The Dead or Alive series makes its way back to consoles with the release of Dead or Alive 5, the latest update to the venerable franchise. As a game that has always placed emphasis on its own set of fighting mechanics, DOA 5 is cut out to stand toe-to-toe with some of the greater fighters out in the market today. Due to some smart choices, the game stays very much relevant in this day and age. It never really had elaborate story-lines, but DOA 5 packs a light story mode that serves to fill the player in on the series’ general events. It’s a campy affair that introduces players to the various different moves that are part of the DOA framework, and rewards with a few otherwise un-lockable characters and titles.
What DOA 5 holds prime is its new trifecta of gameplay that governs how well you do in battle. Each character has a number of strikes, grapples and counter moves called ‘holds’ that can be used. The general cycle prioritizes strikes over throws, throws over holds and holds over strikes. This means that you’ll never be caught in a bad situation, with each player being able to play on an equal footing. While the idea looks great on paper, the execution seems a bit underwhelming, particularly the timing of the attacks. It’s not that they don’t work; it’s just the matter of making them work at the right time.
The action, however, moves along at breakneck speed; and you’ll find yourself blown away when things really start to click during battle.
The game boasts its largest roster to date – a total of 18 fighters in all – and introduces newcomers Mila, an up- and-coming MMA fighter, and Rig, a mysterious taekwondo expert into the fray. Also included are guest characters from the Virtue Fighter series – Akira Yuki, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chan – which brings a refreshing change to the series’ roster. The game also retains the tag-team mechanic introduced in DOA 2. It also brings new systems into play like Critical Burst, which negates your opponent’s ability to counter-hold during a combo, and the new Power Blow that can be charged up to unleash a devastating attack that usually involves environmental destruction.
The game brings both flashiness and substance to the table with highly enjoyable results. Apart from the standard set of modes, DOA 5’s online play is very well done, with fights taking place via matchmaking and generally having minimal lag, thanks to its favorable net-code. The series sees a general upgrade in visuals – with character models looking highly realistic – and incorporating fluid animation along with certain additional touches such as costume-specific physics and environmental effects. The environments themselves are multi-layered and highly detailed. Games like Dead or Alive 5 serve both as an obligatory entry into the series and a foreshadowing of what is to come. The game definitely plays it safe in a lot of areas, but manages to deliver some memorable action- packed sequences. Dead or Alive 5 should appease fans of the series and newcomers alike, and is well worth your time, if you choose!