Obviously there are more moves on offer than a Flashdance/Footloose box set, and it'll take some serious time and effort to get the most out of them. Yet this again is a something of a double-edged sword. This open door approach to combat favours newcomers to the series, and allows them instant gratification and progress. As a result, button-bashers with the digital dexterity of Fingermouse would give any DOA vet a run for their money, simply by choosing one of the quicker characters and repeatedly hammering the fast kick button until victorious.
What does really separate the men from the boys however, is the Counter System. Very tricky to tame, once mastered you can end a fight in a simple couple of moves. Just wait for an opponent to strike, then push away and block to grab a particular appendage and reverse them into a Counter Throw. More damaging than regular throws, they do feel rewarding to execute, yet it's incredibly disheartening when an AI opponent punishes you with one time and time again, every time you commit a clumsy lunge. These add much more significance to tactical fighting techniques; witness a match between two DOA experts and it'll be a measured, thoughtful bout rather than a frenzied whirlwind of flying limbs.
Of course, fighting titles are all about the multiplayer, and this is what all the fanfare around DOAU is about. Two players can obviously fight it out in Versus mode, and it's infinitely more fun pummelling your best mate rather than an AI opponent. Online is a different story, with tons of brilliant game modes available, like Winner/Loser Stays On, Tournament, Team Battle and Survival. To have a 3D fighter that looks this gorgeous is one thing, but to have it play as silky smooth online as DOAU does is something entirely different. We only got to battle it out against the Yanks on Live at the time of writing, but look out next month for a full Live review, once you've all got your grubby mitts on it.
The offline modes don't suffer as a result however, and are just as captivating. Tag battle allows players to pair two complementing characters (as helpfully hinted at by Tecmo) who can both swap in and out of battles intermittently and temporarily perform combined attacks on a single opponent. Story mode allows players to discover more of each character's intertwined histories, following on from the beautiful, heart-wrenching opener detailing the saga of Kasumi and Ayane. Repeated completion of this mode, culminating in a face-off with Tengu after a standard six-bout process, unlocks a new costume for that particular character. There are loads of costumes available (See Suits You, Sir, page 084) including some titillating numbers for Tina and Kasumi, though the What Not To Wear girls would have a field day with Zack's camp get-ups.
There's not too much else to grumble about. It may be an update of a five-year-old game, but what an update it is - stunning to look at and intuitive to play. What DOAU lacks in technical ability over rivals like Mortal Kombat: Deception or Soul Calibur II it more than compensates for in visual quality and style. The fact that all of this is online too is the icing on the cake. For a history lesson in the evolution of 3D fighters, check out the original. For an online brawler that looks the absolute nuts (before they're crushed by a vicious knee to the groin), DOAU is literally the ultimate game of its kind. Class.
A beautiful, balanced fighter, and a wealth of multiplayer options earns DOA the ultimate respect.