Dead or Alive 5 Review

  • Posted September 26th, 2012 at 11:28 EDT by

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Dead or Alive 5

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Dead or Alive 5 has enough to please fans and newcomers with game mechanics that are easy to learn, but difficult to master.

We like

  • Improved visuals and story plot
  • Dynamic and lively characters and environments
  • Training tools

We dislike

  • Not enough evolution
  • Graphical shortcomings
  • Poor storytelling

See PSU's review on Metacritic & GameRankings

After the departure of Dead or Alive creator Tomonobu Itagaki from Team Ninja in 2008, many were concerned about the future of the series. For fans, Itagaki was DOA. A lot of the designer’s personality had been injected into the games and Itagaki has called DOA’s female characters his ‘daughters’ in the past. Nothing was heard about a sequel for several years following DOA4’s release. Now nearly seven years later, Dead or Alive 5 is here and brings some welcome improvements to the table, yet plays it safe.

The most noticeable change is in the graphics and presentation. Textures and lighting are the best the series has seen. Characters have undergone a major makeover. Gone are any round faces or large, flat anime eyes. Instead characters now have more slender faces and eyes with depth, sparkle, and moving pupils. It is a very noticeable evolution, especially when looking at Kasumi or Ayane. Some fans may be adverse to the new design; I was at first but it grew on me. New character perspiration and water effects can soak into clothes, affecting their appearance (e.g. Hitomi’s white tank top becoming translucent). At other times the result is more subtle resulting in damp hair or wet skin. Characters also undergo gradual battle-damage so they look dirtier as a match goes on. Each character’s animations are unique and now have more nuances that reflect his or her personality and fighting style, from Kasumi’s elegant and graceful style to Hayabusa’s calm, decisive composure. Everything feels fluid and runs at a smooth 60 frames per second. The end result is characters that are more believable and alive rather than a cast from an old arcade fighter.

Much of the same can be said for the environments in Dead or Alive 5. Every stage is filled with background animations and objects that can influence the battle. In a Middle-Eastern battleground stage, bullets ricochet around the fighters with sand and dust being kicked up as they move. There are destructive elements as well like crumbling buildings and explosive oil rig containers. Certain spots in stages called Danger Zones will trigger an event that deals out damage to the character that bumped into it. DOA’s signature multi-leveled stages are back too. Players will have to be aware of their characters’ surroundings if they want to survive. Dead or Alive 5’s stages are the most awe-inducing spectacles ever seen in a fighting game.

Not everything is great about DOA5’s presentation however. Two aspects of Dead or Alive Dimensions (3DS) have been carried over: a new camera style named “Action” and “hit effects.” The ”Action” style features a camera that moves around more than in previous games to add intensity and appeal to newcomers and spectators. This can be switched to the “Classic” camera but “Action” is the default. Likewise, “hit effects” are on by default and emphasize where a character was hit by exaggerating the point of impact with an air ripple effect. This helps newcomers by making it easy to distinguish if an attack is high, mid, or low and makes for a showy, possibly distracting visual. A number of the background objects also have low polygon counts or muddy textures. For example, a particular monkey in the campaign looked like it was from a PlayStation 2 game. Last but not least are the infamous breast physics. Team Ninja’s team needs to retake physics class because DOA5’s breasts are the least realistic part of the presentation; they move like the softest gelatin known to man and often times it looks like the clothes are a part of the breast. At times, the breasts look so bizarre that it almost gives off the appearance of a visual distortion filter over the chest of the female fighters.

Audio is nothing special nor bad. The soundtrack, while generic, gets the job done. Bi-lingual audio tracks, a first for a numbered game in the series, are present. The American voice actors are appropriately cast but still do not beat the iconic Japanese cast. The fighting sounds great with punches and kicks sounding like they have weight to them. Something I especially enjoyed is the environment’s surround sound effects that further enhance each stage’s personality. There were often times when I heard a voice or a ... (continued on next page) ----

Ernest Lin is a U.S. Editor for PSU and certified moé aficionado. Follow him on Twitter for ramblings on movies, anime, gaming, deals, and pop culture.
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  • Related game: Dead or Alive 5

    Release date (US):
    September 25th, 2012
    Team Ninja
    Fighting - N/A
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