Dead Or Alive 5 is attempting to re-invent itself. It's less about the boobs and more about the fists, but does it succeed?
Published on Sep 25, 2012
There is no easier game in the world to play than Dead Or Alive 5. Literally no easier game in the world.
If you have two hands, you know how to press buttons and you know how to switch your TV on, you’re halfway to becoming a Dead Or Alive 5 master.
That’s both its strength and its weakness. It’s a strength because Dead or Alive 5 smashes the barrier to entry to a genre that usually demands thumb gymnastics beyond mere mortals.
There’s no Dragon Punch to learn, no canned ten-hit combos to memorise, no FADC into Ultra to screw up. It’s just your manic button presses somehow ended up as full-blown combos with gorgeous, fluid animation to fool those watching into thinking they’re watching a master at work.
You can do big combos by sitting down in training mode for a few hours or by jumping online and smashing buttons or by rubbing ham over the pad. It all works.
It's not all about the boobs this time... seriously, it's not! Why don't you believe us?
Dead Or Alive 5 doesn’t discriminate between newcomers and veterans. Everyone is welcome. The other thing that helps with newcomers is how good it looks, because we’re all shallow beasts that drool at pretty things. And good lord, Dead Or Alive 5 is pretty.
It has both players becoming muddy and dirty as the battle rumbles on yet it looks organic and natural, rather than the game code booting up dirty textures whenever a fighter takes a tumble.
Win poses are sweaty. Stages warp and distort as chaos erupts. The animation is lush and it’s a beautiful, beautiful game to watch. (Incidentally, the marketing leading up to this suggesting it would be more sophisticated than sexualised?
Nonsense. It’s every bit as wobbly boobed, with cut-scenes leering on flesh as it was before. Whether that bothers you or not.) All of this doesn’t mean Dead Or Alive 5 is a completely brain-dead button-smasher, as there are complex mechanics at work underneath the flash.
It’s a game built around its counter and stun system. Some moves will place you in long periods of hit-stun, where you’re left reeling and open to further hits unless you guess the right counter.
Guess wrong and you take even more damage, while your opponent can actually stop attacking, wait for your failed counter attempt and throw you instead for a huge damage bonus.
It’s a smart system that was present in Dead Or Alive 4 but seems to be far more pronounced this time round.
That’s good because it highlights the subtle stun system and makes it easier to understand, and it’s bad because there are times when you’ll feel as though you’re being helplessly slapped about with only a smart guess able to save you.
The problem is it also leads to button-bashing, and again, it’s good because it brings newcomers in but bad because combos aren’t nearly as satisfying as in Tekken or Virtua Fighter. Often they feel like happy accidents.
Dead Or Alive has lost none of its exessive style over the years.
It comes down to Dead Or Alive’s design. Nearly every move is positive on block.
Translated into English, means you can hammer away at an opponent’s guard until they do something drastic to turn the tide – usually a counter, sometimes a side-step, maybe even one of the moves that does give you enough time to start your own offence.
That’s a lot of technical moonspeak covered there so we’ll move on to simpler things, like the story. Fighting games don’t cater to sole players often, correctly figuring that the replay value comes from multiplayer, but full credit to Dead Or Alive 5 for having a bloody good go anyway.
The story mode here encompasses every character in the game, switching you between different points of view to see how events play out and giving you a feel for each face.
There’s nice contrast in styles – Bass and Tina focus on grapples and multi-part counters, Kasumi and Jann Lee batter their opponents with speed, and Zack has his eccentric fighting style with odd timing to throw off opponents’ counter attempts.
There are extra challenges spruced in as well to teach you about the system and keep the fighting fresh. You might have to land a certain number of throws or connect with so many low hits and so on.
Unfortunately, story mode still succumbs to repetition – it’s just never that engaging given it’s a string of different opponents with the game relying on you completing those extra challenges to do things differently – and difficulty spikes.
Good lord, the difficulty spikes. Anyone who remembers the hair-pulling frustration of Alpha-152 from Dead Or Alive 4 will immediately understand.
Dead Or Alive 5 is a strange game to review in that it’s really good fun at a basic button-bashing level but any attempts to push on beyond that starts opening up flaws.
The story mode isn’t quite deep enough, the gameplay isn’t quite smart enough, the variety isn’t quite varied enough. You’ll enjoy it for a while, it’s gorgeous to look at, and it’s good fun.
It’s just a real shame it’s released at the same time that another 3D fighter has turned up with a far bigger, ballsier package.
9.2 / 10
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7.4 / 10
It’s a fighting game for those who aren’t into fighting games, offering plenty of shallow thrills and gorgeous visuals but little beyond that if you want to push on beyond that initial rush.