Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore Hands-On

A great deal of speculation has been floating about regarding exactly what Tecmo is changing for the US release of its star PS2 fighter, Dead or Alive 2, so we played an early version of the game to find out.


Released alongside the Dreamcast version in Japan, the PS2 version of Dead or Alive 2 really fails to showcase exactly what the PlayStation 2 is capable of. Compared directly to the Dreamcast version, Dead or Alive 2 on the Japanese PlayStation 2 wasn't really that much better, and the game suffered heavy criticism because of its rushed nature. Dead or Alive 2 fans can rejoice, however, as Tecmo is taking a considerable amount of time to make the US version of Dead or Alive 2 much better and more complete than the Japanese version, even going so far as changing the game's name to Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore.

Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore will feature a whopping ten different game modes. The story mode is akin to a traditional arcade mode; you select a character and fight your way through the game, while small cutscenes between the action explain why your character is motivated to complete the quest. The time-attack mode gauges how many enemies you can defeat in a certain amount of time, the survival mode pits you against an endless slew of enemies until you're finally defeated, and the versus mode allows you to play against friends. The tag-battle mode is set up much like Tekken Tag Tournament; you pick a team of two characters and fight another duo, switching out characters as their health gets too low and performing team attacks. The team battle simply lets you chose a team of up to five characters and fight it out one-on-one until every member of one of the teams is eliminated. The sparring mode allows you to brush up on your skills, while the watch mode simply lets you watch a set of demos. Not much is known about the remaining two modes, UPS and battlerec.

The fighting in DOA2: HC hasn't been changed for the American version. You use the face buttons for your standard punching and kicking, as well as grappling and reversals. The shoulder buttons switch out characters in the tag mode. Using a combination of punching and kicking with the directional pad, you can trigger several different high and low striking combinations. But what DOA2 is really known for is its amazing reversal system. The "free" button, when triggered at exactly the right moment, can counter a strike or a throw and cause damage to the attacker while preventing damage to you. Of course, even a counter can be reversed, and sometimes the action can go back and forth for some time. While the system itself hasn't been changed any from the Japanese version, the counter system seems to be a little more difficult to successfully pull off, resulting in more action-oriented gameplay.

The game sports some incredibly lush backgrounds. There are several new arenas in Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, all of which feature interactive environments and multilevel fighting. One of the most innovative features of Dead or Alive 2 is the multilevel fighting, which allows you to move through different parts of the level while continuing the action. This means that characters can be knocked through the stained glass windows of towering cathedrals, only to resume the action once both characters reach the ground below. This effect is simply astonishing and really motivates you to try to find the breakable areas of a level. Some of the visual effects found in the levels are intense. The game features some amazing motion blur, spectacular lighting effects, and plenty of little realistic details, such as the top layer of snow covering the ground gently blowing away. The characters have been refined, and they now look more realistic than ever. The game pulses with a half-techno, half-rock soundtrack and plenty of loud movielike sound effects. Thwacks and thumps are clearly heard over the music, and grunts and shrieks are audible as the action accelerates.

Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore is a definite improvement over the Japanese PS2 version and should please fans of both the genre and the series. Owners of the Dreamcast version may not be swayed by the PS2 version's extra features, but anyone who doesn't already have DOA2 should definitely keep an eye on this game when it's released alongside the PS2 this October.

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