Review: Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate
What's there to say about a game that was released to consoles in late 2012, re-tweaked for PS Vita in early 2013... and now back on consoles with said Vita improvements added in? Turns out, not too much.
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is the original console game with Vita improvements -- extra characters and easier online achievements or trophies, essentially -- back on PS3 and Xbox 360. Rather than re-write our review of the console-then-handheld game, let's just post it here again (with our own tweaks, of course) for those who've yet to pick up either of the two newest iterations of the game.
For the most part, Dead or Alive 5 (core, Plus or Ultimate) is the same Dead or Alive game you’ve played numerous times before. That’s not a bad thing; there’s something overwhelmingly addictive and fluid about the fighting mechanics. The formula has been tweaked – yes, the female characters now look less like inflatable dolls, yes, you can now interact with environments in strange, over-the-top ways, and yes, you can now sidestep to avoid strikes – but for the most part, things haven’t really changed.
That's basically what you want from the next incarnation of a fighting game series, isn’t it? A few noticeable advances in an otherwise, welcomingly familiar game. Well, Dead or Alive fans, there’s enough here to remind you why you love the series, and enough to convince you to fork over money for it.
Dead or Alive has always been… preoccupied with the look (and bounce) of its characters. This time around, the characters seem more like real people than they ever have before. Gone is the porcelain sheen character models had in previous incarnations, replaced with entirely more realistic skin tones. The female bodies are slightly less ridiculously proportioned, as if Team Ninja want to reiterate that these aren’t just characters to be ogled at, but ones to be fought with. Cutscenes are crisp and clear, menus are well designed, music is wonderful. The game itself -- a 3D fighter that differs from those previously mentioned in that there are no magical projectiles (just crazy acrobatic manoeuvres, much like the Tekken series) -- plays extremely well, with moves that are comfortable to pull off and characters that feel responsive.
It feels like a game that wants to be taken more seriously than its predecessors. In the past, it was T and A first, gameplay second. Taking the spotlight off the character’s sexuality (even if only slightly), really gives what really are solid fighting mechanics room to stand up on their own right.
For those who are unfamiliar with Dead or Alive, fighting in the series is built around three truths: that a strike beats a throw, that a throw beats a hold and that a hold beats a strike. It’s a series that’s always been easy to pick up and play, fast, wildly fun and rewarding when properly mastered. The fundamentals remain largely unchanged in Dead or Alive 5. There are two big changes. You can now sidestep and immediately counter attacks, and interact with your environments in more ways. The first is a welcome addition to the series – sidestepping is a feature in so many other fighters, and its absence in Dead or Alive felt jarring – while the second adds a new level of strategy and spectacle to the fights.
As always, there are a range of modes to keep you occupied. The game itself follows a relatively recent fighting game tradition that was started with Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe back in 2008 -- a story mode that involves the use of each and every player in turn. This was perfected (in our opinion) in 2011's Mortal Kombat (which has FINALLY arrived on Australian shores) with a relatively compelling storyline and wonderful cutscenes. Where DOA5 Ultimate differs though, is in the fact that the storyline is bat-shit INSANE. Some threads make sense (and we guess independently, each character thread makes SOME kind of sense), but overall it's just a mish-mash of WTF. Is this a problem? Well, no; in some ways it's endearing. Ultimately though, we still have no idea what the hell went on. While the Story Mode continues to baffle players with its mostly nonsensical plot, the introduction of secondary missions during the fights keeps the mode from feeling like a complete waste of time. Dead or Alive 5 sees the return of Tag Battle, it’s nowhere near as complex as Tekken Tag’s mechanics, but still fun, nonetheless.
In addition to the standard game modes, there is an extremely robust and granular training mode. Here, players are treated to in depth training that starts as basic as basic can be -- simply moving left and right. Moves get more and more complex and, by the end of things, covers every potential move and counter in the game, which is a must for newbies. Seriously, put in the time, and you'll reap rewards.
Dead or Alive 4 was a bit of a letdown when it was released earlier in this current generation. It felt as though it had both feet planted firmly in the series’ cartoony past, and while Dead or Alive 5 isn’t a leap in a new direction, it feels like the first truly next-gen Dead or Alive game, and a refreshing first step in a new Tomonobu Itagaki-less direction.
Overall, it's a great purchase if you somehow missed Dead or Alive 5 on console, or Dead or Alive 5 Plus on Vita... but not so much if you own one or the other already.