After playing Dead or Alive 5 solidly for a week, I can honestly say it’s a new and improved sequel!
I was first introduced to the franchise was back in the nineties when my friend brought over his PSone and a catalogue of games – Dead or Alive being one of them. From there I bought the sequels – in fact my main reason for buying an Xbox 360 was to play Dead or Alive 4.
As with previous titles, the aesthetics look amazing. Watching some of the pre-launch trailers, I was nervous that the hit effects looked and felt a bit dull. Upon playing it, I discovered it to be dynamical and every punch and kick is felt. The costumes look great for some characters, but I still hate the school girl uniforms. I did download extra costumes through the free DLC and from the collectors edition. They seem to have released some more costumes but at a hefty price tag (400 ms points for a new costume for 4 characters).
Beneath the sexy aesthetics lies the traditional rock, paper, scissors fighting mechanics. Strikes beat throws, throws beat guard/holds and guard/holds beat strikes (yes, like everything, there are exceptions). In previous games doing a hold (often mistakenly referred to as a counter) will do massive damage if executed successfully. This put off many people because they feel it was more rewarding to just try and do an offensive hold instead of learning different combos. However, it seems that successfully holding an opponents move has slightly changed. The window of active frames seems to be slightly smaller and within that there’s an even tighter window to perform a “hi-counter hold”. Basically the ideal time to perform a hold which will result in more damage. But the timing has been altered to be a lot more stricter and if the timing was a little bit early/late, you still do damage but the damage is equivalent to a very short basic combo.
The gameplay is still fast and furious with gorgeous over the top moves. There are a few new features to the fighting mechanics and the one I like the most is the Critical Burst system. Whilst your opponent is in stagger, you’ll notice a small section of their health coloured in faint red/pink. When you strike them with an attack that causes more damage than the faint red/pink section, provided that attack has a Critical Burst property, you will get a Critical Burst. This puts your opponent into a state where they are completely vulnerable. They can no longer do offensive holds nor guard. This introduces a bit of fun mind games to everything. One thing I have to mention are the new moves. The ninja characters feel more… “ninja” now. For example, Kasumi has a short teleport follow up after a successful strike. I’ve always wondered why they can disappear during character intros and winning poses but can’t do the same thing whilst fighting, well now they can. The story mode is a good tutorial to introduce the Dead or Alive fighting mechanics to someone who has never played it before. Story mode consists of missions where you have to perform certain actions in each fight. Although simple early on, the challenges and computer AI increases as you progress. I have to point out though that the tutorial is not as in-depth as Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown’s tutorial. Instead of having multiple endings, you see exactly what happens in the story (which I prefer, rather than seeing the boss character slain by 12 different people). The inclusion of Virtua Fighters in the game is interesting as they move similar but slightly different, however, due to Akira’s elbow and shoulder attacks, it’s very easy to perform offensive holds on him.
Online mode is quite good, although for some reason it takes a bit of time for me to load the screen. You have several categories, Ranked, Simple and Lobby (I won my first online fight). One interesting thing Team Ninja has done is to allow invites to play a match whilst you’re in training mode. You can choose to ignore these invites or accept it by pressing the select button. I prefer this to the create lobby, open training mode and accept whoever challenges you first approach.
All in all this is a fun fighting game. Team Ninja has updated the game to make it viable as a serious fighting game, but kept it accessible to the general public as well. Great game, definitely worth buying.