Fans have been waiting nearly seven years for a true sequel to Dead or Alive 4. This week, the wait is finally over as Dead or Alive 5 hits store shelves worldwide. Not only that, this is the first Dead or Alive fighting game since DOA2: Hardcore to be released on a PlayStation platform.
The last time I actually played a Dead or Alive game was back in the PS2 and Dreamcast days. That was nearly twelve years ago. Despite that significant gap, the gameplay still felt extremely familiar.
I received Dead or Alive 5 about a week ago, which I don’t think is enough time to review a fighting game. This was especially true once I found out that nobody was even online. The few matches I did find were against people in Japan and Taiwan and they were all 1 bar connections. These were quite possibly some of the laggiest matches I’ve ever had in a fighting game, but it’s not fair to make judgements on the netcode yet.
Early reports suggest that these issues occur on both the PS3 and Xbox 360, so I know I’m not alone. I did have a match recently on PSN with someone that had a full bar connection and it was more playable than not. However, it still felt like I was just throwing out attacks and hoping for the best and reading my opponent wasn’t an option due to input delay.
In Lobby matches you can modify various client settings, including the amount of rounds, the time limit, max amount of health, and the number of players.
The fight rules include Winner Stays, Loser Stays, Tournament, Kumite, and Online Dojo.
All of these modes are playable in 1v1 and 2v2 battles. Surprisingly enough, this game even supports up to 16 players in a single lobby. I haven’t had a chance to play anything outside of Winner Stays yet, so hopefully I’ll get some more matches in once people get the game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like you can play tag mode online with a buddy like you could in DOA4.
One thing I did notice though is that you sometimes can’t kick players out of a lobby once a game has started. We tried politely asking a laggy person to leave the lobby but he refused. This is a huge problem.
The single player story mode took roughly 2-3 hours to complete. This isn’t bad considering the genre but there are no endings for individual characters in arcade mode.
The story itself is nonsensical at best and the general flow is very similar to Mortal Kombat 9, just nowhere near as interesting. Each character gets at least three single round fights before moving on to the next person in the timeline.
There are so many random and brief altercations, it’s like the developers couldn’t actually think of a reason to make these characters fight each other. For example one scene consists of a character getting bumped into on the street. This leads to a fight for some reason and then that’s it.
The story mode also gives some tips on how to play the game along the way. It’s somewhat useful but the execution is lazy.
The other modes include Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, and Training. Each mode is playable in both solo and tag variations except for Survival, which doesn’t have a tag option for some reason.
The training mode in particular is worth praising. You change the settings for pretty much everything you can think of, from the CPU’s actions and reactions to the way it counters and recovers. You can also record a dummy’s actions to test certain strategies against yourself.
Usefully, the game displays frame data for each move in real time. This actually works in versus mode as well and you can even set the display to show your opponent’s frame data. Whilst it may not be for casual players, it’s something hardcore players are going to appreciate a lot.
Perhaps the most helpful option for casual players is the Command Training. This lets you practice each move one by one after successfully completing a command. Seeing as some characters can have over a hundred moves in their arsenal, this does have its uses.
Creating useful combos is all up to you though, and this mode will not teach you how to play. If you’re new to the series you’ll have to rely on outside sources since the brief tips in story mode can only do so much.
Gameplay Mechanics and Technical Stuff
When it comes to the actual gameplay, Dead or Alive 5 is extremely fluid and easy to pick up and play. You can literally mash the punch and kick buttons to do something cool. It might not get you far against someone who knows how to play, but it’s still instant gratification.
The inputs for most characters are extremely lenient, which means everyone should be able to enjoy this game to some degree. And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with that. This is a great game to bring over to a friend’s house for some fun.
At the competitive level, Tecmo has actually changed quite a lot. The amount of damage done by counter holds has been decreased and they are more difficult to pull off.
In DOA5 there are four different types of counter holds – there’s one for High attacks, Low attacks, Mid punches, and Mid kicks. Some counters require very specific frames in order to work and the game rewards you greatly for pulling those off.
There’s also specific counters that require more inputs than the generic ones and those are even more difficult to do. Contrary to popular belief, you can’t just mash the counter button and expect to win against an unpredictable opponent. In fact, throwing out counters randomly can leave you in a variety of Critical Stun states if you’re not careful.
One of the more interesting additions to the stun mechanic is the Critical Burst state. This occurs when your opponent is at the peak of their Critical Stun and you hit them with a character specific Critical Burst attack. This leaves your opponent in a standing crumple state that allows you to follow up with any move you want. Normally you would be able to counter attacks during most Critical Stun states but everything after a Critical Burst is guaranteed damage.[drop2]Another new attack introduced in DOA5 is the Power Blow. If you charge this attack when your character has less than 50% health you’ll do a special cinematic attack that allows you to interact with the environment for some devastating results. This move on its own is extremely difficult to land since it’s so slow but you can hit an opponent with an unblockable Power Blow after knocking them into a Critical Burst state.
The stages vary from multi-tiered construction sites to war zones and circuses. In the Dead or Alive series, stages have always been a tool you can use to get an upper hand on your opponent. The introduction of the Cliffhanger mechanic adds a bit of a mini-game to the well established concept of Danger Zones and gives you a chance to throw or strike your opponent during a cinematic sequence.
There’s always something crazy going on and Tecmo tried to emphasize that even more with Dead or Alive 5. Some may criticize this game by saying it looks like a buffed up Dreamcast game but it’s really not that bad. Each and every move animates beautifully at 60fps even with all the action in the background. The character models look great in motion as well, although their faces are still very doll like. The sound effects are also some of my favorite in the genre. Everything just sounds incredibly painful and satisfying.
I spent about 20 hours with the game so far and I encountered a handful of glitches, some worse than others. For example, the language setting reverts back to English every time you boot the game up. I also had a weird issue in training mode where all the practice settings screen were on screen but I was still controlling the action in the background.
During online play I had a situation where I couldn’t do anything after a character’s winning animation. Normally just pressing the X button would bring up a menu. Nothing happened this time. I eventually took a break from playing online after I was greeted by a black screen after joining a lobby. Resetting the game or unplugging my Ethernet cable were the only ways to resolve these problems.
It’s possible that the day 1 update fixes the online issues I had but I haven’t played online long enough to see if that’s actually true. However, I did notice that the game would literally pause mid-match during netplay sometimes. This occasionally occurred in 1-on-1 matches but it most frequently happens when another player joins the lobby.
Even worse, the PS3 version pauses mid-match during offline play if you enable Throwdown challenges (which are fight invites from other players). This is a gamebreaking bug and it’s one I only see getting worse once more players get their hands on the game. You have to disable Throwdowns after selecting a Fight mode or else you’ll always have this problem. It’s unacceptable that such a workaround even has to be considered.
Dead or Alive 5 is now available in North America and releases in Europe on the 28th of September. Expect a full review soon.