I’m sure some of you remember the Dead or Alive series, which had it’s first title in arcades, on Sega Saturn, and on the original Playstation. The series later on became a Microsoft exclusive with the releases of DoA3 and DoA4, with some strange spin-offs on different platforms here and there. Regardless if you have fond memories of the series or not, this is the first main title in the Dead or Alive series in almost 7 years, being released on both Xbox 360 and PS3, and it is most certainly worth the wait.
Combat in Dead or Alive 5 is simple but surprisingly deep and can easily stand up to many of the other popular franchises in the genre. There are only two strike buttons in the game, punch and kick, and nearly all the combos for each character is carried out with a variety of directional buttons and a combination of strike commands. Executing these combos can be simple and fun for players with little experience playing the game, but there are many more difficult combos and techniques to master over time that you will have to learn eventually to stand a fighting chance online or in the survival mode. Regardless of your skill level, the combo system appears to flow really well, and even the most inexperienced players can find themselves proud of the combos they can pull off. One great thing about combat is that strikes really feel like they have impact and can often send opponents flying, which makes the battles feel much more dynamic due to constantly moving back and forth. A simple triangle system is followed in which holds have priority over strikes, throws have precedence over holds, and strikes have the ability to cancel throws. Knowing this system well is vital to playing the game and can most certainly turn the tide of battle. Power blows are also a new addition to the battle system, where players with less than half health can pull off a charged hit that becomes a cinematic move. Players will still take damage if they attempt to block them, but these power blows can be fairly deadly if they connect.
There are numerous game modes to tide players over, with story mode, a versus mode for online and offline, arcade mode in which to shoot for the highest score, time attack to race against the clock, and the always challenging survival mode. The game is a blast to simply sit down with a friend and play Versus with random character select and random stage select, giving a new combination with every rematch. Stages contain danger zones such as electric fences, explosive cars, or angry tigers on which you can deal extra damage to your foe by knocking them into them. There are also areas in certain stages where you can knock people off a ledge, through a wall, or down a floor to cause extra damage and to change the scenery of the stage. Some of these danger zones and stage area changes are completely over the top and rather enjoyable to watch, and make combat feel even more dynamic.
Dead or Alive 5‘s story mode is a simple excuse to fight numerous increasingly difficult battles one after another as different characters with a story to tie it all together. Players experience once character’s perspective of the story, which usually lasts no more than four battles, then unlocks the next character’s part of the timeline. It gives players a good chance to try out nearly all of the characters and provides good practice for the other game modes later on. Additionally, new characters in the roster are unlocked for all other game modes through story mode. The story itself is nothing to excite over, but anyone looking for a deep story in a fighting game is probably in the wrong genre. Certain parts of the story are quite entertaining, however, most particularly the parts with Brad Wong. There is a rather entertaining scene in which two characters are fighting over the last dumpling on a plate, but those who are uninterested with the cut-scenes have the option to skip them. Each stage also contains a “bonus mission” for the player to complete before winning the battle, and it unlocks titles to use for online play, but these missions work more as tutorials to learn more advanced techniques as you progress in the story. They start off simple, needing to land three high punches throughout the battle for example, but become extremely difficult later with the need to carry out a 10-hit combo or expert holds which then link into other expert holds. It gives more advanced players something to challenge themselves with, and provides rigorous training for new players alike.
There is a total of 25 playable characters in this game, mostly characters from previous titles in the series making a comeback, but also with five completely new additions: Rig and Mila, both new in DoA, along with three characters from the Virtua Fighter series. While you would expect the new characters to be less interesting and tacked on just to increase the roster size, Rig, with his fatal Tae Kwon Do, is likely my favorite character to play out of the whole roster, and Mila is in many of the cut-scenes during the story as well. Each of the characters seem balanced and all have their unique play styles and personalities to match. Zack and Brad Wong are both fairly strange, and those unusual personalities carry into their fighting styles and victory poses as well. The characters all also have an array of costumes, with each actually looking different instead of a simple color switch.
Visually, the game is rather beautiful. Stages are well-crafted and have a good variety of scenery and environment. The characters are all remodeled, and they each have a few different costumes to fight in. The new sweat and dirt mechanics make the characters look rather fatigued and beaten-up at the end of a battle, with sweat dripping down their faces as they’re making their victory poses, though players with a phobia of sweat and/or dirt can turn the option off. The harmless camera control feature during the victory and failure poses allows players to zoom, pan, and rotate the camera to position their view of the characters as they see fit. The female chest physics are still maybe a little over the top, as in any Team Ninja game over the past few years, but it wouldn’t be Dead or Alive without it.
Dead or Alive 5 is a highly polished fighting game, and is easily the strongest in the series. The approachable yet engaging combat makes it accessible even for newcomers to the genre, but has enough depth for fans of the series to master as well. Whether or not you’ve ever played a Dead or Alive game in the past, this is an excellent fighting game and a good starting point for anyone looking to get into the series. If you’ve been itching to vent out your frustration by beating strangers to a pulp in a fictional world, this is the game for you.
VG Tribune gives Dead or Alive 5 an 9.0 out of 10
This review was based off of a copy of the title provided to us by Tecmo Koei.