The Dead or Alive series started life in the arcade as a rival to Segaâ€™s Virtua Fighter franchise. Now, after four instalments, a group of Virtua Fighter characters are guest starring in Dead or Alive 5.
As with the previous iteration, Dead or Alive: Dimensions, DOA5â€™s story mode has you play multiple characters throughout; telling the story from each character's perspective. Unfortunately, this quickly turns into a mess: in one instance, thereâ€™s a match where the follow-up clip has the character mourning their loss, even though you canâ€™t progress without winning the match.
Although itâ€™s confusing, it allows DOA5 to introduce new characters like Rig and Mila, along with two of the Virtua Fighter guests, Sarah and Akira.
Once the tournament portion is out of the way, the main storyline (about the Mugen Teshin clan and DOA-TEC â€“ now reformed by Helena Douglas) resumes. The tale picks up two years after the collapse of DOA-TEC â€“ and the presumed demise of the Alpha project. New developments include the rise of Mist, an organization lead by former shadow leader of DOA-TEC, Victor Donovan. Itâ€™s a good setup for Dead or Alive 6.
The story mode also gives a poor impression of DOA5â€™s graphics, a series known for its breast physics and gorgeous arenas. However, the story begins with Bayman fighting in a war torn, dirt-brown landscape. While you are soon introduced to some of the best looking stages in recent memory, itâ€™s still a horrible introduction.
Filling out the single player modes are Versus, Arcade, Time Attack, Survival, and Training â€“ all of which (excluding survival) are playable as a tag-team. Versus allows you to play a singles or tag-team match against the CPU or another player; arcade has you fight through eight rounds â€“ you can unlock a characterâ€™s alternative outfits by completing arcade on various difficulties.
There are five difficulty levels initially, with a further two to be unlocked, catering to everyone from beginners - who havenâ€™t mastered reversals - to masochists, who want to really earn that first win. It gets frustrating in higher difficulties, as characters take time to recover from a blow, so a tough opponent will juggle you until half your health is gone; itâ€™s even worse when they have you pinned against a wall and continuously pound you.
There are a few changes to the roster including Virtua Fighter guests Akira, Sarah, and Pai Chan. The latter is unlocked by collecting 100 titles - easier than it may sound. Their inclusion could be testing the waters for a future Dead or Alive vs. Virtua Fighter title â€“ should they be thinking about taking the lead from Street Fighter x Tekken.
In addition, DOA5 introduces two fighters to the main roster: Rig - an oil rig worker (Rig - oil rig - get it?), and Mila - a mixed martial artist. The only notably absent DOA fighter is Leon, who stopped entering the tournament after Dead or Alive 3, only to reappear - as an unlockable - in Dead or Alive 4. Character voicing is a little odd â€“ some characters speak Chinese, while others speak Japanese, or English. The result is that you will need to have subtitles on to understand characters regardless of what your language settings are on.
DOA5 retains the elegant fighting mechanics of previous titles, and expands on them with the power blow. The power blow is a condition-sensitive combo that requires your characterâ€™s health to be flashing red. It can take about a third off an opponentâ€™s health bar. In addition, they are unblockable - the only ways to avoid a power blow is to attack your opponent as they are charging it or back out of reach.
On the stage hazard front, DOA5 has surpassed the previous DOA titles; you can kick someone into a marked target and a missile will blow them into the air, or launch them into a helicopter, causing it to crash. There is a circus stage that has a Tiger hazard - where throwing someone against a burning hoop will make a tiger run over them.
Dead or Alive is a series that knows what it does well and DOA5 doesnâ€™t deviate from the formula. Simple controls, fast gameplay, and reversals make it a solid fighter for veterans and beginners alike. Given the seriesâ€™ similar controls, the Virtua Fighter guests fit in quite well too.