Yes, I’m serious. Make of that what you will.

Now, that sounds like a lot, and it is, to be fair. The games all generally play acceptably, and the controls tend to be reasonably responsive overall. And there’s full Xbox Live support for Beach Volleyball and Marine Race that allow you to play against others, which is amusing, and the servers seem stable enough (I didn’t have any real problems, anyway). Indeed, the game can be a lot of fun to play by and large, if you’re accepting of what it does.


And that’s really the problem: the game, for all of its good points, asks you to accept a lot of bad. Volleyball still feels somewhat broken this time around; pressing buttons sometimes produces a “missed it” animation if you press it too early, which seems unneeded, and sometimes attempting to receive/pass the ball can be frustrating because, even though it SEEMS you’re in range to receive it, you’re just not. All of the games get repetitive after a very short period of time, leaving you to grind your way to more cash by repeating the same thing ad infinitum. Butt Battle, Tug of War, Beach Flags, Pool Hop and Water Slide don’t provide nearly enough payout to make doing them worth your while, while alternatively, Beach Volleyball can pay out over 100K per match, which only really motivates you to want to play that. Butt Battle, Tug of War and Pool Hop require lots of trial and error and quick reflexes to win at, and losing these games wastes an entire segment of your three segment day. The Casino games rarely pay out, leaving you praying for a win as you piss away all of your volleyball winings.

But the single biggest complaint one can levy against the game is that it’s the same thing as DOAXBV, flaws and all. You can’t give gifts to your partner but one time, at night, even though you’re standing right there with them. “Be Friendly”, while it’s a good addition, pops up so infrequently as to make it negligible in existence. You still end up doing the same stuff over and over to earn money to buy obscenely priced swimsuits, all in the name of completing your collection. So little was changed or improved, and worst of all, with same console multiplayer stripped from the game, there’s even LESS to do with the game than there should be. In the end, the game plays okay, and functions well enough, but it doesn’t do nearly enough new, and what is new isn’t really done well. You’ll end up doing most of the same things you did in DOAXBV here, and if you wore yourself out trying to unlock the Venus swimsuit for every character there, you might not want to do it again here.

Control/Gameplay Rating: 4/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Replayability is a double-edged sword. On one hand, there are hundreds of swimsuits, accessories, and knick-knacks to unlock, so you’ll have plenty of reason to return to the game if it interests you. Xbox Live support also gives the game some added depth beyond the single player experience. On the other hand, DOAX2 is essentially all about grinding and eye candy; if the idea of this does nothing for you, you won’t be back. The lack of same console multiplayer, considering it was in the previous installment, also hurts the replay quite a bit.

Replayability Rating: 5/10


6. BALANCE

DOAX2 is of variable difficulty, dependant upon what game you choose to play, though all of the games save Tube Racing skew upwards on the difficulty meter. Butt Bump, Tug-of-War and Block Hop in particular are of above average difficulty, especially considering the marginal reward involved in completing them. Volleyball is more challenging than it was in DOAXBV, and while it’s not unmanageable, it can be a pain. The Flag Race is dependant upon your ability to spam the A button, and Jetski racing depends in large part upon the quality of your craft as well as your skills. I mean, there’s not really a goal you’re being impeded from by losing or anything, but the games seem to be on an inverse challenge to reward scale, and the game isn’t really forgiving to casual players in the least. Considering that this is the sort of game that caters to the whole “relaxation” dynamic, well, this seems rather counter-productive. Still, those looking for a challenge in such a game (if any of you exist out there) will find this a rewarding experience.

Balance Rating: 5/10


7. ORIGINALITY

On one hand, DOAX2 (as far as American audiences are concerned) really does its own thing, and the only game really like it is DOAXBV. It’s a unique entity unto itself, and there aren’t really any games besides DOAX2 that do what it does. On the other hand, it’s largely identical to DOAXBV, save for the addition of a couple extra minigames, some new swimsuits, and XBL online play. The overall concept and execution of DOAX2 is unique, relative to the other things, but relative to the franchise itself, it treads little new ground.

Originality Rating: 5/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

The average vacation can be run through in only a couple of hours, and if you spend all of your time lying around on the beach and sleeping in, you can complete a vacation in no time flat, so I’m not really sure how to rate this. How addicted you become to DOAX2 is really going to depend on how much you want something or things in the game. As an experience, it’s not too addictive, because there’s not really a point to it, but that’s really part of its appeal. DOAX2 does have a simple “pick up and play” dynamic, as you can pretty much save at any time and come back to the game later, so you could play it in short bursts if time is limited. Still, it’s not really addictive in the traditional sense, simply because you can see and do everything in a very small period of time, and once you’ve done that, well, all that’s left is collecting everything you see.

Addictiveness Rating: 4/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Your interest in DOAX2 is really going to depend on four things: 1.) if you’re into playing a game for hours and hours to collect stuff, 2.) whether you like cheesecake games, 3.) whether you like the DOA franchise, and 4.) whether you liked the first DOAX. If you answer yes to at least two of those questions, DOAX2 is most likely going to appeal to you. If not, it isn’t. It’s difficult to know whether a game like this will interest you if you’ve never played a game like it before, though, but I would say if you can accept it for what it is, it’s worth your attentions.

Appeal Rating: 5/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS


No, we’re not going to make any “playing with yourself” jokes. We’re not going to make any jokes about Itagaki being accused of sexual harassment. And we’re certainly not going to go off on any profanity-laden tirades. We’ll just wrap it up and move onward.

Way back when I bought DOAXBV, I enjoyed it, but I was pretty well aware that it was a title of limited substance that would not hold up to close scrutiny. It’s honestly not that hard to make something like this with depth; I mean, I came up with all sorts of things that would have added to the experience and really seemed like no-brainer ideas. And some things HAVE been added to DOAX2 to make it a more variable, in-depth experience. The problem is, not enough was added to really make it a “better” game, and combined with the removal of same console multiplayer, DOAX2 ends up feeling exactly like DOAXBV: lots of potential, squandered. Logical things like being able to give presents to your teammate who’s right there with you were left out, but pole dances were added in, and while that might appeal to some people, others are going to be left frustrated with the fact that things that SHOULD have been incorporated into the game were simply ignored. As a $60 title, DOAX2 feels rushed, marginally improved, and not worth paying for what is essentially an expanded version of the same game.

Well, at least Team Ninja is consistent. Assuming Itagaki wins his counter-suit and receives a large cash settlement, maybe he could use the money to buy a bigger imagination. Just saying.

Miscellaneous Rating: 3/10

The Scores:
Game Modes: 4/10
Graphics: 7/10
Sound: 6/10
Control/Gameplay: 4/10
Replayability: 5/10
Balance: 5/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 4/10
Appeal: 5/10
Miscellaneous: 3/10

Overall Score: 4.8/10
Final Score: 5.0 (AVERAGE).

Short Attention Span Summary
DOAX2 is ultimately an upgrade of DOAXVB, for better or worse. Fans of the franchise will love how it feels like the original with some interesting updates, and fans of the DOA franchise will enjoy seeing the ladies decked out in all sorts of silly outfits. But it does very little to address the issues from the first game, and there still isn’t really a lot to do that’s worth doing. Worth checking out if you’re a fan, but otherwise, it’s not really anything special.