Dead or Alive 5 review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Developer: Tecmo/Team Ninja
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-2
Online: Yes

Dead or Alive 5 marks the return to consoles for Tecmo?s fighting game series, established in 1996. It?s only the second main entry in the series found on home consoles this generation, and marks the first appearance for the series on the Playstation 3. Other spin offs, like the oddball Dead or Alive Xtreme titles don?t quite count, and outside of last year?s Dead or Alive Dimensions on 3DS, its certainly been a while since we?ve played a Dead or Alive fighter.

And for the most part, Dead or Alive 5 is a welcome return for the series. Re-done character models, looking far more dynamic and outstanding than those featured in Dead or Alive 4, showcase the commonly associated buxom ladies of the franchise, but even the guys get a little work done here. Character models showcase sweat, clothing is affected by the surrounding environments, and everything looks fluid running at 60 frames per second during fights.

Stages have been worked over as well, offering up a lot of optional destruction sequences that make the varied stages feel a little more alive and interesting to watch. Besides being able to slam opposing characters against walls, through floors, and over ledges, certain attacks will trigger events in a stage that?ll generally feature explosions, falling steel girders, and other hazards. It certainly offers up a more dynamic approach to stage design than what we typically see in 3-D fighters, and while Dead or Alive has certainly been known to feature interactive stage elements in the past, this is on a whole different level.

As far as the actual fighting goes, Dead or Alive incorporates its usual rock/paper/scissors elements of punches, kicks and throws. One attack typically takes precedence over the other, and while this certainly sounds simple enough, it makes way for a fun yet accessible fighter that just about anyone can pick up and enjoy. There?s certainly a level of depth to high level play, especially when you factor in the more complex counter and hold system, but most low level players can pick up Dead or Alive 5 and get some enjoyment out of it with both their friends and the offline CPU.

Dead or Alive 5 comes with a pretty standard selection of modes, but with a few twists. For instance, the main story mode in Dead or Alive 5 works a bit like an in-game tutorial, and offers up a chance to play as just about every character on the roster. It also serves as the primary way to unlock additional characters, including the guest starring Virtua Fighter characters from SEGA?s fighting game franchise. It?s a little reminiscent of the way the latest Mortal Kombat handled its own story mode, and most character?s featured get a series of one round matches against a number of opponents before moving on to the next.

The tutorial angle comes from bonus missions to complete in a fight, like performing a 5 hit combo, counter a certain number of high attacks, using throws, etc. Combine this with a fairly low difficulty, and surprisingly lackluster final boss, and I?m not sure that the story mode is going to attract fans that are already pretty familiar with the series and how to play. Also, the story mode is just kind of so-so for me, and while Dead or Alive has never been about mind blowing stories, there are a lot of interactions and filler that are just kind of toss away moments. And the final act ends up being a bit of a mess, with a fairly telegraphed revelation, a lame boss battle (worse than Dead or Alive 4 in my opinion, just easier), and a cliffhanger that does little to get you excited for another installment.

However, the story mode does do a pretty good job of bringing new players up to speed, and I certainly feel like that?s sort of the point. It?d be nice to bring a little more challenge to the table than it does, but if you?ve never played Dead or Alive before, it?s definitely where I would suggest starting out.

Outside of story, there?s a time attack and survival mode, which are pretty self-explanatory and standard for most fighters. There?s also a training mode, which allows you to set CPU settings to different things to test out combo?s and move lists. Training is actually pretty comprehensive, with the ability to literally run through an entire character move list, complete with on-screen examples to assist with timing and placement. Also worth noting is that you can opt to constantly display the move list for any character on screen at all times, which is really convenient and something that more fighters should adopt.

The online mode of the game, something I?m sure a lot of folks are concerned about, is kind of a mixed bag at the moment. It?s worth noting that Tecmo has already stated that we can expect a day one patch to help clean up some of the online issues, but I certainly encountered a decent amount of lag in matches I?ve played. There are not a lot of folks online prior to release, and I have played some pretty clean matches, but it?s certainly been about 50/50 on great to poor connections. There are a variety of search options to use, that?ll help narrow down both skill level and connection strength which are sure to help, but keep in mind it?s not a flawless experience.

For online modes you?ve got your typical ranked matches, and then lobbies that allow you to participate in player matches with a number of folks. While in lobbies you can watch matches and chat with other players via voice and chat. If you create the lobby you can set different options, like health and number of rounds, pretty typical stuff found in a lot of other games. The online mode doesn?t seem to do anything new or exciting, but definitely seems to feature most of the standard stuff found in just about every modern day fighting game, right down to titles that you can equip to your online profile, which are unlocked through a variety of modes and challenges.

Overall, Dead or Alive 5 is an great fighter, and it?s really nice to have another Tecmo fighter land on consoles this gen. It?s fresh enough that it easily trumps Dead or Alive 4 in both style and gameplay, but at the same time faces some stiff competition from recently released titles like Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown. However, Dead or Alive isn?t without some unique charm, and the fighting still feels fun to pick up and play like previous iterations. And if you?re not that familiar with the series, this is definitely a game that you check out with no prior experience and get some fun out of it. It?s worth checking out, whether you?re a seasoned pro or someone completely new to the series.

Grade: B+