Playstation 3 lovers of boobies rejoice! After a twelve-year absence, the lovely ladies of Dead or Alive are back on a Sony console. Ever since DOA 3 the titillating fighting game series has been an Xbox exclusive, but all that has changed with this fifth installment. DOA 5 is a multi-system release and also marks the start of a new era as franchise creator Tomonobu Itagaki was not involved in the project. Tomonobu severed ties with Tecmo, back in 2008, after an acrimonious dispute over unpaid bonuses. The question is would the game’s quality dip with his absence at the helm? Let’s find out.
The Dead or Alive series has a strong reputation for delivering quality graphics and I am pleased to report that DOA 5 does not disappoint in this respect. The character models are gorgeous, which will delight those who purchase these titles to secretly ogle the predominately female cast. Ironically though I would argue that the male fighters are actually the ones who get the most detail. Some of the battling beauties look a little too perfect, notably Kasumi whose blemish free skin makes her look like an animated silicone sex doll.
There are some neat graphical touches during a bout, which further enhance the visual experience. Combatants will sweat during a long round and their attire also begins to feel the effects of a prolonged duel. If your character is sporting a flashy hat expect it to get knocked off, if you get smacked in the chops, whilst those clean clothes will get dirt on them if you get knocked to the ground. The rich backgrounds also bring the fighting arena to life thanks to their interactive elements. In the DOA ring for example you’ll get zapped if you hit the electrified barrier whilst one of the stages, set in a building, will collapse if you damage the supporting structures.
Less impressive, in the presentation department, would have to be the game’s sound. I have no beef with the music or sound effects, which are fine if unmemorable, but the voice acting is another matter entirely. If the DOA cast were a celebrity they would be David Beckham – they look good, but their voice doesn’t match their stellar appearance. Part of the blame is the silly dialogue the voice actors have to wrestle with, but my biggest complaint would have to be the with cosmopolitan nature of the DOA roster. If you pick up this title prepare your ears for a flurry of dodgy accents such as Helena’s unconvincing French drawl.
As you would expect, a good chunk of the game’s story revolves around the latest Dead or Alive fighting tournament. The plot progresses, much like in the last Mortal Kombat, via cut scenes between fights. These deal mostly with characters training for the main event, entrants pursuing a rival and DOATEC representative Zack trying to convince the globe’s finest fighters to enter the competition. It’s not very interesting although there are some unintentionally funny moments as the writers think of unconvincing ways to have the participants scrap. Thankfully there is a more interesting subplot concerning a ninja clan who has been hired to take down a group called MIST who want to extract the DNA of elite fighters to create a clone army. Everything is cooler when you add ninjas to the mix.
During the story players will control a character for a few fights and then switch to someone else. As someone who hasn’t played any of the previous Dead or Alive games, I had a tough time following what was going on and the shifting perspective, of following the tale through the eyes of different characters, didn’t help matters. I do however appreciate that they did have a proper story mode as opposed to settling for some still pictures and text upon completing the game, as most beat-em-ups do.
One good thing about the story mode is that it also acts as a tutorial of sorts. To progress all you have to do is knock out your opponent, but you are also given optional bonus missions designed to teach you advanced fighting techniques (such as pulling off combos or performing counter attacks). This is much better than having a dedicated training mode, which usually are snore fests were you are forced to press button combinations on the screen. It adds spice to proceedings, as you are not only attempting to win the fight, but also finish the enlightening bonus mission that awards you a title (basically an achievement used to unlock content.)
One thing that I like about Dead or Alive is the simple to learn control system. Each of the controller’s buttons is assigned to punch, kick, throw or block/holds. Even with minimal skill newbies can get right down to business and do fairly well by button bashing unlike other hardcore fighters, which demand that you perfect ridiculously complex combos to get anywhere. The game’s strategy comes in anticipating what your opponent is going to unleash and responding with the most effective counter. The way Dead or Alive’s engine works is that punches/kicks have priority over throws, throws beat holds and holds trump punches/kicks.
The easy to pick up and play controls doesn’t mean there’s nothing for experts though. If you take the time to master the fighting system you will be rewarded for your efforts. There’s advanced techniques that will give experts an edge such as devastating power blows, which can only be executed when you are on low health. If you practice sufficiently, to get your timing down, it is also possible to inflict critical stuns that leave opponents defenseless for a brief time, making them susceptible to combination attacks.
I have to say that I enjoyed popping my Dead or Alive cherry with DOA 5. Much like Soul Calibur and Mortal Kombat it does a good job of accommodating casual fighting game fans who get scared off by the complexities of something like Tekken. I would imagine that fans of the series will be just as pleased with this outing as it offers a refined version of the gameplay they know and love. The impressive roster, of over twenty characters, features most of the fighters from earlier games and some Virtua Fighter guest stars (as Sega is never shy about whoring out their characters to make a quick buck.) If you want something new the game also introduces two fresh faces in the form of Mila, an attractive MMA fighter, and Rig who erm… works at an oil rig (I guess he would have to with a name like that.)
My brief foray into Dead or Alive’s online multiplayer was a pleasant one. On average it took only twenty seconds to find a sparring partner and I have to say the resulting matches were satisfyingly exciting. It was good to see that the online community isn’t dominated with pro fighters who effortlessly wipe the floor with you, as that is never fun. As you would expect from a modern day fighting game, in addition to the main story, there is an arcade mode, time attack and survival mode that can be played with one fighter or as a tag team. After being spoiled by the excellent Mortal Kombat I was however left wishing for more content.
Although there are costumes to unlock I was surprised that they didn’t have a shop where you could buy different outfits to customize the look of your characters. It’s a feature that has worked well in Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Given that the game is heavily promoted using the female cast, allowing customers the option to play dress up seems like a no brainer. It’s not a big deal though and doesn’t affect my rating of four stars. Hopefully now that the Dead or Alive games are coming out for the Playstation we will also see the Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball spin-offs appear on the PS3 too. No it’s not because I have a thing for virtual babe flesh, I just enjoy sports games. Honest!