Releasing on both the Xbox 360 &
Playstation 3 simultaneously, Dead or Alive returns after a 7-year
hiatus. What have Kasumi and her ninja friends been up to over the last 7 years?
Who knows... but one thing's for sure; great graphics, multi-tiered stages and
over-the-top jiggle physics are
back in all their HD glory. How does DOA5 stack up against the prequels of the series and the top 3D fighting games of this era? ...Is DOA still
alive? Or Dead on Arrival? Hot off the heels of Tekken Tag Tournament 2's
release a couple weeks prior, DOA5 surely has something to prove. As a
hardcore Tekken player, I had to put aside my previous views of the DOA
series, and with a clear mind, I approached DOA5 as a "new"
Upon starting up DOA5, after the flashy Team Ninja introduction, I was greeted with
a dull screen displaying the "Dead or
Alive 5" logo. After waiting 15 seconds, I realized there wasn't going
to be an introduction to the game
Moving along... The dark and dingy main menu is equally as
sleepy, hosting 5 modes: Story, Fight, Online, Extras
& Options (a stifling contrast to TTT2's
energetic and jam-packed main menu, mind you). DOA5's main mode, "Fight" contains your standard Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival
Bass deserves to be Wataaaaaah'd
for wearing that hideous outfit.
Like I do with every fighting game, I started with a traditional Arcade
Mode playthrough. While being entertained by DOA5's shiny new character models and
stages... Arcade Mode just stopped abruptly. Shockingly, there's no boss or
even a boss stage... just the option to restart or return to the main menu. What
As with SC5, there are no character endings either... and overall, no
"feeling of completion" for playing through Arcade (besides
unlocking 1 new costume and online title). Thankfully though, DOA5's
Story Mode does feature a boss battle and a boss stage... but the path to
getting there isn't your typical 10-minute arcade ladder.
DOA5's Story Mode uses the crisp in-game graphics to introduce all of the
fighters, and also acts as somewhat of a tutorial as you progress. Each
individual fight within Story teaches you a "little something"
about the game mechanics or a specific character's moves. It also features bonus missions,
such as: "Land a 7 hit combo" or "Blow an opponent
into a wall"... (yes, blow).
The story's pacing is a choppy ride from the start, jumping around from scene to scene erratically. It's cutscene after cutscene, spaced out by irksome black loading screens
throughout, with characters randomly starting fights
with one another... usually for little to no reason at all.
The majority of story content is nonsensical, awkward, and
character personalities come up pretty dry. There's little to no significant story development for
the returning characters, but the stories for newcomers, Mila & Rig, do at
least try to explain
their motivations for fighting.
The manner in which each of
the DOA characters tie in to one another's storyline is "sloppy" to say the least.
Characters often seem awkwardly "forced"
to meet each other. Why
would the supposed "badass" ninja Hayate really care how teenage
schoolgirl Hitomi is doing in the tournament? Wouldn't a real ninja have better
things to do?
And why the hell does everyone
in the game end up hanging around some trashy bar adjacent to an oil rig?!?
Besides a few well-choreographed cutscenes (which amount to
around 8% of the
overall content), DOA5's Story Mode is less entertaining than the pitiful
live action DOA movie, and doesn't save it from
its gawkiness and clumsy pace.
The story also introduces the Virtua Fighter guest characters
(unlocking them upon defeating them), but unsurprisingly, they don't have any
About midway through, the story also starts to overlap
itself... Meaning you'll be watching some of the same cut scenes over again as
you play through another character's story. Why
the dev-team felt it was important for you to relive
some of the same boring scenes is beyond me, and it just comes off as cheap.
Personally, I didn't find story to be a fun playthrough or a legitimate tutorial...
but rather a chore. I
was begging for it to end after the 40th chapter, but it just kept dragging on.
There also aren't any actual cinematics in the game to keep you entertained,
only in-game graphics. In short, DOA never drew an audience with its
storyline, and still doesn't.
Rig seems to be as
bored with DOA5's story mode as I was.
Described as "fighting entertainment" by the
gameplay takes a different approach in the saturated fighting genre. Expanding
upon the interactive stages of the past, DOA5's battlegrounds introduce a new
take on stage interaction. The new
"Dynamic Attractions" integrate stages into the gameplay more
than ever, presenting cinematic cut-scenes
where the environment changes dramatically around the fighters. Basically, when
a character gets knocked into certain
walls with a powerful strike,
the stage starts to take on a different form, which eventually leads to the fight
spilling out into a new area. Some stages have Danger Zones that trigger "Cliffhangers".
These are "QTE-like" events allowing a falling player to quickly grab
the ledge on the way down, then try to predict their opponent's next attack.
It's innovative in its own right, but a little too gimmicky for my tastes and
takes you out of the game.
Once all the theatrics get old, the fighting mechanics are what have to
carry the game the rest of the way. Thankfully DOA5 does improve on a few
things over past installments. For one,
characters can now quickly sidestep instead of just sidewalk. Power
Blows and Critical Bursts offer new offensive options, putting the opponent in a state where they cannot guard or
counter. DOA's infamous counter AKA "hold" system also
returns, featuring a 4-point counter system like in DOA4. Inputting a direction
(high, mid, or low) and tapping guard will
initiate a counter throw, and in
some situations, you can even counter an attack while you're in hit stun.
Beginner/casual fighting game players who may be intimidated by TTT2 or VF5:
Final Showdown's advanced mechanics will immediately find DOA5 "easy to play".
Simply by mashing buttons, a player of any level can perform a shocking amount of flashy
moves, leading me to believe DOA5 was partly designed to cater to button
masher antics (big surprise).
Additionally, by "intelligently" mashing, beginner players can even perform surprisingly damaging
juggles. Of course, skilled players will still have the edge... and the best
juggles in the game are actually just as lengthy as other 3D fighters. As
in past installments, DOA5 also
offers tag team gameplay. While smooth in some areas, DOA5's tag
mechanics aren't as refined or as open-ended as TTT2's, but tagging still
feels fairly natural with DOA's gameplay.
Mashing out counters is still a viable gameplay strategy when
you're left with no other options... and often-times it seems like there really aren't many
other options available.
When your opponent is in your face spamming attacks, if you're planning on
smart defense, the odds are definitely against you. The number
of attack strings and the "Triangle System" guessing game actually
hurts the integrity of DOA5's mind games. Due to DOA5'sfrantic
and unpredictable pace, aggressive offense is often rewarded instead of solid
defense. As amazingly fluid as the fights appear, there's also something
very "messy" about
DOA5's gameplay, and solid fighting game fundamentals seem to be put on
As far as basic movement goes, DOA5 feels more like Virtua Fighter
than previous iterations of DOA, featuring slow (but very nicely
animated) 8-way movement. With silky smooth walking animations, controlling your
character never fails to look smooth, but the directional inputs feel a bit
sluggish. The new Power Blow technique is basically DOA's
interpretation of a "SF4 style" super move. Fully charging it when
your health drops below 50% allows a character to perform a string of
unblockable moves that deal heavy damage. It seems to find its place in the flow
of DOA5's gameplay, but also feels (and looks) tacked on in more than
irritating circus music. Ooooook then.
Visually, Power Blow techniques don't supply the ouch factor that they
to the awkward camera angle and poor execution. Additionally, I'm not all that impressed with how
some of the "cinematics" turned
out. Not only does it look completely ridiculous when a character is sent
spiraling 20 feet up into the air after being hit by a train... it's also mildly disturbing in some
weird way. I guess I'm just not a fan of watching attractive females getting hit
by cars and trains repeatedly.
Maybe the environmental hazards containing fire and explosions would be more
impressive if the
effects used weren't so "last-gen"... I hate to be harsh, but are those
"late PS1/PS2 era" explosion graphics???
Hmph. In fairness, sending your opponent flying off a cliff down to a
lower part of a stage is still an effective trademark of DOA... but is still
more of a cinematic element than an
actual gameplay mechanic.
Following series tradition, DOA5 aims to
wow you with visuals. Character models look exceptionally sharp in gameplay, now
with visible sweat and dirt slowly building up on the fighters. Watching sweat
streaming down characters' skin is a particularly innovative and cool-looking
Gone are the cutesy "anime style" faces from previous installments,
with fighters now looking more realistic and mature. Facial rendering definitely
looks awesome up close... but facial expressions fall flat in both
gameplay and cinematic scenes.
The animation is one of DOA5's strong points. Walking animations, stagger animations,
and clothing movement all look impressive. For a 3D hand-to-hand fighting game
in particular, I expect
to see a solid amount of "authentic" marital arts. DOA5 does feature several
authentic styles and impactful moves, but there are also many attacks that have poor execution
and don't look natural. I might seem nitpicky here, but I suppose it's just the difference between
a properly motion
captured attack and a "computer generated" one (which often look less
natural), and I think there are more of the latter in DOA5. In
fairness, DOA's animation really shines when
characters take hits... slamming up against walls and being pounded into the
ground with amazing fluidity.
In with realistic
rendering... out with the "shiny" child-like anime girl faces! :)
While DOA5 is a great looking game,
there are some noticeable flaws. Character muscle anatomy on males
is actually pretty weak, even compared with visually realistic 3D fighting
games from over 5 years ago (Tekken 6 for one). Compare Bass or Jann Lee's chest
and arm muscles with King's & Marshall Law's from Tekken 6... the DOA guys suddenly look like they need to hit the gym. On the flipside, the females are some
of the best-rendered fighting game females ever seen in a game (it's
obvious where the dev-team's minds
some fighting games go over the top with life bar and super meter gauges, almost
completely filling the screen, DOA5 goes the opposite route, presenting a tiny
sliver of a life bar and thin text for names. While this allows you to fully appreciate the in-game graphics, I think it looks
too plain. Skin textures are also very plain up close, and many
textures are surprisingly fuzzy. While DOA5's graphics impress
overall, I was
actually expecting the game to look a bit better.
There are a decent amount of stages, but
honestly most of the stage archetypes have been used many times before, and strike me more as
gimmicks than being artistically inspired. In some weird way, the stages seem really
lonely and unenergetic. The generic, forgettable, and sometimes annoying
music may be a large part of that.
(The horrid circus
& gym BGMs made me hit the mute button). If you ask me, past DOA stages had
personality and made more of an impact. Also worth pointing out... besides a few "stage themed" costumes for certain
characters, the fighters often seem laughably out-of-place in environments they're fighting
lighting effects aren't nearly the best I've seen, and certain areas of stages end up
looking a bit barren.
While DOA5 is short on single player modes and extras, the modes
provided are actually done well. Practice Mode has some solid options,
including command training. After completing a character's entire command list,
their "system voice" is unlocked, which is a cool little reward for
just practicing. As seen in other fighting game practice modes of this era,
there are also some options to control computer AI's actions and reactions. One of the best details of DOA5's practice mode
(also apparent in DOA: Dimensions) is the option to turn on "move
details". This displays the frame counts of moves on screen, as
well as the move's damage, combo damage, whether it hits high/mid/low, and
or not it's a tracking move. For the serious players, this is a great feature and
should become a staple in future fighting games!
Finally, DOA5's online experience does things mostly right. A few of the
features, include: Replay saves, customizable lobbies, and a "Fighter List"
which enables you to register other players so
that you can play against them and download their AI data. While DOA5
"playable", the netcode isn't as stable as Namco's or Capcom's latest
fighters, and seems a bit behind in overall features and content. Additionally, the generic rap song that plays during online mode
annoys me to no end, and
can't be turned off either.
Even if you like rap, being stuck with 1
in an online lobby is a careless design flaw. Lobby music should be relaxing...
something you can listen to repeatedly.
Sept. 27th, 2012
( PS3/ 360)
Sept. 28th, 2012
( PS3/ 360)
Mar. 19th, 2013
Vita - As DOA5: Plus)
Mar. 20th, 2013
Vita - As DOA5: Plus)
Mar. 22nd, 2013
Vita - As DOA5: Plus)
Due to cliche sexual overtones, spin-off
beach volleyball games, perverted photo snapshot modes, and the ever-popular
boob-jiggle physics, the Dead or Alive series has always struggled to be
taken seriously by the hardcore fighting game crowd... the black sheep of modern
fighting games, if you will. The perverted uncle that everyone acknowledges, but
doesn't really associate with. Okay... you get the point.
Casual gamers can find a
lot to like about Dead or Alive 5... and that may forever be where DOA's
core audience resides. Like the prequels, DOA5 will be overrated in the eyes of
easily-amused gamers who thrive on graphics and presentational gimmicks... (gamers who will likely drop the game after a few months and play something
However, most seasoned fighting game players already know what they're getting into with
DOA, and it's more of the same.
While I don't like DOA5 enough to "master" every gameplay
nuance, I do recognize the game can be played at a high level, perhaps offering
a better experience for those who fully dive in. For me, its
primarily the basic movement, the format of the counter system, the
unpredictable flow and
pace of the game, and the "been there done that" character roster...
all resulting in my lack of motivation to learn the game further.
It's hard to make a case that DOA5 isn't a rushed game.
Customization Mode, a staple in all other 3D fighting games over the last
decade, is nowhere to
be found in DOA5. There are few alternate outfits to unlock through
playing, but many are uninspired and honestly pretty boring, in my opinion. DOA5's 1-player experience isn't all that it was cracked up to be.
lackluster story/tutorial (which 95% of people even interested will only
play through once) really doesn't satisfy as either a well thought-out story
element or a legitimate tutorial. Compared to other "bonus"
modes in other recent fighting games, it definitely comes up short.
Fans in awe over the doll-faced DOA girls may be entertained in Story, but anyone looking for
substance will be yawning frequently.
I thought about face palming myself during some of the ridiculous cut scenes, but
I couldn't muster up enough strength after being put into a semi-comatose state by how damn boring it
is. Sorry, but "generously rendered" girls can only go so far. In
Story, the character models look pretty spiffy up close, but most environments
actually seem sloppily pasted together and are just bland. If you just
imagine what the visuals would be like without the
characters' puppy dog eyes taking up the screen, what's left is surprisingly
The only other 1-player mode that stands out is Spectator Mode (where you can be
a creeper and take photos of the DOA babes as they fight). In fairness, watching a
fluid DOA5 fight pan out with a freely controllable camera control can actually be
kinda entertaining for a while... but for how long?
I'd estimate if you spent more than 20 minutes in Spectator Mode (and you're a
male), there's a
chance you'll never have a real girlfriend in your lifetime.
Rig & Mila bring unique new
fighting styles to the series, those being Taekwondo and MMA. Overall the new
characters are actually effective additions to DOA5's roster, and
distinguish themselves as
more than just the "typical" DOA character. Even so, DOA
character movelists are still heavily designed around attack-strings, and are
considerably less engaging than those found in VF5: Final Showdown and Tekken
Tag 2. In terms of style, personality, and overall "stage
presence"... compared to the "big names" of fighting games, DOA5's characters
strike me as C-list celebrities in a B-grade action movie.
I approached DOA5 with an open mind, and I was actually excited to see
DOA return to a Sony platform... but I was left disappointed with not only the
minimal amount of content, but the content itself. As a full-priced $60 game, it's hard to
say that DOA5 is
worth it... especially considering its competition this year. People
who thought Soul Calibur 5 was "rushed" aren't allowed to think
DOA5 is a good game.
Even Street Fighter X
Tekken, with all of its flaws, packs a hell of a lot more content than DOA5.
At the end of the day, I suppose it's personal preference what kind of 3D
fighting game you fancy. If you haven't spent a lot of time with some of the
other 3D fighters this year, you might not notice all that DOA5 is
missing. In my opinion, DOA5 banks on impressing
you with graphics and smooth fighting animation first and foremost (which it
mostly succeeds at)... but everything else seems to be an afterthought. ~TFG