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11/16/2012

REVIEW: Dead or Alive 5 (Xbox 360/PS3)



Dead or Alive 5 is finally out. It’s been seven years since home consoles got a new game from this franchise and fans like me have been desperate to get our hands on the game. While not very popular and with a small community, the DOA games have always been considered flashy, fast, deep and very beautiful. Now that DOA5 has been out for a while, I can finally come up with final take on what’s good and what’s not so good about it.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Dead or Alive is a fighting game franchise created by Team Ninja, a development team inside Tecmo-Koei, the last console version of the franchise was Dead or Alive 4, an exclusive Xbox 360 title that came out back in 2005 and, while nice to most of the public, didn’t seem to get much acceptance in the now-growing Fighting Game Community for involving too much guessing that made the game too random in high-level play. Dead or Alive 5 makes a pretty good job at fixing most of those problems and have a very deep system that will please both casual players and competitive ones alike.

Let’s go to the visuals first. Dead or Alive 5 is definitely a very-good looking game. Graphically it’s incredible, possibly the best-looking fighting game of this generation, even better than Soul Calibur V. The characters changed their looks dramatically, leaving behind the anime-style from the DOA1-DOA4 era for a more realistic take. They look more human, are much better animated, they get dirty and sweat while fighting and simply look much better than ever. The girls are more beautiful now. This franchise has always been known for having the most gorgeous females in the industry and DOA5 definitely takes that very seriously. Girls like Tina, Kasumi and Leifang are back and more beautiful than ever before.

Another thing Team Ninja has always been proud about is their stages. Dead or Alive has some of the most beautiful, varied and interactive stages in the genre and DOA5 is no different. The fights will take players to construction sites being destroyed, warzones with tanks and helicopters, jungles with tons of animals around and even different circus shows. For the most part, the stages look incredible but I’ve really got to complain about the floor and wall textures in some of them.

When you pay enough attention to them or the fight is taking place near a specific wall, the texture isn’t very pretty and looks like it was rushed in or something. This is especially noticeable in the floor of the Sakura stage where there’s supposed to be grass but most of it is just a plain green floor. Still, I have to say that the fights are so fast and intense that this is hard to notice and you really have to look for it. Besides it doesn’t happen in all stages. And trust me, the look of the characters and objects in the screen more than makes up for it.

In terms of animations, the game is simply fantastic. It’s very fast and looks really beautiful. Most characters have tons of flashy moves that are excellently animated, like Ryu Hayabusa’s Izuna Otoshi or Jann Lee’s Way of the Dragon throw. Added to that, launching an opponent to a specific wall or floor of any stage will trigger a “Dangerzone” that will many times change the shape of the stage drastically. In the “Scramble” stage for example, the entire construction site can crumble and huge pieces of the building will fall around the stage, changing its size while the two players still fight. “Fuel” is an oil refinery that can get caught in a spectacular fire while the fighters are at it. It’s really beautiful and no matter how many times it happens, you won’t get tired of it.

In the sound department the game doesn’t really do anything new, but it doesn’t do anything bad either. First, the soundtrack is better than the one in DOA4. Each stage has its own track and the majority of them fit perfectly with the stage it represents. The songs are the usual fighting game tune, with small 2-3 minutes loops repeating. I especially like the song in the “The Ends of the Earth” stage, it reminds me of the soundtracks in the Megaman X franchise. “Sakura” and “Temple of the Dragon” also have pretty good songs.

A very negative thing I found in the soundtrack is the song that plays in the online menus. It’s a rap song composed by a veteran high-level player named “Chosen1”. The song is actually nice and it’s even better that Team Ninja made the decision to take it into consideration and put it in the game. But when you play a lot online, you simply get tired of it because it repeats once and again. Xbox 360 users can simply make use of custom soundtracks but PS3 ones will have to endure it.

The sound effects are a pretty good mix of realistic sounds for when the stages break apart and ambient sounds with cartoony ones of the strikes themselves. The sounds are really well administered so there’s nothing wrong there. For the voice acting, some of the old characters got most of their fight yells and screams recycled from DOA3, 2 Ultimate and 4 but got different lines for before and after fights.

Gameplay-wise, Dead or Alive 5 will feel really familiar to fans of the previous games at first. Newcomers will also feel very welcome because DOA is easy-to-get-into and the execution of strings and movement isn’t very hard. But the game has actually included tons of new mechanics that make it a very deep fighter worthy of consideration to the community.

Dead or Alive 5 works with only three buttons: Punch, Kick and Block and mixing two or the three of them have different effects like throws and other special strikes, exactly like in Virtua Fighter. Characters make use of strings of punches, kicks and throws to try and overcome their opponents before being knocked-out themselves. Like in every fighting game out there, there are fast rush-down characters like Kasumi and Christie who make a lot of incredibly fast moves and are hard to interrupt while others like Bass or Tina are slower but hit much harder and can deal tons of damage with their throws. The total cast of the game is composed of 24 characters including newcomers like the MMA female fighter Mila and the Tae-Kwon-Do user Rig. The Dead or Alive 4 boss ALPHA-152 is also there and three characters from Virtua Fighter appear as guests: Akira Yuki, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chan. The cast is excellent and you’re guaranteed to find at least one that will suit your play-style in an excellent way.

DOA5 still makes use of the hold system, also known as counterhold system in which any character can counterattack a specific strike and deal damage to the attacker. This system has been the cause of many debates among the competitive scene because the game allows the defender to hold while he/she is in a stun which would normally mean that a combo is pretty much guaranteed (This happens in games like Virtua Fighter). Using counterholds while stunned is still possible in DOA5 but now the vast majority of characters have specific attacks that cause stuns that will not allow the defender to counterhold out of them, this benefits the offensive game by a lot and slightly fixes one of the major problems the high-level community had with Dead or Alive 4.

Besides the stun system itself, forcing an opponent into a wall or launching them to a ceiling or floor will give much better options to the attacker. That way, the stage interaction becomes much better than in the previous game. If you want to be good in DOA5, you’ll definitely want to make your opponent move towards a wall to make use of better combos than in open space. Most stages are very different, having specific effects for their walls, floors, ceilings and even breakable objects in the middle of them. It’s really nice to see a 3D fighter make such a great use of stage interaction.

The game also includes many other mechanics present in other fighters. For example, frame advantage is now very important just like attempting to play with safe-on-block moves to avoid the defender to deal damage. Sabakis are present in the game and characters like Leifang make a lot of use for them. Throwing is more important than ever for the grapplers and now, Team Ninja added a sidestep system to force an opponent’s linear attack to miss, avoid it from the side and regain the offensive. Sidestepping in DOA5 works very similar to Tekken and Virtua Fighter and it is very important not only to avoid attacks, but for stage positioning as well.

Like most fighters, Dead or Alive 5 has many game modes. Story Mode will continue on the events from DOA4 in which the ninjas are searching for Kasumi’s clone, ALPHA-152 and taking revenge on DOATEC while other characters like Helena Douglas are trying to rebuild the company. The story, to be quite honest, isn’t very good and definitely not interesting other than to farm some of the 500+ titles available in an internal achievement list in the game, unlocking hidden characters and learning some of the basics of the system if you’re new to the game. But the narrative and story isn’t good at all. Fighting games in general seem to suffer a lot from poor stories.

Arcade, Time Attack and Survival modes are there and can be played on both single and tag battle, in which two fighters take on other two as teams and have special throws involving both of them sometimes. These three modes are perfect for practicing and unlocking costumes for the characters. In the later difficulties, they become quite hard though.

Training mode is there as well and better than ever. It allows you to take a look at the entire move list of any character, their attributes, damage numbers and even frame data. You can change how the training dummy behaves to the point of recording specific actions and make it do them over and over. This means that if you have problems doing something against a specific string, you can make the training dummy do it on you repeatedly and learn how to shut it down. Training Mode in DOA5 is just as good as the ones in VF4 Evolution and VF5 Final Showdown.

In the online modes, you can play Ranked Matches or Unranked Matches. First you put the search options you want to use like number of rounds, location of the opponents to avoid lag and things like that and then you fight a human opponent when the game finds him/her. Lobby Matches are similar to the system used in DOA2U and DOA4 where several players join in a room and can play and watch other people play while they talk with their headsets or use an internal chat system for the game. When the game first came out, the performance online was seriously bad, but a recent patch upgraded it by a lot and now the game runs fine most of the times. Still the performance isn’t as good as Soul Calibur V or VF5: Final Showdown but it’s playable to most of the public. High-level competitive players will notice that sometimes they won’t be able to punish an unsafe move or low block on reaction because of the lag but casual and common players won’t really have a problem with that.

Dead or Alive 5 is a more-than-welcome addition to the growing catalog of fighting games this generation. It’s a gorgeous-looking game with excellent graphics, music and a very deep fighting system even the most competitive players will enjoy. The cast of fighters is fantastic and extremely varied, just like the stage selection and game modes, making the game have a pretty much infinite replay value. With all characters having more than a hundred moves each and the mechanics being so deep, you’ll always find something new to learn and add to your play-style. This is an amazing 3D fighter that every player out there should get their hands on.


Pros:

-          Excellent roster of 24 different characters.
-          Stage interaction is fantastic.
-          Great visuals and music.
-          The girls are more beautiful than ever.
-          Fighting mechanics are easy-to-get-into but hard to master.
-          Training mode is extremely useful.


Cons:

-          Online performance is not perfect.
-          The story is really bad.


-          Graphics and Visuals……..…..9
-          Music and Sound Effects…......9
-          Gameplay……………………10
-          Replay Value………………...10

-          Overall Score……………….. 9.5 / 10

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