Dead or Alive 5 User Review
For better or worse the series has and continues to offer a degree of story telling in cinematic form through it's Story Mode. In the past this usually meant for some pretty cool scenes in-between fights where combatants would exchange a few words before doing battle. Ultimately, it was hard to formulate any concrete understanding of what was actually happening here. DOA5 attempts to change this decidedly lackluster effort with something more robust. Through DOA5's revamped Story Mode you'll play about 70 missions that clock in at around 6 to 8 total hours. Story cut-scenes bridge each of these missions together. There's a concerted effort here to flesh out the identities of each member from the cast, bringing to the fore their personalities and whereabouts. The overall plot sees Helena to the rebuilding of DOA Tech, who also elects to host a world fighting tournament, Dead or Alive. While there's little about the story that's exquisite or deeply provoking of thought it does well to unify the characters into a cohesive world that feels more tangible compared to past console offerings. It's a welcome addition and I hope to see these efforts continue in future game installments.
The game play is a definite step forward for the series and shows an effort to bring itself closer to more dedicated players. DOA has fought something of an uphill battle to maintain a hardcore identity with hardened fighting game aficionados. Whether this was due to complaints of Hayabusa's power or the risque nature of some of DOA's provocative content,*cough* DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball *cough*, the series just hasn't held the same degree of respect as Virtua Fighter, Tekken or Street Fighter. It's clear DOA5 wants to change this popular appraisal. There's a definite feeling that the team went through great strides to balance out the fighters by slowing Hayabusa down, empowering brawler types with more of an arsenal, dampening an over reliance on Counter Holds, and so on. While there's no real way of knowing just how balanced these characters are until the best of the best fight it out in tournament play, it feels pretty clear that at entry and mid level skills, no one character feels to own any significant advantages in play.
Two new faces join the DOA foray of characters, Mila and Rig, including also some guest appearances from none other than the grandfather of 3D fighters, Virtua Fighter. Mila is a spunky kick boxer who can hit hard and heavy as a striker but balanced well enough with a few grappling maneuvers to punish those who get too comfortable being defensive. Rig is a Tae-Kwon-Do rough neck who lays the kicks on thick. He can keep the highs and lows mixed up with best of them so don't let this guy keep you caught up in a whirlwind of hard hitting combos. Ouch! Some cool guest appearances involve a handful of Virtua Fighters: Akira, Sarah, and Pai. They work well and are slightly modified to integrate appreciably with DOA's system of play. Throw in the hyper powered Alpha 152 boss unlock and the total playable character roster counts up to a healthy 24.
New to the play system are Critical Bursts and Power Blows. Successfully landing Critical Combo Hits in sequence can place your opponent into a Critical Stun: A stunned state where the player can still Counter Hold in hopes to catch a follow up strike by the opponent. Subsequently, this stunned state can be capitalized on with a well timed Critical Burst. Successfully landing this attack can leave your opponent completely defenseless for a short time, which then sets up for a perfect opportunity to follow through with a Power Blow: A massive single attack accessible only after having depleted the majority of your vitality, indicated by a pulsating red vitality bar. Confused by all of this? It's a little awkward to get a handle on at first; though, given enough experience, getting these setups to initiate will become like second nature during combat.
For initiates, the familiar DOA-style Triangular System is the basic foundation for dishing out damage. Strike beats throw. Hold beats strike. Throw beats hold (holds are essentially counters). So while there's a whole lot of other specifics, like Offensive Holds, where Holds act more like Throws but actually DO beat Strikes, and with a lot going on with evasive maneuvers and blocking, familiarizing yourself with this Triangular System is a good entry point for beginners to build up from and is something fan veterans can expect to find as common place once again.
Environmental interaction isn't just for show or glamorizing a fight. No, gaining an upper hand in combat often comes from being attentive to your surroundings. Whether that's knowing how characters rebound from off of objects, crumple from off of walls, slip on slick surfaces, or where destructive Danger Zones (usually explosive objects) are located, all of these can be made to work to your advantage. There's a new, albeit half-baked, cliffhanger function where players can hold onto a ledge before plummeting a few dozen feet as a last ditch effort to minimize impact damage. It's an interesting idea that unfortunately sees very limited game play exposure, but it further aids in the importance of spacial awareness. The environmental eccentricities are many. Take advantage of them given the opportunity.
Fighting enthusiasts demand a fighting game with precise controls. When moves depend on millisecond accuracy, like 1/6th of a second input windows, fighting games live or die by this sensitive standard alone. It's one reason these games maintain that uncompromising 60fps for fluidity which help keep latencies low. DOA5 excels here as well and has passed the hardcore play test by fighting communities. But despite this there's always that ever present sloppiness in 3D fighting games, where moves don't always connect quite the way you planned them due to slight seemingly imperceptible shifts in axis orientation, or the camera's field of view doesn't always capture that perfect isometric angle. Love it or hate it. I'm not about to start a 2D vs. 3D fighter debate. This is a 3D fighter and more often than not it works well. You know what to expect.
There's a standard assortment of modes here. For DOA this means both solo and tag based play out of the box. Fittingly, tag mode boasts tag based maneuvers for both Throws and Power Blows. Also packed in are the standard assortment of Versus, Training, and Survival modes, all offering what you'd expect from any modern fighter. The Command Training exercises could be a little more descriptive in instruction, particularly when wanting to perform moves that require a specific stance or state. One greatly appreciated perk is an option to turn on movement details that provide off of that critical timing and move property data without having to consult a gaming site first. Nice! Ultimately, these game modes are standard fare for a DOA game, and the package does seem a little stagnated in new mode offerings after so many years. To it's credit the Story Mode makes a stronger-than-the-norm showing, and of course, by virtue of being a fighting game, endless fun can be had given the right competition.
The online play options are a comprehensive offering, working for both solo and tag based play. Standard, ranked, and lobby systems are in place to setup and engage online fights to your heart's content. You can add favorite opponents to a fighter list that resides solely within the game. This way you don't have to bog down that presumably large PSN friends list anymore than you have to. There's also a Throw Down option. This allows for online opponents to challenge you to a match even while playing other single player modes. It's an appreciable function and it helps to keep your time spent filled with action rather than waiting for matches to connect. The online connectivity is serviceable and generally solid from my playing sessions. I can't say it feels quiet as sharp as Virtua Fighter 5: FS or Super Street Fighter 4 in latency, but it's usually reliable and not often a problem. All in all the online offering is clean, robust, and to the point. The game makes it easy to get in and get fighting online without too much of a fuss. That's something to appreciate, especially for long term committed online players.
Lots of content and goodies have been no stranger to DOA games. Costumes, characters, stages and more can be unlocked as a player invests more and more time while completing various objectives. I'm over 38 hours invested myself. Admittedly, I've grown a little tired of this seemingly archaic process of beating mode after mode on each and every difficulty level to unlock some random do-dad, but some may feel otherwise, I'm sure. There's a healthy assortment of stages and an insane amount of “titles” to collect: Ready to play each character over 3000 times? Online? Everyone knows that one of DOA's real treats are found with all the many costumes that can be unlocked. You'll get a decent assortment of outfits, ranging from dress suits, casual attire, cool ninja suits, and many others. If you're really up to the challenge, there's a few swimsuits for the ladies to work extra hard for in there as well ;) As expected, most of the females own the lion's share of costumes. Unfortunately, DOA5 comes up a bit soft in total costume count. Whether outfits were held off for paid DLC plans, I don't know.
Visually, DOA5 is generally solid and well presented. It doesn't maintain quite the same standard for visual excellence on this hardware as the series had on the Xbox before, but it manages to hit most of the visual targets where they matter most. One excellent standard involves quality character animations. They've been one of DOA's strongest suites over the years and DOA5 holds up to this standard once again. It's something to really appreciate in a fast moving 60fps fighter where so much of the game play revolves around reading the motions from your opponent.
The characters have lovingly been crafted with markedly better body and costume designs. These characters perform all sorts of martial arts moves, twisting and contorting in every which way imaginable. That awkward arm cutting through the torso, or hips creating acute geometric seams while legs are hyper extending are a rare find here. The faces look fantastic with fine modeling work that emphasize the likenesses of each character with pleasing results. Players are also treated to seeing their favorite character progressively layer on the sweat, dirt, and scuffs while slugging it out in combat. I'm not just talking a sheen of wetness on the skin for sweat; no, on some of them tighter worn outfits, and given the right fabric, clothes actually grow in transparency as they bask in their own on going perspiration, revealing some flesh tones and layered under garment wear. It's a nice nuance that adds a more human feel to the fight. And for those who want to keep their fighters clean and dry, sweat and dirt can be turned off in options.
The lighting is a strong visual aspect as well. Depending on where a player is standing and receiving direct light, vibrant illumination radiates from off the body contours, helping accentuate the model's topological curves, also adding weight and physical presence to them while on stage. This dynamic lighting is balanced with quality cast shadowing which is generally smoother and more pleasing than the crude or jagged effects we've grown to expect from some games.
There's a couple nagging deficiencies with DOA's visuals. While I can imagine the large interactive environments and overhauled lighting system may have something to do with this, the general texture work on backgrounds can appear overly muddy at times. Certain stages fare better than others but when they're at their worst, this lack of texture detail can dampen the visual appeal. It doesn't help either that floor textures have a tendency to shimmer and on certain stages, there's a moderate amount of aliased edges to be detected. It's relatively minor stuff, but considering the superfluous texture work found in the last three console DOA entries this comes as something of a surprise.
It's a bold claim, but DOA5 has the best sounding effects from any fighting game I've played, and I've played a good many. It's surprising just how loud and impacting and varied all of the many effects are during a fight. Strikes and body slams are satisfying and capture an awesome range of effects. The cast of characters gasp under physical strain or after having lost a match. This detail carries right into the destructive nature of the environments. Floors crack with crunch-snapping delight. Walls break apart with audible raucous fervor. It's one of those elements of polish that really adds to the immersion of combat and clearly wins a big star here for excellence.
The voice work is a bit higher quality than the norm but isn't without noticeable room for improvement. It's great hearing a bit more emotion and believable accents from the cast of characters that derive themselves from very different locations. Tina has a fitting southern tone, and Kasumi maintains a voice that echoes her solemn and committed determination to her cause. Sometimes the lines exchanged during story sequences lack a certain professional quality in screen play but I wouldn't think any of this as unbearable. What's here works, usually better than not, and ultimately this is a step up for DOA games.
The music is a familiar blend of themes. Something that has always been a solid offering from this series. Everything from the dramatic orchestral tracks to the soothing eastern melodies to the upbeat techno-dance tunes. They all find a home again here with DOA5. There's a dynamic play-list for many of the stages, featuring music tracks that alter tempo and intensity as the environment becomes destroyed during battle. Knock a player out from a wall into an exterior location and then fittingly the music will map itself to such events. While not entirely new to the genre as we've seen this sort of thing from games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, it's a complemented mood intensifying touch. Somewhat surprisingly this is the first DOA for quite some time without some type of Aerosmith representation. Happy? Sad? I'll leave that up to you.
Dead or Alive 5 brings back the best of the series while rarely missing a beat. There's been real effort to flesh out the identities of each character while also offering up greater game play appeal to competitive fans. It's still simple enough to pick up and play, even just to enjoy the pleasant sites and sounds of combat without worrying much about frame data, flow paths, or complicated juggles. The series has a knack for making the best out of it's environments, and DOA5 keeps this standard held high with an even greater emphasis on obstacles and interaction. The sound effects raise the genre standard, and the visuals put on a good show, even if the textures can appear a bit muddy. It's been a long time coming but DOA is finally back, back to Playstation even. HOORAH! It's meaner and hotter than ever so go get your fight on.
This user review does not reflect the views of the PSX Extreme Staff.