Dead or Alive 5 Review for Xbox 360

Dead or Alive 5 Review for Xbox 360

Fighting Spectacle

Dead or Alive has never been the go-to tournament fighter of choice. But that’s okay; it never wanted to be. Other than Smash Brothers, DOA is the one series that has done the most to make fighting games newbie friendly. Built upon a simple rock-paper-scissors system that works even when you are fat-fingering the buttons like a chimpanzee banging on a drum, DOA seems to cater to the casual player before the hordes of tournament regulars that are looking for aerial combos, focus attack dash cancels, and frame traps.

Many fans thought that DOA5 would change this, finally stepping up to take its place alongside the Street Fighters and Tekkens of the world. And, to an extent, this was a fair assessment: DOA5 easily boasts the most hardcore-friendly mechanics of the series to date. But at the same time, it also turns the casual bait up to 11.

Dead or Alive 5 Screenshot

In an early interview, Tecmo Koei called this game “fighting entertainment” rather than traditional fighting, to signify that the game is focused less on balance and more on spectacle, but is spectacle alone enough to sell a game?

Probably. So, let’s start with the “spectacle” first: Yes, DOA has always been known for its unrealistically proportioned female characters more than its mechanics. Rest assured, these femme fatales return in DOA5 and they are dressed skimpier than ever.

Now, I’m all for some good old fashioned ogling from time to time, but honestly, this isn’t doing much to combat the “gamers are sexist pigs” arguments that are constantly being thrown in our face. Yeah, I know that scantily clad women are DOA tradition, but this is starting to get a bit ludicrous. Can we at least dial back the objectification a tiny bit in DOA 6?

Dead or Alive 5 Screenshot

The core DOA system remains intact in DOA5. Your basic buttons trigger punches, kicks, holds, and throws. Holds beat punches and kicks, throws beat holds, and punches and kicks beat throws. Holds are multipurpose, either blocking or countering your opponent’s attacks depending on how you use them.

DOA has always taken place in a 3D environment, but DOA5 is the first game in the series that really stresses three-dimensional movement. Side-stepping into the foreground or background is easier now and can be used to avoid most of your opponent’s attacks. As a result, the tried and true Tekken concept of homing attacks has been integrated into the game. Certain moves track your opponent, thus hitting them when they sidestep. Other moves will simply move forward, whiffing against an opponent who sidesteps at the right time.

Dead or Alive 5 Screenshot

DOA has always been keen on forcing you to use your environment. However, DOA5 has taken environmental damage to a whole new level. Usually, in 3D games, you can gain a bit more damage by pinning your opponent against a wall. In DOA5, however, you can knock your opponent off of cliffs and into trains, cars, tigers, and all sorts of ludicrous stuff. These “Danger Zones” deal an absurd amount of damage when you knock your opponent into them with a correct attack.

Unfortunately, these environmental hazards also tend to break up the flow of the game, interrupting the battle with long cutscenes that seem like they are taken right out of an action movie. Don’t get me wrong, seeing your opponent get run over by a train is fun, but by the tenth time you really just want the damage to be done and get on with it. Luckily, you can turn hazards like this off in the game options. In fact, you can simply choose to fight on a featureless wall-less stage if you really want to.

Dead or Alive 5 Screenshot

The game controls smoothly and responsively, and even though it’s welcoming to newbies, someone with better timing and more thorough knowledge of their character’s move list will still probably prevail in the end. Still, there are certain aspects of DOA5’s fighting system that feel random and cheap. Certain strings are blatantly abusable and hard to punish while new Critical Bursts leave your opponent unfairly open. Also, new Power Blows do absurd damage, once again through cinematic cutscenes. All of this comes together to give the game a certain feeling of cheapness, though that’s nothing new to the DOA franchise. You can eventually master your character to an extent that these spammable tactics are child’s play to avoid, but in the beginning expect a lot of frustration as you lose to simple overpowered moves over and over again.

Speaking of characters, the DOA5 roster is absolutely spectacular. Not only will you see classic DOA faces and some totally original newcomers enter the ring, you’ll also see some guest combatants from Virtua Fighter 5 like Pai and Akira. Since Virtua Fighter is built on a three-button control scheme that is very similar to DOA’s, these characters essentially control exactly like their Virtua Fighter incarnations, right down to their strings and strategies. Heck, even pro tactics like Sarah Bryant’s flamingo stance cancels carry over perfectly.

Of course, any fighting game worth its salt has to include online play, and DOA5 is no exception. It includes the typical options you’d find in a fighting game’s online suite, including ranked, unranked, and lobby matches. Spectator mode is included, which at this point has become somewhat of a necessity in the online fighting world. You can even take the game into online training mode to practice your most damaging combos on your friend.

As far as the game’s netcode goes, it’s a bit of a hit or miss affair. I’ve played in matches that were completely smooth with no perceptible lag whatsoever, but I’ve also played in matches that would freeze and skip at the worst times. Apparently, the DOA5 team is working to improve the game’s online play even as we speak, which is a good thing. Overall, I’d say that the netcode is competent with a few unfortunate hiccups that prevent it from being perfect.

The last thing I want to mention here is the story mode which, frankly, is rather horrible (even for a fighting game story mode.) However, it’s magnificent as a tutorial. The folks at Tecmo Koei have learned to integrate their tutorials into the gameplay itself, and this is a great help to anyone who is just learning the game. You have to go through story mode to unlock characters, so just about every player will be compelled to give it a shot. This way, everyone will have experienced the tutorial and no one will have an excuse for not learning the game’s mechanics. That being said, the plot is absolutely ludicrous. Some scenes are entertaining but most are just poorly written excuses to set up a fight. I’d actually suggest skipping through most of them, as you’ll learn the game and unlock characters quicker that way.

DOA5 lives up to the phrase “fighting entertainment” by being a game that trades mechanical depth for accessibility and flash. It’s very friendly to mashing, boasts a very simple fighting system without any hidden mechanics, and wraps every match in a dazzling spectacle. It’s almost like a Michael Bay version of a fighting game; you don’t have to think about it too hard but that’s why it’s so entertaining. Sure, you might feel dirty for enjoying it at the end of the day, but at least you can say you had fun.

The character models are detailed to the extent where they’ll make you uncomfortable when you see them in bikinis. 4.2 Control
The controls are more responsive and the mechanics have been tweaked to allow for new 3D movement and power attacks. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music is competent; it’s your basic fighting game faire. 4.0 Play Value
I wouldn’t say this is the next great tournament fighter, but I sure had an amazing time with it. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Intense DOA Fighting – DOA5 expands the signature fighting style for which the series is known with a variety of new martial arts techniques and styles.
  • Realistic and Sensual Graphics – Characters come alive with a new visual style combining stunning realism with a warm, naturalistic feel that conveys every facet of each character—from raw power to sleek sensuality.
  • Dream Lineup – Play as Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, Ayane, Kasumi, and Hitomi as well as numerous additional characters yet to be announced.
  • Interactive Blockbuster Stages – More than a backdrop, spectacular locations from around the world provide a changing and interactive showcase for deadly battles.
  • New Special Moves – Use power blows to interactively trigger the Danger Zone of a stage, including crashing cars, collapsing glaciers, and an exploding oil rig—distract your opponent or drive him into danger.
  • Online Battles – A full-fledged online experience awaits players that allows for both beginners and experts to compete head to head in a variety of playing fields and battle modes.

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