Dead or Alive 5 Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Tecmo Koei – Developer – Team Ninja – Genre – Fighting – Players – 1-16 – Age Rating – 16+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3
The Dead or Alive series has always been considered as a gentle initiation into the genre for the less experienced fighting game player, though its reputation as nothing more than a button basher is unfair, as, in reality, there’s a huge gulf between the adept and unskilled, as any players who have played the online entries in the series will attest to.
With the previous iteration of the series, Dead or Alive 4, Team Ninja attempted to offer greater appeal for more experienced fighting game players that previously weren’t able to look past the simplicity, abundant, comically animated breasts and revealing outfits of the female combatants, though making sure that it still retained the renowned accessibility of the series at the same time. The newest entry of the franchise follows this mindset, offering a deeper but nevertheless accessible game.
From a visual perspective, with Dead or Alive 5, Team Ninja has finally dropped its divisive art style in favour of a more realistic direction. The bright colours are no more and fighting arenas often have a darker, grungier nature to them, whilst they’re rarely as intricate or as interesting as they have been in the past. There’s some lavish lighting effects, but some disappointingly low detail in areas, which is all the more galling when you consider Team Ninja’s previously near spotlessness on a technical level. At least in return we get considerably more detailed character models that sweat, get wet and grubby throughout the fighting, of which are nice little details that further adds to the increased realism of the visuals.
The fighting mechanics are, on the surface, much the same as Dead or Alive 4, with a control system encompassing a punch button, a kick button, a throw button and a block/counter button. The familiar triangle system sees strikes beating throws, throws beating counters, whilst well read and guessed counters will beat strikes. Counters however inflict noticeably less damage this time around, which will irk those that felt that it allowed for more back and forth battles.
New to the formula are Power Blows, which can be triggered once your health levels have dropped below 50%, though only once per round. Once executed successfully, you’re able to choose what danger zone to send your opponent flying into, such as a helicopter, with a spectacular visual payoff. The manoeuvre is comparable to Street Fighter IV’s Ultra Combos, in the sense that you’re able to come back from the brink of defeat.
Meanwhile critical bursts are a technique that allows you to leave your opponent in a defenceless state, so that you’re able to pull off huge combos without the fear of them being countered. It’s a mechanic that advanced players will delight in experimenting with, as they try and build the longest and most devastating combinations possible.
The character roster features all characters from past games with the exception of Leon, Ein and some of the bosses. Popular characters like Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, Kasumi, Ayane, Jann Lee, Helena and Hitomi have all been refined and tweaked. The notoriously overpowered Hayabusa has been toned down for instance.
Joining these familiar faces is MMA fighter Mila, who has good striking ability and can take down her opponents through various combinations and then proceed to pound her opponent or use a brutal submission manoeuvre on them. Rig meanwhile uses the Taekwondo fighting style and has great range on his kicks, and he can also shift into a different stance, allowing advanced players to deliver some painful combos.
Also included are Akira, Sarah and Pai from Virtua Fighter, all of which function much the same here and, despite hailing from a more technical minded series, fit into the Dead or Alive formula better than you might think, though fans that have followed them to the game might be in for a bit of a shock at just how different Dead or Alive 5 is on a mechanical level.
The modes on offer are unlikely to surprise in the same way. There’s all the usual Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival and training modes. The story mode however teaches the fighting mechanics in a way that few fighting games do, which is appreciated, even if the story itself is somewhat nonsensical, though certainly not without its quirky Japanese charm on occasion.
The online features ranked and unranked match-ups, whilst there’s also lobbies that up to 16 people can join and whilst you’re not fighting, you’re able to watch others going at it. But where it really matters most is the performance, and Dead or Alive 5 is largely pleasingly smooth following its recent patch.
Dead or Alive 5 may have some disappointments, though its fresh mechanics enrich the already slick combat system and grant a further layer of depth and substance to the series, though it still manages to remain welcoming to less experienced fighting game players at the same time. Few games in the genre cater to such varying abilities so well, and that is part of the appeal of Team Ninja’s often misunderstood fighter.