The fighting game renaissance that began with Capcom’s Street Fighter IV sees its latest high-profile entry: Tecmo Koei’s Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. The $39.99 polygonal fighter adds bug fixes and new modes to the series’ trademark rock-paper-scissors style combat. Featuring intricate mechanics, several beautiful interactive environments, and characters from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series, Dead or Alive is a fun fighter, but the awful story mode and some online lag are to the game’s detriment.
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate nearly 30 fighters representing a wide cross-section of martial arts styles including wrestling, MMA, and ninjitsu. That’s not quite as robust as Tekken Tag Tournament 2′s 40-plus person roster, but there are fewer duplicates and goofy characters (such as Alex, a boxing glove-wearing dinosaur). In a surprising move, Tecmo borrows Akira, Sarah Bryant, Jacky Bryant, and Pai Chan, fighters licensed from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series. It’s a natural fit.
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate’s action is fast and accessible, but the game’s rock-paper-scissor’s gameplay in which strikes beat throws, throws beat holds (counterattacks), and holds beat strikes, favors more cerebral players. Sure, you can attempt to button mash your way through a match, but you’ll be quickly squashed—especially online where completion is high. The new Power Launcher attack favors savvy players as it lets characters with low health deliver one air-launcher per round. It can lead to big air combos if properly utilized.
There are numerous ranking systems and fighting game modes, but one that stands out (for the wrong reasons) is story mode. The story is a confusing cheesefest that has awful voice acting. That said, it’s useful for unlocking the Virtua Fighter characters. And on the topic of voice acting, the characters’ pre-fight dialogue is filled with repetitive throwaway lines that you’ll want to skip as soon as you’ve heard them once.
Like Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate now four online combatants mix it up (the vanilla version lacked online tag action). Tag action is fast, and it’s remarkably easy to do team attacks, which plays more to casual players. The online mode has some lag issues, but it doesn’t ruin the experience. As such, DOA is a bit of a hybrid fighter that has one foot in the hardcore and more casual realms (although nowhere near as watered-down as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3). Unlike Tekken Tag Tournament 2, this game allows you to continue fighting after one character falls. Still, you should utilize wise character management by swapping out heavily-damaged characters to heal (or master the improved sidestep move).
Noob warning: If you play the CPU on one of the higher difficulty settings, be prepared to see nearly all of your blows countered—it’s quite frustrating. Thankfully, there’s a deep practice mode (one that rivals Skullgirls) that lets you work on technique mastery.
Battles take place in varied locations ranging from a circus arena to a war-torn landscape. The environments are interactive, too. Not only do random items in the environments break—everything from barrels to fences—but you can slam people into Danger Zones that cause the victims big damage.
You can also knock foes over ledges, which trigger cinematic quick time events. The winner of the QTE gets a temporary damage boost for unleashing extra fury. Wise fighters will use Power Blows (a super attack that you can use to blow opponents into a selected direction) to really lay on the hurt by sending foes into Danger Zones. This gives Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate an action movie vibe more so than games like Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown (which approaches sim designation), and it works well.
Not Quite the Champ, But Still a Strong Challenger
Tekken Tag Tournament 2 remains the Editors’ Choice among 3D fighters for its incredibly deep gameplay and excellent all-around package, but Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is no slouch. It’s more green-friendly than Namco Bandai’s offering, but that’s not necessarily a knock (unless you’re the type to spend every waking moment in the digital dojo). That said, if you bother to learn the rock-paper-scissors mechanics, you can have some rather strategic matches as you knock opponents around the crazy environments.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc