Version tested: Xbox 360
I think I may have just played the most pointless and gratuitous game in the history of mankind. I say mankind, because, like, only men could make a game where the sole point of it is stooping to pitiful and pathetic levels of digital voyeurism.
Actually, that's unfair. The main point of the game is essentially to buy up a collection of random tat by winning at various activities around the island - that have basically been constructed around their abilities to tease and titillate the lonely and sexually frustrated males out there who are too young to buy real porn. It's an alarming waste of Team Ninja's undoubted talents.
The game kicks off with some throwaway cut-scene nonsense to justify the whole malarkey, and it doesn't get any more convincing. Basically, the superfly Zack manages - via extraterrestrial means - to exhume the sunken tropical island that was the setting for the original, and so begins another two-week vacation for the well-toned girls of the Dead or Alive series.
Sisters of merciless
You kick off proceedings by selecting one of the nine girls (Kasumi, Hitomi, Leifang, Christie, Kokoro, Helena, Tina, Lisa and Ayane) and get a brief tour from Tina of what the island has to offer. With a quick (and super easy) two-lap Marine jetski race under your belt, you then have a first-to-seven points Beach Volleyball session and a look around the shops before deciding on your choice of hotel.
From there you can either get some shuteye or head to the Casino to try and boost your reserves of cash with some Blackjack, Poker, Roulette or Slot Machines. But much like the rest of the game, it's all a bit pointless - but with luck you can swell your coffers and make it an awful lot easier to buy all the merchandise on offer, if that tempts you at all.
On the second day of your fortnight's stay on New Zack Island, Tina leaves you in the lurch and somewhat limits the number of events you're able to participate in. Marina Races remain available at all times, and provides a quick and relatively easy way of racking up cash, but the racing itself is blighted by fairly annoying handling that makes it easy to get snagged on rocks and scenery. You can pull off stunts and flips with the X button to earn bonus cash, and gain turbos by steering the right side of the gate buoys six times in a row, but it doesn't ever feel like a satisfying racing event in its own right - even with the superior craft that you can buy. The visuals certainly give the impression that a lot of work went into this new mode (the water effects, in particular, are typically glorious) but beyond that it feels like a developer doing something it's completely unfamiliar with. Next.
Just like girls and shoes, I can't match you
You might assume that you'd be allowed to participate in all the various events at your leisure, but not so. With Tina having, annoyingly, left you in the lurch, you're not able to play Beach Volleyball, and getting a partner to join you is a slightly baffling process of trying to guess what sort of gift will impress them. The game gives little hint as to what things they like, which basically reduces the process to (sometimes expensive) trial and error - or guessing that they'd like something to match the colour of whatever swimsuit they're sporting. A little piece of me died inside when giving a Leifang a little yellow flower resulted in her becoming my friend, but at least the rampant materialist nature of the transaction bought me some time on the Volleyball court. For the love of god.
Shame, then, that the Volleyball itself is so crushingly underwhelming to the point of being redundant. As is entirely the point of this 'game', the spectacle is fine. The character models and 'soft physics' make their funbags jiggle with ludicrous independence, and you can't argue that the animation isn't great, the scenery delightful and a really stunning showcase of big screen high definition gaming. But, really, what's the point of all that technical brilliance when the game feels like such a dog to control? In this two-on-two affair, you're relying, to an extent, on your team-mate to help you out, but quite often they're sluggish to react and not as aggressive as you need them to be. This results in you having to nudge them into one of three formations with the right stick, which is both distracting and unnecessary, with a general lack of focus on either player. Meanwhile, your opponents are constantly spiking the ball into oblivion and making life difficult for you. The controls are seemingly quite simple, with the A button acting as serve, spike and block, and B to receive or toss (or a quickfire Set Attack), but the actual gameplay is a frustratingly imprecise mess that's neither fun nor interesting enough to invest hours in mastering.
Elsewhere, you can buy tickets from the shop to engage in some of the other activities, but you might wonder why you bothered. Water Slide, for example, is a 750m course down a spiralling roller-coaster style water ride, and is blisteringly fast and looks great. But after one or two goes, you'll set a time and feel no compulsion to ever play it again.
Two essentially identical activities in terms of gameplay are the hilariously pointless Tug-of-War and Butt Battles. In both cases it's a case of trying to make your opponent fall into the water, with both games largely decided on who can feint first. In Tug-of-War, you can time it so that you let go just as they pull, so they fly backwards, and Butt Battle can often be won with a well-timed dodge or sidestep. Usually just attempting the strong attack in both cases is a bit of a flawed tactic, but, again, the gameplay is so wafer thin that any novelty value you get from playing a new mode evaporates when you realise how little there is to it.
Just as vacuous are the two on-one racing activities. The Pool Hopping event tasks you with getting from one side of the pool to the other by hopping between the colour-coded floats. When the floats are close together you tap the button, and hold it down slightly to do a longer stride, with bonus cash awarded if you match the button press with the colour of the float. Beach Flags, meanwhile, is essentially one button Track & Field, although sometimes against opponents that are impossible to beat no matter how well you react. Again, both are mildly amusing for a couple of goes, and both are a great demonstration of Team Ninja's graphical achievements, but in the context of a full-priced game, they're beyond laughable. If either were Flash games or were on your mobile phone for free you'd have a hard time motivating yourself to play them, so why does Team Ninja, Tecmo or Microsoft assume anyone with any sense will be motivated to buy this? It's basically an insult to the audience on so many levels that I'm not even going to waste my breath arguing against it.
Looking at it purely as a piece of gaming entertainment, it's little more than an obsessive object collection quest. Indeed, almost all of the game's 'achievement' points seem directly related to how sad you are as a human being, and how relentlessly you want to play the game. After the two weeks are up you get the chance to try the whole thing again with a different character, but there's little or nothing new to experience that you didn't play numerous times on your first holiday. You might get better at earning money, you might resist blowing all your cash in the casino, you might win at events more often, and you might gain more friends, but there's literally zero sense of satisfaction derived from playing any of it.
A cure for mammary loss
Alternatively, you might just take some kind of demented pleasure out of buying one of the in-game cameras and snapping away during those all-important 'pictorial scenes' (such as relaxing by the pool). Pressing the right bumper during these moments allows you to save those 'special mammaries' (I mean memories), but really, what's the point? If the DoA girls really do turn you on in some kind of deeply disturbing way, can't you just look at screenshots or visit one of the fan sites or something? Do you really have to spend actual money to experience the most pointless game ever. After all, you're not here for the game. That's pretty obvious, and if it was, then Team Ninja would put some actual gameplay in there.
Hilariously, there's even an Xbox Live mode so you can enjoy some laggy Marine Races for up to four players, or one-on-one Volleyball. Clearly having a four-player Volleyball match online wasn't worth the effort. Getting an online match going isn't exactly easy, but nor is it worth wasting any time on. Surely all that does is take away vital ogling time anyway?
Now, clearly if we were just trying to make some sort of statement about the futility of releasing a game like Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 we'd slap our first ever Zero at the end and welcome the accompanying (mass) debate. As it happens, though, the casino potion of the game is surprisingly compelling, and probably gains it an extra two marks on its own. Poker, Blackjack, Roulette, Slot Machines... you can't really mess those up. In fact, Team Ninja actually does these rather well in terms of presenting them nicely and, as such, it's bizarre to find yourself playing them for ages - not to be able to buy more tat, you understand, but because they're timeless fun.
But a semi-decent casino can't exactly hide the catalogue of sins that DoA X2 perpetrates with gleeful, air-headed abandon everywhere else. The activities are largely pointless, gratuitous exercises in showing off the girls in their bikinis, and any attempt to give the game some sort of justifiable kleptomaniacal purpose is beyond insulting - even to serial wankers. The fact that the first game got released in the first place was incredible, but the arrival of a broadly similar sequel defies belief. The whole of Dead or Alive Xtreme 2 is so far beyond parody, you wonder if the game is, in fact, some sort of elaborate concept joke devised by wry feminists to see if the male of the species really is as shallow and sad as they suspect.
3 / 10