Dead or Alive 5 (XBOX 360)
One of this reviewers fondest memories of early Xbox 360 gaming was Dead or Alive 4. While not by any means the perfect fighting game it had its own unique gameplay feel and was a great pick it up and play title where it was possible to throw away minutes or hours without too much thought.
Since the release of DOA4, the last game in the franchise we have seen a few spin off titles in the series but nothing to bring a true sequel to gamers. Given that in that time we have seen various Street Fighter games, Tekken's too... and even crossovers of those two games in addition to Marvel Vs Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat... the list goes on.
Recently Team Ninja and Tecmo released Dead or Alive 5, pitching it into battle with a wide range of high quality fighting games. Can DOA5 find its own niche in amongst the latest Street Fighter, Tekken and the like? Today we find out.
Key Gameplay Features
As is the case with so many recent fighting games Dead or Alive 5 is split over various game modes and first up from the main menu is Story. It comes as no surprise to see this mode included as fighting games have very much moved on in recent times. Whereas it was previously a case of throw the gamer into a very loose story with focus on battles games like SoulCalibur 5 tie the bouts into a plot which plays out as we progress. Dead or Alive takes a similar, though more complex route with the story mode introducing us one by one to the playable characters in the game. Each time a fighter is introduced we get short cutscenes and the play through a single round battle against a foe introduced in the cut-scene. These battles are mostly one on one, though tag is introduced on occasion, and as well as beating our opponent to progress the story we are given bonus missions (essentially tutorial items) to complete. Learning basic through to advanced game skills as the plot unfolds. Making things a little more complex is that with over 20 fighters, all with their plot leading them to the DOA finals, we jump around in the timeline with character stories crossing paths along the way. It should come as no surprise that as we are working through we get unlocks and achievements which can be accessed/used elsewhere in the game.
For those who don't want to play through the Story mode the option is available to head into Fight where the game also has various gameplay mechanics available. Versus is the standard 1vs1, Arcade allows us to take on a range of opponents in the best of three rounds format until we beat 10 enemies and complete that mode, the aim to fight well enough to get the high score. Time attack is all about beating the game in the quickest time and Survival has us fight a stream of opponents to see how long we can last. Training rounds of the modes in this section and it, like the others uses the same control modes of left stick to move with a thumb button for block, punch, kick and throw which mixed with direction give different heights.
Finally for main gameplay we can also take the game online in simple, ranked and lobby matches with up to 16 gamers.
Lets get the obvious out of the way first. DOA5 is a Dead or Alive game and that means a lot of women in revealing clothes. The cut scenes are filled by heaving and more than a load of unnatural undulating with Team Ninja making no attempt to hide it. Some of the moves in the game, specifically girl on girl throws are right out of adult entertainment too.
In its own way this aspect helps DOA find its own way in the fighting game market and is only enhanced by the fact that the last 7 years has been kind to Dead or Alive with version 5 showing a real boost in graphics quality over the previous edition.
Throughout the game the characters are reasonably detailed and the environments very impressive. The amount going on in some of them is stand out in this genre with destructible items, multi-level fighting and even external impact on events. In one level for example we are fighting in a war torn city with bombs exploding around us, throwing the fighters around. In another we take to the circus ring and there fighters kicked into the walls are propelled across the area by exploding tricks.
That said the game clearly doesn't have the same graphic polish of other games released in the last 12 months, especially in story mode where the cut scenes feel very low budget, not helped by some very basic script writing and over the top acting. These voiceover issues do impact the main gameplay too with too little variation on pre and post fight taunts. Find an occasion when two fighters are the same character and they repeat the same one liner.
Looking past the presentation issues the main gameplay is where all games should shine and it becomes very clear, even in the cut-scene heavy story mode, that the fight mechanic is very good in DOA5. There is always the want to get to the next fight and master the next bonus mission/skill even when the plot becomes a slog. In Fight mode the game shows its best feature off... its us against our opponents jumping from fight to fight in seconds and the wide variation of arenas and play styles is clearly evident here. Play as Helena, followed by Brad and then Rig and all feel completely different in their fight style and when opposing them it is equally noticeable. The fights are also quick, smooth and while button mashing gets us far there is real fun and a sense of achievement in learning how to master blocks, counters, combos etc.
A pretty standard online mode adds value, the story mode is a real slog to get through but when we ignore the fluff around the edges of Dead or Alive 5 the core game is very good indeed. It retains the same pick up and play gameplay of the franchise while still delivering a fast, fluid and (given time) deep fighting style. All taking place in some epic fighting areas.