Dead or Alive 5 is the fist non Microsoft exclusive release for the series on home consoles in almost 12 years. Not only that but it is the second game in the series since the exodus of series designer Tomonobu Itagaki. Does Dead or Alive 5 bring the series to new heights or is it Dead on Arrival?
Review: Dead or Alive 5
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (reviewed)
Developer: Team Ninja
Released: September 25th, 2012
MSRP: $59.99 USD
The first thing series veterans will notice about Dead or Alive 5 is that not much has changed gameplay wise from the last entry in the series. You’re given the option of punching, kicking, blocking, throwing and as always in the series timing your blocks with directional presses allows you to perform a “hold” which will allow you to counter incoming enemy attacks. This sets up a fighting system that feels very much like rock paper scissors. Holds tend to counter combo spammers, throws counter people who are trying to defend and counter and combos will counter most throw attempts. This gives the game an easy to learn yet hard to master feel.
New to the series is the addition of power blows which can be preformed when your health meter is glowing red. These attacks can be used to knock your opponent into the stage “danger zones” causing massive damage and can change the landscape of the stage itself. These attacks tend to be very slow though, so while they can change the tide of a battle they can be quite difficult to land against an experienced opponent.
Most of the games cast returns for Dead or Alive 5 giving you 19 characters to start with and 5 others to unlock. New comers to the cast include MMA fighter Mila and Tae Kwon Do user Rig who are both welcome additions to the games roster. Also joining the cast are Akira, Sarah and Pai Chan from the Virtua Fighter series. These characters oddly enough translate quite well to the DOA style of gameplay and aside from their voice work, do not feel out of place at all.
The game comes with most modes you would expect in a modern fighting game but the big draw is the game’s story mode which follows a timeline and seems very reminiscent of Mortal Kombat 9’s single player campaign. Rather than each character having their own campaign, the game has you switching between the games cast throughout the story. The story itself is mostly dumb nonsense; however I found myself enjoying it nonetheless due to the mass amounts of comedic moments in the game. The story doesn’t treat itself too seriously and it is much better for it.
The other big feature of the story mode is the optional missions the game gives you during each fight. These missions start out easy at fist and get progressively more and more difficult over the course of the game. The reason why these missions are important though is that they teach you the ins and outs of the games systems, almost like having an optional tutorial to work with along the games story. This is a very welcome addition and I hope more titles in the genre adopt this type of system.
The other modes of the game include Arcade mode, vs. mode, survival mode, time trail, spectator mode, training mode and online mode. The online versus mode seemed pretty responsive to me. I only got a bad connection a few times which made the game difficult to play but more often than not I was able to get a good connection and have an enjoyable experience. The rest of modes are what you would expect from a modern fighting game other than the spectator mode which allows you to watch a fight between two CPU opponents and take pictures. This mode also gives you complete control of the camera which I can only assume most young teenage boys will use to zoom in on the female casts chests.
Speaking of women’s chests, fans of the franchises incredibly pandering presentation need not worry as that aspect of the game is still intact. The weird “boob physics” are still there and most female characters have a few skimpy costumes available. It can seem pretty creepy at times but overall it doesn’t ruin the game.
That being said the game does look phenomenal. Character animations are smooth and varied, characters clothes get dirty throughout the fight and the characters sweat when they are under pressure, meaning most fights leave your character with a slightly glistened look with beads of sweat dripping off them (I’m sure Mike will love that aspect of the game). The voice work can be hit or miss sometimes but for the most part it’s pretty well done. Overall this is not only the best looking Dead or Alive game as of yet, but also the best looking 3D fighter I have seen this generation.
The stages are also quite varied and have multiple layers to them which can be seen after activating the “danger zones” in the stages themselves. For example: on the circus stage if you can knock a character through the flaming hoop they will end up being attacked by a tiger and in the Oil Tanker stage you can cause a massive explosion that sets the tanker ablaze.
Overall Dead or Alive 5 hasn’t changed too much from previous entries in the series but it is still a blast to play. All that coupled with an enjoyable story mode, fantastic visuals and easy to learn yet hard to master fighting style make it the best in the series to date. It’s very unlikely to change your mind if you hate the fighting game genre but if you’re a fan it’s a must have.