Fighting games have had a bit of resurgence lately. With Virtual Fighter 5 Final Showdown releasing earlier this year along with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Team Ninja have decided to enter the fray with the release of the latest part of their fighting series in Dead or Alive 5 for the Xbox360 and PlayStation 3, marking the first time the series return to a Sony console since the PlayStation 2 era. The Dead or Alive fighting games have always been known for their beautiful visuals, fast battles, destructible environments and over the top sex appeal, but would this game be able to show that the series is something more than just another pretty face?
Unlike other fighting games where you simply choose a character playing through their campaign the way through, here you play one main narrative experiencing all the characters and their places within the entire story. This can work to give you a preview of characters to see which you would prefer to play with later. Though, this can also be something of a double-edge sword as if you play as with a character you are not comfortable with, you cannot progress unless you win with such character. This mode also will teach you some of the different techniques available from the game in what appears to be a tutorial type mode almost. Series favorites such as Kasumi, Tina and the rest of fighters have returned plus as unlockable characters Akira, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chan from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series.
Let me begin describing the visuals by first stating the obvious – the game’s graphics are impressive, for the most part. If you have ever seen or witnessed any of the previous main Dead or Alive games, you will know what Team Ninja is capable of. Here it seems as if certain aspects of the game have gone through a significant graphical overhaul, but once again this makes it a bit strange as while most of the visuals from character models and most environments are impressive, some fighting stages and scenes almost seem a bit lackluster and not as polished as the others. The girls have never looked so attractive (or giggly) and the exotic detailed locations look vibrant and alive in areas such as jungles, construction sites to a live circus. So to have other fighting locations such as an enclosed rig seems a bit strange as they seem quite bland and not detailed. But characters will reflect dirt, frost and other aspects such as water and sweat on their clothes and bodies in sharp detail. This game seems to wants to emphasize on perspiration as something to show off as evident in the game and even on some promotional artwork. And I don’t know whether it is creepy or not to be able to go into free camera mode, with zoom, while your character poses in-between rounds, but an interesting feature none the less.
Gameplay is as fast and action packed as other Dead or Alive games. While it is easy to pick up, it does take some ability to master. While DOA5 might seem something of a button masher at first, there is actually a somewhat deep fighting system for long combos and tag attacks. Choose a particular character, or set of characters and you can do considerable damage if learned correctly. So series newcomers can pick up the game and play, but be forewarned before going up against series veterans. But you can use these characters to help unlock new titles for yourself, alternative costumes for different characters and hidden characters themselves. Something new for Dead or Alive 5 is the new Power Blow feature which is a charge attack that can be done to perform a massive strike on your opponent.
You will also have a variety of different modes to choose from. Story will be the campaign mentioned earlier. The Fight option contains your Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival and Training modes. You are able to battle online via the PlayStation Network or Xbox Live services through the Online option. The Throwdown feature will even search for online battles while you play the single player campaign mode. And yes the game does utilize the online pass system though these do come within new copies of the game. From here you can choose to battle a Simple 1 on 1 match. Rank Matches where your win or less depends of the effect of your grade. Lobby Matches where various rules can be set for up to 16 people. Also available is to view Leaderboards and Fighters List to view registered fighters and battle them. The Extras option has the ability for Spectator mode to view saved replays or watch two computer controlled characters battle each other. Album Mode has you viewing saved photos as Fight Record speaks for itself and the Mission option lets you view titles you can earn within the game and how to obtain them.
While the game boasts different features and awesome visuals, there are a few places where it falls a bit short. I mentioned earlier that some environments just didn’t seem to blend well with the certain parts of the game. This will make detailed characters sometimes stand out a bit much and clash. Also, while the game does search for other fights while connected to your particular online system, this can make the game freeze, stutter and almost crash at certain times. This became a bit annoying and forced me to turn off the Throwdown option which stopped me from taking online battles at the time. The online portion also was experiencing issues during the time of this review. As you know, timing is everything in fighting games and hopefully Tecmo can find a solution soon. While there is an option to install data to your console to help with loading times (at least on the PlayStation 3 version), I would suggest everyone take advantage of it as without it, the load times can be a bit long at times. Also a little more character customization aside from deciding which outfit your character will wear, would have been nice to see.
Still Dead or Alive 5 is an impressive game that does work. Although a few technical and graphical issues do hinder its performance, it does mark it as a solid fighting game and one that continues the great Dead or Alive series.
Dead or Alive 5 gets an 7/10
(This review can also be found at ThreeTallNerds.com)