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.