Surprises are always nice. For instance, when a game that you didn’t have much hope in, actually turns out to be a jolly good time. That is the case with Dead or Alive 5.
I mean, when I think about Dead or Alive, I think about an average fighting game with above average breast physics, meant to attract and excite men of all ages. What I stumbled upon here was considerably more. While not nearly perfect, Dead or Alive 5 is a fighting game that you should not quickly count out.
What allows Dead or Alive 5 to stand out is its gameplay. The layout is mapped comfortably similar to this year’s Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown and actually has the chops to match. Players learn and tailor each character’s impressive collection of combos to match their particular fighting style. Using your regular punch, kick, grab and block commands to beat your opponent sideways in flashy, fluid connections that are as simple to use as their are easy on the eyes.
Really one of Dead or Alive’s strengths comes from this fluidity, and its accessibility. A novice at Dead or Alive such as myself was able to learn at least the basics with relative ease using the game’s story mode, which introduces a good deal of the game’s simple and not so simple mechanics at a steady pace. The training mode also gives you fantastic practice, allowing players to learn the ropes quickly and easily.
The story mode itself, however, caused me trouble. Filled with obnoxiously corny dialogue, which was good for a laugh or two, just became downright annoying a couple of hours in. Centering around the emergence of the fifth Dead or Alive tournament, the meat of the story is in the convergence of the game’s roster coming together and fighting each other, more or less. Not saying that any other fighting game campaign has proven any better, Dead or Alive 5′s story mode just fails to impress. It is only worth playing to unlock a few of the game’s characters, as well as learning the ropes.
Learning the ropes is in fact important, as Dead or Alive 5‘s brand of fighting is fast paced, addicting, and rewarding. The most simplified explanation would be that DOA5 is actually an intense game of rock paper scissors. Switching between juggling combos, holds, and grabs, players must out manuever, out think and predict their opponents moves in order to get a flawless victory. Mastery of the timing of each hold technique, which can be used to block high, mid and low attacks, is essential to success in Dead or Alive 5. It all just feels so right.
Dead or Alive 5 is also rich in content. Online modes allow you to jump in and get acquanted in the quick match mode. The game pairs you up with a player of similar (or greater if you are a masochist) level, and allows you to duke it out again and again if you please, then add that player to your in game friends list, or leave and find a new player to bump fists with. Ranked matches allow you to test your chops in matches that have the opportunity that give you the ability to move your way up in the leaderboards. And of course, the game has your typical lobbying for playing with people on your friends list.
The online itself was a mixed bag, though I chalk it up to having the Playstation 3 version of the game, so as a result I’m not that prime to hold the occasional laggy match against it. One match would be totally clear, smooth, and fluid, while another saw the opponent jumping around screen, and input lag in abundance. This aside, Dead or Alive 5 has enough online options to keep players busy.
Offline has even more to offer. Time Attack, Survival, your standard faire is all here. In addition there is a perplexingly odd spectator mode, which allows you to pit two computers together and take pictures of the fight. You can then view and share the pictures with friends. It is a bit disappointing to see that you cannot use spectator mode online, however. I wouldn’t mind a mode where you could watch others fight for a while, and learn strategies from them.
Visually, Dead or Alive 5 isn’t all that impressive. Though it holds its own, it looks very similar to Tecmo Koei’s other 2012 release, Ninja Gaiden 3. This coming from dull, over saturated backgrounds behind slightly above average character models that are abundantly unimpressive. It is worth noting that the dull looking character’s movements themselves are downright comical, but that simply adds to the game’s intentionally annoying tone. At least I consider it intentionally annoying. Benefit of the doubt.
The music is upbeat, though rather quiet, during fights. Effective electronic and hip-hop actually add to the experience, rather than take away from it.
All in all, Dead or Alive 5 knocks Virtua Fighter 5 out by miles, and does a good job at competing with Tekken Tag Tournament 2, with its smart, fast paced, and fluid gameplay. The online is solid, and while the story mode leaves so much to be desired, it ultimately doesn’t take away from what Dead or Alive 5 is trying to be. It all leads up to a successful redemption and rebranding of a series that is mocked for its focus on breasts more than its actual game mechanics. Dead or Alive 5 comes back fighting.