The Dead or Alive series' heaving bosoms, come-hither looks and pervy camera angles belie a simple but rewarding fighting system. Little has changed in the fifth entry, the boobs still bounce, the ladies still writhe, and the underlying principles guiding the action remain largely untouched.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. The rock-paper-scissors system Dead or Alive 5 uses is easy to grasp but layered with nuances for those that want to do more than furiously bash buttons. Known as the 'Triangle System', the game's core ruleset dictates that attacks take priority over throws, throws override counters, and counters interrupt attacks.
When on the offense it's important to keep in mind that punches are quick but do little damage, while kicks are powerful but slow. Defence is comprised of blocking high, mid and low attacks, while using holds to counter.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. Each character is armed with an arsenal of combos that mix up punches and kicks of different heights, so defending players need to be attentive and adapt guards to match the flurry of attacks. Meanwhile, countering is dependant on predicting attacks and nailing split-second input timing.
Unfortunately, the game's tutorials are couched in an awful story mode made up of clumsily stacked cinematics that show no regard for continuity or narrative clarity. Ninjas chasing other ninjas, family rivalries, evil corporations and missing-in-action-clones are used as thinly veiled excuses to shove characters in arenas and making them fight.
Before battles the game offers up some guidance, but makes little effort beyond that to accommodate learning. In fact, the AI aggressively pursues victory instead of letting you acclimatise to the mechanics. It would have been nice if it had a more robust training mode.
New to this instalment is the 'Power Blow', a unique super moves of sorts that range from devastating roundhouse kicks to Ninpo magic. Unlike the usual fire-and-forget supers of Street Fighter, victims can be launched into a specified Danger Zone to inflict additional damage using the environment.
In practise the flow of battle fluctuates between periods of tense defensive stalemates, where players are battling to force errors, and explosive all-out barrages to capitalise on missteps. The tug-of-war dynamic is genuinely thrilling and Power Blows inject some much needed cinematic flourishes into the otherwise measured skirmishes.
Bouts are given some additional flare by lively multi-level environments. As well as serving as vibrant backdrops for all the pugilism, arenas can be used tactically to gain the upper hand. By backing an opponent up into a wall and connecting with a combo or heavy attack, victims can be stunned or launched, leaving helpless against further attacks. Because of this familiarity with the stages and maintaining constant spatial awareness is also key.
There's very little new in Dead or Alive 5. It's built on tried, true and perhaps tepid fighting game foundations, but given the depth it's difficult to fault it for that. Fighting game players in search of something completely new might be better off holding out for Persona 4 Arena. But if it's just a solid, technical fighter you're after, Dead or Alive fits the bill.
A safe sequel that sticks to a formula that still works
- Deep fighting mechanics
- Satisfying battles
- Rubbish story mode
- Poor tutorial implimentation