Following on from the success of Dead or Alive: Dimensions on the 3DS, Dead or Alive 5 updates the series for the modern console generation with a style that's flashy and cinematic. All the old favourites make a welcome return including Ryu Hayabusa from Ninja Gaiden, Tina Armstrong with her brutal wrestling skills, Jann Lee with his swift strikes and the red-haired Kasumi with her iconic blue dress. And with this being a numbered sequel rather than a lacklustre sideshow, the game introduces some new and yet strangle familiar faces.
We don't know how Team Ninja managed to pull it off, but Dead or Alive 5 goes the extra mile by adding Akira Yuki, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chan from Sega's legendary Virtua Fighter series. Each one makes the transition with most of their signature moves intact, and while Dead or Alive has always been a more accessible fighter than a lot of its 3D contemporaries, the depth has always been there for those who're willing to dig deep.
The basics of combat revolve around a deceptively simple rock-paper-scissors system that explains how strikes beat throws, throws beat counters and counters beat strikes. Master that basic principal and you'll be well on your way to understanding the lightning fast pace that Dead or Alive runs at. But if you just want to learn some simple combos while taking advantage of the multi-tiered arenas that let you slam an opponent against an electric fence or knock them off a building, this game will make you feel empowered. It's like watching a kung-fu movie in fast forward with impossibly dexterous glamour models.
A common criticism with fighting games is that they don't offer enough single player mileage for the solo enthusiast. So in a similar style to the narrative infused BlazBlue and Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive 5 spins a yarn about nefarious corporations and their experiments to create the ultimate fighter. It's not going to win the Booker Prize, but by splitting the story into 71 chapters that gradually teach the nuances of the fighting system, the game strikes a fairly even balance between ease of access and progressive challenge. Advanced players will also learn the importance of the new Power Blow and Critical Stun systems.
For those who just want to beat up the AI challengers or take on another human opponent, the classic selection of Arcade, Versus, Time Attack and Survival modes will cater for your one-on-one needs. The long-standing Tag Match mode has also been reinstated with the MMA armbars and triangle chokes of Mila being the perfect partnership for the Taekwondo prowess of Rig. Both these characters are entirely new additions that are worth discovering in the fully equipped Training mode before you take the fight online.
One criticism we'd level at Dead or Alive 5 is the pass system that restricts all the online modes to the original purchaser unless you buy a new code - just like Tekken Tag Tournament 2. But while this limits the game's second hand value, the familiar spread of Player, Ranked and Lobby Matches are all present and correct. Playing a match online is a pleasantly stable experience whenever you fight someone on the continent, and while Dead or Alive 5 doesn't stamp out lag completely, it ranks as one of the more consistent fighting games we've played.
As a package, Dead or Alive 5 offers a well-rounded experience that draws the newcomers in with its flashy visuals and explosive combos, while offering ample substance under its porcelain exterior to keep the more dedicated fans entertained...
- A stacked roster of 25 characters
- Subtle but meaningful improvements
- A story mode that teaches and challenges
- Plays it a little safe in places
- Yet another Online Pass system
- No character customisation mode