(Originally written September 27, 2012)
The fifth installment of the long running Dead Or Alive franchise is here and it definitely lives up to the hopes of DOA fans or mine at least. This title has many improvements over DOA4 which was a launch title for the Xbox 360 back in 2005. Speaking of which, it’s so nice to finally play this game on the Playstation again. I can’t stand playing fighting games with the xbox controller. I enjoy fighters as they are one of the few types of games out there that do not require the internet to play with a friend. Remember the days when you and a buddy sat on the couch with two controllers and one tv beating the crap out of each other? Online gaming has kinda taken a lot of that away but it lives on with fighting games which makes them for good party games and DOA5 is an excellent for that. The series itself is most well known for its high quality graphics and even better known for having some of the sexiest women in fighting games. I personally remember the series as being one of the most brutal non-blood or gore fighting games out there. Seriously, the beating these characters go through is insane. But yes, sex appeal is a big part of the game’s advertising vehicle and also a reason a lot gamers can’t take it seriously which is sad because under the sexy exterior, it is a very solid fighting game and DOA5 is the best entry into the series since Dead Or Alive 2 back in 1999.
STORY: Usually I hold a game’s story to be really important but for fighting games, I tend to be more lax on this issue as gameplay takes center stage and the story is just there to give a reason for why everyone is beating the crap out of each other. Some fighters have unnecessarily complicated and confusing stories while others have laughably stupid ones, along with sub stories for all the characters. DOA5’s story is nothing too special but for a fighter, it works. The story mode is presented as a timeline that goes back and forth following all the characters through and around the fifth Dead Or Alive tournament which is hosted by DOATEC, which is now under the control of Helena Douglas after the company’s destruction at the end of DOA4. She has rebuilt the company and wishes for this tournament to be a PR stunt. Meanwhile the ninjas of the Mugen Tenshin clan (the main characters of the series) try to hunt down Kasumi’s clone, Alpha-152 (the annoyingly hard last boss from DOA4), to destroy it once and for all. All the other fighters in the game all have their own sub-stories that are explored before returning to the main plot.
If you’ve never played DOA before, don’t worry about being in the dark too much. They do a fair job of explaining what happened previously and each character chapter begins with a brief introduction to the character. This makes for a surprisingly long story mode. It’s around 3 to 4 hours which is longer than I would have expected for this type of game. It’s full of generally well done cut scenes and plenty of fights so it doesn’t get boring. It also includes mini-missions to complete in each match (such as perform 3 high kicks ect.) and explains how they are done so it acts as a mini tutorial which increases with difficulty. You unlock titles with the completion of each of these mini-missions. You also unlock some characters in the story mode. Most notably is the inclusion of three Vitura Fighter characters making this game a cross over. They appear in the story but have a really small part. I can’t help but feel the inclusion of these characters was just more of a novelty than anything so not the best cross over ever done. For a fighting game, DOA5 has a solid story mode that does a good job balancing the story with the gameplay and is at just the right length.
GAME PLAY: The first thing I noticed as I started playing was just how smooth and tight the controls felt. If you’re a veteran to the series, you’ll probably notice how good it feels to play this on the Playstation again (Xbox controller is kinda awkward for fighting games for me) and how Team Ninja improved on DOA4. The fighting in DOA is very fast paced and mostly about landing a barrage of combos on your opponent and defending as they strike back. The controls feel most like the 3DS DOA game, Dead Or Alive Dimensions (which I think is was DOA4 was supposed to be). It’s an easy to use, difficult to master gameplay system that is very rewarding to learn how to use. That said, I’m still not that great at it but it’s still fun to play.. Usually. One of the big issues with Dead Or Alive 4 was the difficulty. If you’ve played it, you’d notice that there is no easy mode. There was normal, hard, and very hard and normal was Japanese normal, not American normal. Meaning, unless you are a pro at these types of games, you were going to get your balls rocks by the AI! This made the game not so enjoyable for causal gaming. DOA5 fixes this, thankfully, with several different difficulties including two easy modes. That isn’t to say that this game is easy. Oh it is not. It can get very challenging, especially in the story mode. While the challenge is usually fair, on occasion I have notice the AI spamming moves (using the same move over and over and over again which is cheap). It has so far been rare but it did piss me off.
There are several other modes in the game along with the main story. You have the versus against human or computer, tag matches, classic arcade mode, time attack mode, and survival modes included to play through with all the characters which unlock new titles and outfits as you play through them. The titles, as I mentioned before, are used to make your online ID card which has become popular with Street Fighter 4, I believe. This plays in with the several online components which includes online VS matches of all kinds, leader boards, and random throw down matches from anyone online. There is also the spectator mode which you have the computer go at it while you take pictures. This mode has been improved a lot since the previous title.
Another major improvement is the stages that are much more interactive and filled with dangers such as destructible objects and cliffs to knock each other off of making for more multi-tiered stages. This makes the fights you have more immersive and fun or at least when you’re not on the receiving end of these hazards. They are fun to trigger, especially the ones where the entire stage falls apart. There is one missed opportunity where a moving subway train could have been used as an area in the story mode but it turns out to be just a tease. Play the game to see what I mean. There seems to be more unlockable content over DOA4 with costumes and characters granted most of them get unlocked in the story mode. With strong online support for this title, it should be interesting to see what DLCs come this way. Also, MAKE SURE TO INSTALL THE GAME! It loads very slowly unless you install the game to your console.
GRAPHICS: Team Ninja has always been known for having very good looking games and DOA5 is their best work yet. The Dead Or Alive games have always looked really good but the characters always had this porcelain doll look to them. This time they went for a more realistic look and it works very well. The character models are extremely well detailed down to their clothes and facial features. One new piece of detail is that characters sweat and get dirty during the fights. After a match you can tell how intensely they fought by how dirty they got and the sweat running down their face and their clothes sticking to their bodies. Yes, white clothes do become slightly see through which leads to one of the things the series is known for: boobs. Supposedly, Team Ninja was going to give the girls more realistic sized breasts and have them move more realistically. Um… I’m not sure if they really did or not. They look more realistic to a degree. Some characters have more jiggling going on than others and… I’m talking way too much about this. Yes, fan service is a staple of the series but the same can be said about many other fighting games so if it REALLY bothers you that much, don’t play the game. The stages in which actual fighting takes place look great and like I said before, they are fun to interact with and destroy. The environments in the cinematic scenes that do not get used as fighting areas have less attention given to them but since you only see those in the story mode, it’s forgivable. It’s definitely a game that is easy on the eyes.
SOUND: The music in the game ranges from rock, hip-hop, techno, and some rather epic orchestral pieces, that are all fitting to the game’s stages and events. Those who are veterans to the series may notice some remixes to various character themes. The soundtrack doesn’t stand out too much but it is fitting for the game. The voice acting ranges from good to decent. The characters that have accents such as Helena and Bayman sound the best to me while characters like Zack and Lisa sound better than in previous games but still rather off. Why can’t they get an actual black woman to voice Lisa? If you can’t stand the English voice acting you can switch it to the original Japanese track which is usually good. The sound effects of punches, kicks, body blows, bones breaking and environmental sounds all sound great.