Our Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate review finds out if it's worth revisiting the series for the best outing yet…
Published on Sep 3, 2013
You can’t fault Tecmo-Koei for trying.
This is the third version of Dead Or Alive 5 to hit this gen, a run of form Capcom would be proud of.
We’ve had the original Dead Or Alive 5 (fun but shallow), the costume-heavy Dead Or Alive 5+ on Vita (fun but shallow) and now there’s Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate, bringing a series of bells and whistles to the mix while leaving the core gameplay mostly untouched.
So how did this one turn out? It’s fun but shallow. Surprise!
Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate - How Does It Play?
To those who've not dipped into the series yet, Dead Or Alive 5 is based around stuns, crumples and counters.
Moves that successfully connect have unusually long hitstun while commands for those moves have surprisingly lenient input. The combination of those two mechanics mean you can string elaborate combos together without having to devote an excessive amount time to training mode or even really having in-depth knowledge of what moves you’re doing.
Even if your moves aren’t connected as combos, the long hitstun means Dead Or Alive 5 is far more momentum-based than something like Tekken Tag Tournament 2 or Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown.
The main defence against these long combos (as long you haven't been hit off the ground) are counter attempts, which snap your character out of hit stun to attempt to grab the opponent’s limb. You have to guess if it’s a low attack, high attack, mid-punch or mid-kick. Guess wrong and you end up eating more damage via another combo or a throw.
Apologies for the technical moonspeak there but it’s easy to understand once you actually start brawling.
Perhaps more importantly, even if you don’t understand the nuance behind the mechanics, you can still mash buttons and string combos together. It looks so effortless, so slick and it’s so beautifully animated, even this early button-bashing stage has a lot of appeal and is more engaging than it should be.
There isn’t a particularly high ceiling for Dead Or Alive 5’s level of play, which mostly revolves around second-guessing and punishing counter attempts, but then it’s also got the lowest barrier of entry for those who just want to jump in and have fun.
If you can press buttons, you can play Dead Or Alive 5.
Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate - What's New?
None of this will be new if you’ve put any time into the vanilla or Vita outing of Dead Or Alive 5, and there’s nothing ground-breaking that’s been added into Ultimate.
In terms of mechanics, the most significant new move is the Power Launcher, which sends the opponent spinning into the air in comedy fashion if it connects.
It replaces Power Blow in terms of utility for stages where there isn’t a nearby object to hit your opponent into. Power Launcher doesn’t really add much new in the way of tactics or high-level play but on the plus side, it is pretty damn funny the first time you see it connect.
Outside of that, the ‘what’s new?’ checklist runs surprisingly far even if the majority of it is to do with the aesthetic side of things. For example – deep breath – there are new outfits, new entrances, new victory animations, new hairstyles, new clothing options, new titles, new feature called movies where you can set the cutscene, set the level of sweat on your character and then zoom around them, taking snapshots that can be saved for future use.
The mileage you get out of any of those enhancements obviously varies. Ahem.
New stages is the sort of phrase that’s normally as exciting as 'now with unlockable artwork!' but the five new arenas all offer something distinct and interesting – there are uneven levels such as Desert Wasteland and a giant Buddha who crushes opponents in Sky High Tokyo. Lost World is the pick of the bunch, a series of small island peaks in a misty valley, inviting you to boot your opponent off the edge.
The new characters aren’t as exciting, mostly because they aren’t strictly speaking new. Momiji and Rachel are from Ninja Gaiden, Jacky is from Virtua Fighter while Leon and Ein have ventured all the way from… erm, Dead Or Alive 4.
Momiji is the most interesting addition, having a few aerial mix-ups and even a 360 air-throw for those who want a slightly more challenging character to master. Rachel is somewhat plodding and slow, lacking the over-the-top flair you want from a Dead Or Alive character. Jacky continues the Virtua-Fighter-to-Dead-Or-Alive tradition of keeping the same moveset and even command list, and he fits in surprisingly well. Leon and Ein have had their command lists spruched up but remain faithful to their previous appearances - Leon dominating with counter-holds that lead into further grabs, Ein attacking with powerful, striking blows over fast nippy attack strings.
Survival Mode is probably the best new addition in Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate, pitting you against a series of opponents without any loading times or interruption. The key to high scores and survival is grabbing the point bonuses and health pick-ups that pop opponents hit with knockdown attacks or once they’re beaten.
It's a nice addition that offsets the lack of change in story mode (no longer tied into trophies/achievements) and a comprehensive tutorial that means well but is a little too slow-paced to really engage newcomers or for us to recommend.
Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate - Fun But Shallow (Again)
Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate is never going to be the cornerstone of EVO or a game that throbs with fiery competitive play months after its release, certainly not to the level of its genre rivals.
That Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate is the best edition yet is also scant praise, because it should be the bare minimum of achievements for an Ultimate edition.
What’s far more noteworthy here is Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate is still surprisingly good fun in Versus mode, whether online or offline, with just about enough of a new sheen that it can recapture your attention.
The core game holds up just about well enough that it's worth revisiting again, even if none of the new bells and whistles stand out as particularly worthy additions.
And if there’s one thing you can say about Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate that you can’t say about another other fighting game, this is the only game where you can counter a punch, snap someone’s neck and boot them clean off a cliff in one swift move.
Version Tested: PS3
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Dead Or Alive 5 Ultimate has packed in a wealth of content alongside its solid fighting game core for a low price. It's shallow but great fun while it lasts.