When gamers hear the words Dead Or Alive, pictures of women in little clothing running around playing volleyball is probably the first things that come into their minds. And who could blame them? Following the release of Dead Or Alive 4 in 2006, Team Ninja has been content in taking advantage of the sexy side of the series. Now that Itagaki has left the studio, it seems like Team Ninja is taking steps toward repairing the fighter’s image. Judging by their efforts on Dead Or Alive 5, the future of the franchise looks very bright.
First thing you will notice is how great Dead Or Alive 5 looks. Team Ninja opted to update the look of their characters, moving more towards realism as opposed to the anime inspired look of the past. The results really payed off, the characters look fantastic. Muscle definition, the way their faces looks, and even how they sweat and get dirty while fighting makes Dead Or Alive 5 one of the best looking fighting games released. Unfortunately, the characters faces seem to be stuck in the same emotionless expression. This only becomes noticeable when playing through the story.
The roster of 24 is full of series stalwarts, two new comers, and three guest characters from Virtua Fighter. The fighters are well balanced, and each one of them uses a different martial art based on real world fighting. Personally, my favorite is Christie and her She Quan style. I have no doubt that any one can find a character that suites their style.
Dead Or Alive 5 is notorious for the costumes that they have their female characters fight in. After playing this game, and unlocking a majority of the costumes, Dead Or Alive 5 is the tamest of the series. Aside from Tina, none of the characters really wear anything that you have not seen in any other fighting game. Once again, Team Ninja has tried to fix Dead Or Alive‘s reputation and they are taking steps in the right direction. Pretty much, this is a game you can in front of others with out fear of being called a pervert.
The stages deserve a lot of praise. Team Ninja wanted Dead Or Alive 5 to be classified as fighting entertainment, so they made the stages as action packed as possible. One moment you are fighting on a rooftop, and the next you are on the street level in the middle of a traffic pile up. Besides having different levels on the stages, there are numerous hazards. From exploding barrels, generators, and lions running through flaming hoops, you have to be aware of what is around you when fighting. If all of this action is too much to handle, you can always turn the danger zones off. While the level of interactivity of the stages is amazing, some of the cut scenes that take place can overstay their welcome, slowing the fights down a little.
Audio wise, Dead Or Alive 5 is a mixed bag. The soundtrack is not particularly memorable, but it does help set the tone of the fights. Team Ninja did a good job with casting the English voices. While not great, the English voice actors did a good job bringing their characters to life. Purists will be happy to know that you can switch to the Japanese voice track at anytime. The area in which Dead Or Alive 5 excels in is with the sound effects. Punches and kicks sound like they carry some serious force behind them, and hearing bones break and muscles tear during grabs sounds painful.
The actual fighting is as fluid and fast paced as ever. Anyone who has played Dead Or Alive or even Virtua Fighter before will quickly get used to the three-button layout. Everyone else will have an easy time learning the triangle system that is a staple to the series. For newcomers, strikes beat throws, throws beat holds, and holds beats strikes.
This simple rock-paper-scissors system is easy to grasp, but can take some time to master. Strikes and throws are common place in the fighting world, but Dead Or Alive always stood out due to the holds. Every strike can be countered with a well executed hold, which will keep overly aggressive players honest. If you are the type who only learns 3-4 combo strings for your character, you will not last long in Dead Or Alive 5. That being said, holds have been toned down when compared to past games. The window of opportunity you have is a little tighter, and the damage done has been nerfed.
Dead Or Alive 5 did add some new things to its core mechanics. The critical burst is an attack that will complete stun the opponent, it will even prevent them from performing holds when being comboed against. Critical bursts can seem a bit over powered, but they have a long start up time and can be avoided. Power blows are also added into the mix. Basically, these are the ultimate moves in Dead Or Alive 5. When your health is under 50%, you can hold the power blow combo (usually back and punch+kick) and if the attack lands you will unleash a flurry of blows on your opponent. On certain stages you can launch your opponent into a danger zone after your attack, inflicting even more damage. Once again, this mechanic is highly situation, and is very easy to punish.
Besides those two new mechanics, Team Ninja was content on refining the rest of the system. Sidestepping, for instance, feels a lot better. However, the gameplay has not evolved much, and that is fine. Team Ninja learned the hard way earlier in the year that if something is not broke, don’t fix it.
Dead Or Alive 5 comes packed with content. There is a fantastic training mode, an arcade (which there are no character endings sadly), time attack, survival, tag team, online, and story mode. The menus are very easy to navigate, but the load times can be a little on the long side. It is recommended that you install it to the hard drive to speed up the times. All-in-all, this game will keep you busy for a very long time.
Story Mode is worth mentioning because it also serves as the tutorial. Before each fight you are given a challenge, like land five punches, and when you succeed you unlock a title. Don’t worry, these challenges are not mandatory, but they serve as a great way to understand the system more. Also, here is were you will unlock a few of the characters for play. Besides being a learning tool, the story is not very good. The timeline is all over the place, the writing is laughable, and here is were the lack of emotion in the characters’ faces become noticeable. However, the story does offer some mild, b-movie level entertainment.
Online is a bit of a mixed bag. When everything is going as planned, the netcode is stable and online is a lot of fun. But if you fight an opponent with a 3-bar connection, be prepared for some noticeable lag. Besides ranked and simple matches, you have lobbies. Here is were you can learn a lot about the game simply by spectating others duking it out, and by joining the fights. Unfortunately there is no option to boot out a player, so some one with a bad connection can ruin the fun for the rest of the lobby.
There is an extensive replay system included. You can view the fight from any angle and take pictures to keep any memories if you wish…or to inspect the characters a little closer than normal. Unfortunately, downloading any replays that are worth watching is a bit of a pain.
Finally, it would not be Dead Or Alive without tag teams. Fighting as teams adds even more depth to the system. You can tag in and out in the middle of a combo, have devastating tag throws, you can keep a juggle going longer than normal, and you can even tag during power blows. Honestly, this could be sold as a separate game and go toe-to-toe with Street Fighter X Tekken and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Tag teams has never felt like a tacked on feature, and is really enjoyable to have to go along with the 1v1 fights.
While not a groundbreaking game, Dead Or Alive 5 is a very solid title. It might not add in too many new mechanics, but it refines all the important ones to create a better fighter. If the netcode was a little more stable, Dead Or Alive 5 would be even better. It is a fighter that anyone can get into, and while it may leave much to be desired from hardcore fighting fans, Dead Or Alive 5 is just flat out fun. Team Ninja stated that they want this game to be classified as fighting entertainment, and they succeeded. Hopefully they keep the momentum going forward, and offer something that is truly revolutionary in the future.