Originally created 12/31/01

Xbox's Dead or Alive 3 is amazing



VIDEO GAME REVIEW: 'Dead or Alive 3' second "must-have" for Xbox Microsoft's new Xbox now has two must-have games - "Halo" and "Dead or Alive 3," perhaps the best fighting game ever made for a console.

"Dead or Alive 3," developed by Team Ninja for Tecmo, is an amazing creation, with spectacular graphics, moves that will stun you with their complexity and a variety of characters to keep you entertained for weeks.

You can play on many levels. Switch on Watch mode and marvel at the moves of the combatants. Or jump in and bang on the buttons; even without the finger-snarling combos, the combat is deeply satisfying. Each combatant has his or her own Story mode, individually short but collectively a great experience.

You can also play Survival mode, which pits you against a series of opponents without your health bar being restored between battles. And then there's the wild and wonderful Versus mode, in which you take on another live opponent, either one-on-one or in a tag team match.

There's not much of an actual plot; something about Earth's destruction and a World Combat Championship.

But never mind. It's the animation and the fighting that's important, and both are unparalleled.

The manual provides dozens of moves for each character, from simple multiple punches or kicks to such extravaganzas as pro wrestler Bass Armstrong's Buffalo Train or smack-talking Zack's Windup Bazooka.

The arenas are simply impossible to describe; they must be seen. Each has its own achingly beautiful images, from the Ice Cave's amazing water effects to Iron Hell's maze of pipes and gouts of flame. Many offer multiple levels; toss your opponent off a ledge and then follow the falling fighter down to continue the battle.

But be careful. The artificial intelligence is a lot smarter than you, and if you leave your opponents the slightest opening, they will smash you flat. It's the best fighting AI I've seen.

Graphics get an A-plus; they are crystal clear, razor sharp and use every color known. The characters look human (the human ones, anyhow), with the movement of clothes and hair and muscles incredibly detailed. Explosions and other dramatic effects are dazzling. Check out the gorgeous reflections of Las Vegas lights on the gleaming white paint of Zack's limo. You've never seen anything like it. Before you know it, you've been drawn in by the environment on the screen and you're hooked. This could be the best-looking video game of all time.

Sound gets a B. The effects are excellent, but the three Aerosmith tunes are nothing special. Generic Japanese background music fills in the gaps. Environmental sounds are great; listen to the crunch of snow underfoot or the crash of powerful blows. Maybe they should just have let the sounds of combat stand by themselves.

Control gets an A. Make sure you set the controller up the way you like it, and the Xbox's (unfairly) maligned device works smoothly and efficiently. The game loads like lightning, letting you fight on with no lag time. If you are defeated, hit Continue and you're back in the arena in seconds.

"Dead or Alive 3" still has me talking to myself, and I've been playing it for two weeks. The combination of unbelievable visuals and explosive fighting has never been equaled.

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"Dead or Alive 3" is rated T, for ages 13 and up.