Dead or Alive 5: Accessible mechanics, polished fights

October 18, 2012

As someone who is far from good at fighting games, especially 3D fighters, the Dead or Alive series always seemed like my perfect match. The series was always approachable, and offered plenty of incentive for those who never had the patience for a lot of fighters to learn the basics. Dead or Alive 5 continues that tradition, giving those without much fighting game experience a title that can keep them coming back for more.

The mechanics that are at the core of Dead or Alive 5  are still as fun as ever, allowing those unfamiliar with the series to pick it up and have a lot of fun. Your attacks are divided into three categories: strikes, throws and holds. Understanding these moves, as well as what each is strong against, are the fundamentals of Dead or Alive, and seem relatively unchanged from previous installments. There is also a heavy reliance on the balance between these moves and the counter system, which is a key component to the action. For those who love the series, you’ll still find plenty of reason to keep coming back to this entry, as it is as fun as it ever was.

On the other hand, if you’re a newcomer who doesn’t want to concern themselves with these mechanics, there is still plenty to love about this game. The actual combat is weighty, with each blow and counter making just the right impact. It’s satisfying when you’re able to pull off even the most basic of combos. Dead or Alive also has a ton of environmental hazards, which are a series staple, and thanks to the flashy visuals, you’ll have a lot of fun just watching ridiculous things happen during some of these moments. And with 24 characters to choose from, including two from Sega’s Virtua Fighter series, you’ll easily be able to find a character (or several) to match your play style.

While the mechanics are as fun as ever, the game is very light on actual content. You have the basics, including a short arcade mode, time trials, and a survival mode, but you won’t find yourself spending a lot of time with any of them. This is a shame, as there is plenty of room for other modes to keep people busy, but the lack of them is what holds this game back from competing directly with some of this year’s other great fighters.

The meat of the single player content is in the story mode, which will completely baffle anyone who hasn’t been following the strangely-complex plot of Dead or Alive. It’s lengthy, so there is plenty to do, and it gives you a chance to play as most of the main cast, but you’ll most likely find yourself skipping most of the cutscenes. Not only does the story mode present the insane plot of Dead or Alive 5, it also features what are akin to challenges that teach you the basics of the fighting mechanics. This is problematic, because you rarely get a chance to actually understand what you’re attempting to learn.

The fights were never difficult, but the AI wasn’t particularly helpful in trying to teach you what you needed to know. If the game had offered these challenges outside of the story mode as well, I could see them being very helpful, but as it stands they don’t give newer players a chance to really grasp the basics. It’s still a game that people can pick up and enjoy, but if you’re serious about learning all the game has to offer, you don’t have much to work with. There is an optional training mode, but it only offers you a way to practice with different characters, so it’s worthless to those who want to learn what the story mode had to teach you but were simply unable to.

Thankfully, the online is solid and offers plenty of reason for players to come back for more. I experienced a few laggy matches here and there, but the majority of my experience with the online was near-perfect. The options available, allowing you to set parameters to your liking, as well as the game’s ability to only match you up with players of the same ranking as you during ranked fights, allowing you to ease yourself into the game without having to worry as much about encountering veteran players.

This is the perfect example of a fighting game that plays it safe every chance it can, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The lack of extra modes and options outside of the basics is a real letdown, and it would have been nice to see the story’s bonus missions given their own separate mode, but the mechanics are still top-notch. Even if you’re new to the series, you’ll find plenty to love about Dead or Alive 5.

Pros: The core mechanics are still fantastic, solid online, story mode has plenty of content
Cons: Story mode’s attempt to teach the basics is poor, not many modes or options

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.