Incredible visuals, tight gameplay and a content-loaded package ensure that Dead Or Alive 5 is worth your money.
Team Ninja’s Dead Or Alive franchise has always been known for one thing: top-heavy female combatants. It’s always been a competent fighter; I remember spending a ton of hours playing DOA2: Hardcore just after getting my first PS2. Besides the gorgeous graphics and the “realistic breast physics”, it had solid fighting mechanics and an interesting counter system – it wasn’t a clone of Street Fighter or Tekken. And who could forget that you could beat your friends down with Ryu Hayabusa of the Ninja Gaiden franchise? That was the main selling point for me.
Everything that set the franchise apart from its contemporaries returns for one more round in Dead Or Alive 5. Team Ninja has taken the comments of over-sexualization to heart, and has set out to prove that their game can stand toe-to-toe with its competition. The game certainly has a fair share of tweaks and additions in comparison to past iterations of the franchise. The roster feels more balanced. The visuals are breathtaking; CG-level character models and beautiful scenery combine with fluid animation and even sweat and dirt effects to create the best-looking fighter I’ve ever seen. It’s also worth noting that Team Ninja has gone to great lengths to westernize the game, eschewing the huge anime eyes and cartoonish art style for a slightly more realistic and americanized take on the fighter.
Beyond that, the game is packed to the brim with cool features. There’s Facebook integration, an online training mode, a fully-featured Story mode with high production values, the obligatory online matches, and more. The story mode features full voice acting and many well-produced cutscenes, in a story that ties all of the game’s fighters together. The game even has bonus missions to complete during each match of the story mode, and while they are designed to help you get acclimated to the functions of the game, sometimes the AI can be so tough that you forget about the objectives and just focus on survival. It’s a good idea to explore the in-depth training mode from the main menu; it’s extremely deep and will help you master your favorite fighters in no time. I found it indispensable for getting the hang of the timing on the tweaked counter system, which feels heavily refined since DOA2 – the last game in the series I played religiously. In DOA2, counters were as commonplace as jiggling breasts. In DOA5, pulling them off successfully is such a rarity that it’s barely worth the risk of attempting them- miss by a split second and you’re left wide open for a string of attacks. The damage dealt by counters has also been drastically decreased, further diminishing their value. It’s a bit disappointing, as the fighting system of DOA hinges upon the counter system working properly. With the cheap enemy AI and decreased chance of landing counters, the game can become quite frustrating, which is a word I never would have used to describe DOA2. You can easily become wrapped up in a 20 hit match-ending combo, with no way out unless your opponent relents. Hopefully another patch can iron out the gameplay issues a bit.
I think the main problem with the AI is that it is way too good, even on standard difficulty levels, at reading your mind. OK, maybe not mind reading, but predicting the possible moves you will throw its way. DOA has always been a series with mechanics similar to rock, paper,scissors with its throws,strikes and holds. You need to be able to guess what your opponent will throw your way, and be ready to counter or dodge it and unleash hell upon them. In DOA, the tide of battle can change in an instant, and in Dead Or Alive 5, the tide is turned in the computer’s favor far too often. This problem is mitigated when playing against other players online, as a human can be overwhelmed or confused by your tactics, leaving them vulnerable to a beat down. Humans make mistakes, and this is what makes online battles exciting and unpredictable.
Power Blows are new super-powered attacks that can be performed once you are under 50% health. These slow-motion offensives end with your opponent flying into the destructive environment, dealing massive damage. They can easily turn a match around, but I feel that they are currently overpowered. These usually result in the opponent and the player falling from a seemingly lethal height, or triggering level-specific actions (called Danger Zones…Laaana!), such as derailing trains. The levels are all very interesting, from a waterpark-inspired battle on a raft on its way down a waterfall, a circus (with flaming hoops and tigers), a beautiful Japanese temple, and many more. Danger Zones can be turned off, for those craving a more traditional fighting experience. It’s too bad we can’t also turn off Power Blows and restore the old counter system.
The aforementioned Ryu Hayabusa makes his return alongside pretty much everyone else from DOA, with the addition of Virtua Fighter’s Akira and Sarah Bryant. I’m still not quite sure why they’re in here, but it’s pretty awesome to pit them against the normal roster.
Overall, Dead Or Alive 5 is arguably the best entry yet in the series. There are some things that the classic DOA2 did better, but we live in the day and age of patches, so here’s hoping for a little more refinement on the game’s niggling issues. But with such a content-loaded package, amazing visuals, and a tournament-level fighting system, you can rest assured that Dead or Alive 5 is a solid purchase.