Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is the upcoming Xbox 360 sequel to Tecmo's Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball for the original Xbox. However, as evidenced by the game's title, the second entry in this new branch of the DOA family tree is set to offer a more diverse experience than its predecessor. While you'll still play beach volleyball, DOAX2 is serving up a host of mostly fast-paced games that offer breezy fun. We had the chance to spend some quality time with a work-in-progress version of the upcoming game recently and were pleasantly surprised at what the game is evolving into: a minigame collection.
Before we go over the various minigames we played, we'll need to fill you in on the game's epic story of love, loss, and betrayal--well, not really. Come on, people, this is a pack of chicks in bikinis frolicking around--does there have to be a story? Well, in fact there is a bit of narrative to provide a thread for the vacation. When last we saw the ladies of DOA, they were all wrapping up their unfinished business with the evil DOATEC (Dead or Alive Tournament Committee) corporation. Helen in particular was going through a rough patch, what with being stuck in a burning building and all.
The work-in-progress version let us try out six of the seven minigames set to be in the game. The minigames will pop up in two ways, either as part of the vacation mode, which will find you engaging in a variety of activities with your fellow ladies, or as quick stand-alone games you can play independent of vacation mode. The demo featured beach volleyball, marine race, pool hopping, butt battle, beach flags, and tug-of-war, as well as an unlockable pictorial mode that will require a hefty amount of dedication to open up.
Beach volleyball is a returning sport that should be familiar to fans of the original game. The version we played dropped us into a match set up between some cabanas and the ocean. We were put in control of everyone's favorite ninja, Kasumi, and paired up with Nubian princess Lisa to take on Kokoro and Ayane. As in the original game, DOAX2's volleyball is all about carefully timed button presses and positioning. However, while the original game was pretty brutal, DOAX2's volleyball has a tighter feel to it. The controls already felt a bit better than those in the original game. The basic scheme lets you move your character with the left analog stick, pass or set to your teammate with B, return the ball and spike with A, and change your formation with the right analog stick. A single press on A lets you do an overhand serve. Pressing the A button while the left analog is pushed right lets you do a jump serve, while holding left and pressing A will let you do an underhand serve. When receiving the ball you'll rely on the B button--a single press lets you do a normal pass, and holding it down lets you set an attack.
Marine race is a new Jet Ski mode that feels like equal parts Wave Race and Splashdown. The demo dropped us into a five-woman race to be the first to complete two laps around Zack Island. The race isn't as straightforward as it sounds, as you'll need to make your way through a series of markers set inside the course. By doing so you'll be able to earn a precious speed boost, which is key to winning. You'll earn your boost by passing through a set number of markers; the catch is that if you miss one, your tally clears, so you'll need to be precise. Fortunately, the control scheme stays pretty accessible, although performing actions while racing takes some getting used to. You'll control your craft with the left analog stick and accelerate with the A button. The left and right triggers will let you bank, which will help you take some of the tight turns necessary to get through the course. Once you get the hang of things and get the urge to show off some, you'll be able to perform different actions that will increase the number of points you earn over the course of the race. You'll be able to change your riding style by holding a direction on the analog stick and pressing the X button. Holding down and X lets you perform a back-foot stance, right and X is a back ride, and up and X is the "cowboy." You'll hold the pose for as long as you keep the button pressed. The benefit of holding the pose is that you'll earn more points as you race. You can also earn points by performing actions off of jumps. The demo let us do two--a barrel roll by pushing the analog stick while we were in the air, and a backflip by pushing the stick down.
The remaining games were much more casual and favored pick-up-and-play action in the manner of Mario Party. Pool hopping is a jaunt across a pool by hopping from different floating cushions. The control is a simple one-button system that lets you do short and long jumps depending on how long you hold down the button. As with volleyball, timing is key to success in the race--the computer-controlled players did not falter. Though the game is deceptively simple, there's an added challenge for those eager to test their skills. Each of the cushions is color-coded to match the Xbox 360's face buttons. If you're fast, you can use the appropriate button as you race and earn bonus points.
Butt battle is a mighty test of skill that requires you to knock your opponent off the floating platform the two of you are currently occupying. Now, while fans of such reality TV shows as Flavor of Love would think the most obvious way to go about winning would be to start throwing down and pulling hair, the game takes a more subtle approach. You'll simply haul back and "bump" your opponent with your bikini-clad buttocks until you edge your opponent off the platform. The game's control rests solely with the left analog stick, which lets you move and attack. Tapping right on the stick triggers a weak attack, while a left-to-right motion unleashes a strong attack. Pushing left lets you dodge incoming butt attacks, while pushing up or down lets you sidestep. It's all very easy to do and more than a touch goofy, but it's also pretty fun.
Beach flags is a Track-and-Field-style race to nab a flag before your opponent does. The race starts with both you and your opponent on your stomachs. When you get the cue to start, you'll have to mash on the A button repeatedly. When you get close to the flag, you can hit B and jump for it. The move is perfect for pulling off a dramatic upset if your opponent is ahead. It's all a bit absurd, but it somehow manages to be pretty addictive.
Lastly, tug-of-war is another test of skill, with you and your opponent facing off on floating platforms. As in real-life tug-of-war, your goal is to pull your foe toward you. In the case of DOAX2's version of tug-of-war, this means yanking your foe into the water. Your main control revolves around using the analog stick to pull. Pushing the stick left pulls the rope, while pushing it right feints to throw off your opponent. In the instances when you're about to lose your balance and take a plunge, you can mash on the A button to regain your balance.
The last element we were able to try was the virtual pictorial mode. The unlockable mode will let you string together different provocative clips of the 10 ladies and watch them. The work-in-progress version of the mode featured a seven-slot strip you could put clips into. Once you've arranged everything properly, you can just sit back and watch the gals perform such everyday actions as riding an inflatable killer whale bareback, straddling enormous tree stumps, or splashing around in the pool. Absurd? Yes. Creepy? A little bit. Funny? In an absurd and creepy way, yes, very.
Now while the various mingames and pictorial mode let us get a sense of what to expect when playing the game, there's a lot that we didn't see but were able to get more information on. The seventh minigame is the slide game seen in the game trailer that finds the lovely ladies heading down a watery sluice. The adventure mode, which is set to debut in a few weeks at the Tokyo Game Show, will feature the same gameplay mechanics as the first game, and find you buying gifts and trying to bond with your fellow island dwellers. You'll find a comparable number of bathing suits and items to collect as in the original game. The big difference will be a greater amount of variety for the assorted gear. The game's balance is being tweaked and, as a result, will offer a more rewarding experience for those who were disappointed by the original DOAX. Independent of the adventure mode, you'll find a casino with a range of card games to try out just like in the original game. The bigger deal for many, however, will likely be the online mode, which will borrow elements from DOA4. Basically you'll be able to go online and take on people in volleyball and Jet Ski matches. The mode will use a streamlined version of the lobby system seen in DOA4 and will cast you as the animal avatar of your choice in an island lobby. The game's achievements, for those wondering, appear to revolve around collecting the plethora of bathing suits in the game.
The visuals are looking quite sharp thanks to a modified version of the DOA4 engine. The character models are on par with DOA4's, although they're now a good deal bouncier than they were in the fighter. The game's producer, Tomonobu Itagaki, pointed out that due to the fact that this year is DOA's 10th birthday, DOAX2 is going back to the franchise's bouncy roots. Therefore, you can plan on bounce-age of the highest order. The environments we saw looked great and featured a high level of detail. However, the game also features a robust new addition in the form of the tech behind the Jet Ski portion of the adventure. The water sequences merit mention for their stylized water, which is flashy and gorgeous. The frame rate moved along pretty well, though there were some moments of inconsistency.
The audio provided just the kind of accompaniment you'd expect from a DOAX game. The ladies are all in fine voice as they cheer, cry, or screech their way through the various games. The tunes we heard to accompany the sassy action were catchy and well suited for the goofy action.
Based on what we've played so far, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is shaping up to be a more robust follow-up to its predecessor. The minigames are fun and are funny to watch. The one interesting thing to note is that Tecmo may well find itself in the same position it was in when the original Dead or Alive shipped 10 years ago--despite the fact that the game was a solid fighter, people fixated on the breast action. While DOAX2 isn't in the same league as the first fighter in the series, it is still a solid game that has the potential to be very fun. We'll be anxious to see more of the game, especially the adventure mode, in the coming weeks. Look for more soon.