Developer: Team Ninja / Publisher: Tecmo Koei / Platform: PlayStation 3 / Price: $59.99 / ESRB: Mature [Partial Nudity, Alcohol Reference, Mild Language]
Dead or Alive is back with more bounce to the ounce in the fifth installment, Dead or Alive 5. The popular 3D fighting franchise is taking the cross over road by adding some iconic characters from the Virtua Fighters series. But will adding characters from other fighting game franchises be enough for Dead or Alive to stay alive? With the recent release of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 it will be quite a task to compete in an already competitive market.
Dead or Alive continues to keep their original button layout: you have your punch, kick, guard, and throw options. This layout is very similar to the Virtua Fighter layout making for a smooth transition for those Virtua Fighter fans who are interested in playing Dead or Alive 5. The moves for the Virtua Fighter cast are pretty much the same with a couple of different properties. The movement and speed of Dead or Alive 5 is a little faster than Virtua Fighter so timing will be a little tighter.
Dead or Alive 5’s gameplay is fast and action-packed. Players will smash through walls, fall from rooftops, and get attacked by tanks and missiles in these highly detailed and interactive stages. If you are knocked up against contextual “danger zones” in each stage that will trigger special cutscenes, prepare to receive massive damage. Dead or Alive has always had an over the top action-packed theme to it and that returns here.
Dead or Alive 5 also has a decent amount of characters to choose from, with more than 20 fighters in the cast, including the previously mentioned Akira, Pai and Sarah Bryant from Virtua Fighter, among others. You get a good mix of ninjas, wrestlers, and martial artists to choose from. Your favorite fighters also return: Kasumi, Ayane, Ryu Hayabusa, Jann Lee and more return, including new faces Mila and Rig.
The fighting mechanics make it easy to dish out attacks. Combos are easy to pull off simply by tapping the punch or kick button in rapid session with almost all characters. But with practice, just like any other fighting game, you will be able dish out maximum damage. Certain strategies such as danger zones and wall positions, high, mid, and low hold counters, and power blows play a big role in Dead or Alive 5. Power blows are attack moves that cause massive damage. When your health bar drops to 50%, you will be able to unleash your Power Blow against your opponent. This is a universal move used by each character by holding down-back and punch and kick together. Some character Power blows is similar to this input as well. Once the attack connects you fighter will go into a series of attacks launching your opponent across the stage.
The game’s fighting mechanics concentrates on the triangle system. This triangle system consists of high and low priorities. If you’re quick enough you can beat out your opponent’s grab with a punch or kick strike. Also certain attacks can be cancelled into each other depending on the triangle system. Strikes such as punches and kicks have a higher priority over throws and can be cancelled by each other. So if you wanted to fake your opponent out with a throw, you can cancel that animation into a punch or a kick.
Counter holds are extremely important when it comes to defense in any Dead or Alive game. Counter holds are counters that stop an opponent’s strike in their tracks. It will take a lot practice to perfect this skill because in order to perform counter holds, you must first know if the attack is going to strike high, mid, or low. You also need to know if the strike is a punch or a kick. By pressing up-back or down-back plus guard, you will perform counter hold against high and low attacks. By pressing back plus guard you will perform counter hold for mid punch attacks. This takes real skill to perfect because pressing back plus guard only applies to mid punch strikes and not kicks, regardless if they are mid strikes or not. This can get pretty confusing sometimes in the middle of a fight. Also, when trying to back dash while trying to guard can leave you in a counter hold state. This will leave you open for your opponent to take advantage of your whiffed move. This can be very frustrating so you have to be careful on how you defend yourself. And it goes without saying that if you don’t guess correctly, you won’t block the attack, making it a very high risk/high reward system.
Let’s talk about one of the most important modes to any fighting game: online mode. Online mode gives you a couple of different options to choose from. You have your ranked match, player match and Throwdown Fight List. Throwdown Fight List is an interesting option where you’re able to add players you have fought to this list and send them a fight request for online play. On top of that, you are also able to fight against just their gameplay tendencies via AI if they’re not available. That’s probably the only good part to online play.
Does online work? No. To be fair, I was playing on the PlayStation 3 and I know that they don’t have the greatest reputation when it comes to online play, but I haven’t had many issues with playing other fighting games online. The online netcode in Dead or Alive 5 is not good. There are a ton of lag spikes and you aren’t able to exit a match. You would have to quit the game completely and head back to your dashboard. You aren’t able to search by online signal strength either, you don’t even see what signal strength your opponent is. You are only able to search by region, rounds to win, and skill level, but not by internet connection strength. Since you are unable to quit during a match, you just have to sit there and watch your opponent literally beat you into the ground if they’re employing cheap tactics. There’s nothing you can do about it. But that’s not to say that infinites, glitches and other malfunctions haven’t been discovered in fighting games before. Hopefully Team Ninja can patch the lag issue with online play but at the moment, most of the time, it is unplayable. Also, there are no tag match battles. All matches played online are 1 on 1 only. Why offer the option to play tag matches offline and not be able to play them online?
Dead or Alive 5 continues to keep it raw and naughty with female characters keeping all of their curves and posing in provocative ways. There’s enough skin and oversized chest to keep you entertained for a while.
The environments look great and add depth to the gameplay with the danger zones system. Just the feeling you get from kicking your opponent off a cliff and watching them hit the side of a mountain is great; it never gets old. Other stages consist of circus rings, oil rigs, glaciers, and martial arts dojos. Furniture breaks and walls shatter as you battle your way to victory. As the battle rages on, fighters’ clothes become dirty and wet and stay that way the entire match. This adds more detail to an already beautiful looking fighting game.
Dead or Alive 5 also offers a spectator mode where you can watch replays of online matches or watch CPU AI fight against each other. While in spectator mode, you have the ability to take pictures of the battle in action. From the Album mode you are able to view these photos. It would be more worthwhile if you were able to save your photos to your console and set them as background images, but I guess Team Ninja just wanted to show off how beautiful their game looks with this mode.
Dead or Alive 5 is a gorgeous looking fighting game packaged with over the top action and mature content. But concentrating on looks doesn’t make for a great game. Gameplay is simple to understand but still holds enough depth to challenge you to maximize your combo damage. Unlike the recent Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Dead or Alive 5 doesn’t put an emphasis on whether or not it’s a tag based fighter or not, but it’s always good to have that choice. The addition of Virtua Fighter characters to the cast was an excellent choice. As a fighting fan myself I couldn’t see the Virtua Fighter character cross over with anyone else; they work great with the storyline and gameplay mechanics of DoA. Unfortunately there are only three Virtua Fighter characters to choose from. Being a Virtua Fighter fan myself I was hoping for more than just three characters. Where’s Jacky and Kage? I smell DLC on the way.
Story mode was a great way to introduce new players to the franchise but I feel they could have done a little bit more to cater to the casual audience. As with the gameplay I feel it concentrates heavily on counter holds. While playing the game I realized that the most damaging combos start with stagger hits. The only way to get out of a stagger stun is to counter hold your opponent’s next attack. This calls for a paper, rock, and scissors tactic to guess if your opponent is going to follow up with a high, mid or low attack, with punch or kick strike also adding a factor to the mix. Beginners will definitely need to practice this technique while being careful not to hold back and press guard when they just want to defend themselves and not throw out a counter hold.
While Dead or Alive 5 is a stunning looking game, I feel that they concentrated more on the looks and action of the game instead of the potential for serious competitiveness. Don’t get me wrong, I love the amount of jiggle, it’s been a ridiculous and hilarious theme for several sequels now. But what I was really hoping for was more focus on how to play the game and tools to improve. I didn’t see that in this installment. The online is bad and needs to be improved if the interest in DOA is to last. Matches are laggy, with no tag option, and below par search options leaving a bad outlook for the community for Dead or Alive 5. With the fighting game community growing each year, and as more fighting games release, it has shown that catering to a new audience is very important. If you want your audiences to grow you have to show them the way. And I feel Dead or Alive 5 didn’t cater to the newer audience enough.
It’s been over 7 years since Dead or Alive 4 released and there’s not a big difference in this sequel. I was looking for something that would advance the series and I’ve yet to see that. I had fun playing the game for about an hour, but afterwards I was just button mashing. Not because I don’t know how to play, just because there was nothing keeping me interested to continue to play the game. From past fighting game releases you have to add more in order to keep your audience interested. What’s the point of playing the sequel if it’s pretty much the same game? Adding content, extra moves, extra fighting mechanics makes for a more in-depth game. Dead or Alive 5 did not offer this. Hell, they didn’t even put in an introduction pre-roll to the game when you start it! Looks fade, and with the way Dead or Alive is shaping up, it may fade as well.
6.5 / 10