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At its core, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is a technical showcase for the shapely heroines of Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive series. You don’t have to look much farther than the opening cinematic sequence to know that the game is out to provide you with fan service in the purest sense. There’s quite a lot of suggestive material to be found here, with loads of cleavage and g-strings, and some of the bounciest breasts you’ve ever seen. The game never crosses the line towards the obscene, much to the chagrin of those still looking for that mythical Tomb Raider nude code, but it comes pretty close to being an interactive Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. If all you’re looking for is pretty, jiggling girls and something that’ll show off the latest in technical achievements in graphics, then you can stop reading now, as on the visual front, the game most definitely delivers.
No matter how shallow the rest of the game may be, Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 features some of the most attractive graphics we’ve ever seen. The assorted locales and landscapes are postcard-perfect, really capturing the look and feel of a picturesque island paradise. And more importantly, the visiting ladies of the Dead or Alive tournament look even better than they did in Dead or Alive 4. Their animations are silky smooth, and when they’re playing poolside or going for a swim, it’s hard not to remark on how great it all looks. The girls lack in certain features that would make them more lifelike, as they have flat skin textures, so you won’t find any wrinkles, pores, or other blemishes, something that was touched on by the impressive-looking Rumble Roses, a game that even gave its girls realistic stretch marks. This fine line that was drawn between realism and fantasy keeps the girls from entering that Uncanny Valley territory, where digital characters can appear lifeless and downright scary. Still, some may find something disturbing about objectifying these girls, considering their youthful faces and anime-inspired facial features. How attractive the girls are to you is really a matter of personal taste, and your satisfaction with the game is entirely contingent on this.
The physics behind the character models need special mention, particularly the effect that allows for their ample bosoms to jiggle and bounce independently. While it may be unrealistic at times, if you can suspend disbelief, you may get a chuckle or two out of the sheer absurdity of it all. Some people love this stuff, and more power to them. Of course, real women don’t very often look like these do, and that’s understandable, as Itagaki and Team Ninja have created idealized versions of most gamers’ dream girl. These are world-class martial artists, wrestling champions and ninjas, not the barista at the local Starbucks that won’t give you the time of day.
To provide you with something to do as you watch the girls play poolside, you can take pictures of them, collecting snapshots for, ahem, later viewing. The girls don’t notice the cameraman taking the shots, and the whole thing feels very voyeuristic and even somewhat creepy.
It’s almost unfathomable why the decision was made to change the mechanics behind the original DOA Xtreme Volleyball game. You have a single camera perspective, giving you a sideline view of the action, which works well for providing plenty of good looks at the characters’ posteriors, but not very much as far as depth perception, making it very hard to predict the ball’s position. In the original game, your player would auto-center underneath the ball when appropriate, but now you have to rely on instinct and sheer luck in order to get underneath the ball for a dig. The blocking and serving work well, though, and you are rewarded with extra cash whenever you execute impressive moves.
The water ski races are a big part of the Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 experience, on par with volleyball. You can perform a variety of tricks, some involving butt wiggles of course, but the challenge for the most part is just coming in first place so you can collect your winnings. The controls are fairly simple, with shoulder triggers allowing you to make sharp turns, and a turbo meter allowing you to turn up the speed for a last-second finish. The ocean environment looks good for the most part, but something about the water looks unnatural due to the overuse of the chop effect. Just like the breast physics, the core technicality behind the water is very impressive, but it lacks in subtlety.
The other mini-games don’t fare very well either. The appropriately named Butt Battle and Tug-of-War are guessing games, with little strategy to bring to the table. You simply have to hope that you feign or dodge at the right time and attack when your opponent is vulnerable to squeak out an occasional win. These games could have been great fun if there was more to them than just a lucky guess. The water slide is pretty interesting, in that it creates a really good sense of speed, but you have to basically have the route memorized and know the exact timing for each of your movements in order to keep your girl from flying off the slide to the ground below. The pool-hopping game is a competitive affair now, and if you make a single mistake in your race across the floating platforms, you’re just out of luck. Beach Flags fares a bit better, as it’s just a simple race on the sand, testing your reflexes at the start of the race and your ability to mash on the A button quickly. It’s not very deep, but at least you don’t feel like you were cheated by unfair AI.
Those who enjoyed the original Xbox title were usually fans who enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and became avid collectors of all the swimsuits and accessories you could purchase to outfit your preferred character. This aspect of the game is still present, and you could spend hundreds of hours collecting all the outfits. The more expensive swimsuits in particular are worth getting if you want to see the most flesh, as some of the higher-end swimsuits are little more than a pair of quarter-sized jewels and a couple strings holding it all together. You’ll have to work hard on making cash to afford it all, however, as everything is pretty expensive, and money isn’t very easily acquired at the casinos, which don’t offer odds any better than you’ll find in Vegas. While the money-making is tedious, the collecting aspect of the game is quite robust, and it’s easy to see players spending months with the game and still finding more items to acquire.
Collecting and managing the inventory is a major part of the game, and the gift-giving system is how you make friends with the other girls. You’ll refer to their personal likes and dislikes, and send appropriate gifts to girls until they decide to trade presents with you on a daily basis, one of the best ways to acquire new accessories and swimsuits. Kokoro is a fan of the color orange and plays the piano, for instance, while Christie likes the color black, driving, and enjoys the occasional glass of tomato juice. If you want to get on Tina’s good side, you’ll have to ply her with video games (like the purchasable Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox prototypes) and wrap them up in blue wrapping paper. There’s no feedback indicating whether or not a girl likes a gift unless she decides to accept it and send you a gift in return, and it can be very hard to get a girl to accept your gifts initially. You’ll need to make friends to participate in beach volleyball as well, and it can be pretty sad when you lose your partner and have to wander the beaches on your lonesome.
If you’re an achievement whore, the preferred nomenclature for those that try to increase their gamerscore at every opportunity, you’ll have a tough time getting even a single achievement point out of the game without spending weeks of work on it. You need to complete entire collections of swimsuits for each girl to start getting these points, and it’ll take you plenty of time to do so. Luckily you only have to play through the 14-day vacation once to unlock the Bob Marley track that is the highlight of the game’s soundtrack. There are undoubtedly some songs that will appeal to you here, and you can customize your playlist at the in-game radio station. What you’ll enjoy most depends on your personal tastes, like whether or not you can enjoy a Spanish-language track, vibe with dancehall reggae, or if you’re a fan of Hillary Duff.
The most disappointing aspect of the game for me personally is the online multiplayer support. You can’t bring over any of your girls from the single-player game, as your avatar when setting up multiplayer sessions is some silly little thing like a starfish or a turtle. Once I actually got to play some games, I found that the online servers were incredibly laggy, making the online competition completely unplayable. With time this may be remedied, but as it stands now, you have far more to gain playing through the game on your own than on Xbox Live.
The original Dead or Alive Xtreme Volleyball did many things well, as it provided a relaxing atmosphere for people to play in, take in the sights, collect trinkets, and basically just have a good time away from the predominantly violent and fast-paced offerings that are the norm in video gaming. Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 just isn’t as relaxing, with its frustrating mini-games and flawed core game mechanics. There’s still plenty of eye-candy to be had, but if you’re looking for anything more, you may want to pass.