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Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate Review

A franchise that stretches back 17 years, Dead or Alive was once a worthy contender in the ever-increasing field of fighting games. Now, however, it's a shallow husk of a credible game series that's been self-diluted by its insistence of focusing game design on tits.

 

This Ultimate edition of last year's Dead or Alive 5 is exactly that – Ultimate. It's the culmination of the console release and the PS Vita's Dead or Alive 5 Plus, with a few bells and whistles thrown in for good measure. Five characters are added to this edition; Leon and Ein return from previous Dead or Alive games; Momiji and Ryu from Team Ninja's more successful series Ninja Gaiden; and Virtua Fighter's Jacky join the fray, bringing the total roster from DOA5's 24 up to 29.

Also included are Dead or Alive 5 Plus's impressive, albeit uninspired, Training and Combo Challenge modes, two on two tag team battles - a replacement of Dead or Alive 5's special move Power Blow with Power Launcher - and a hell of a lot of unlockable costumes for each of the characters.

No doubt fans of the series will welcome these new additions as it not only brings a lot to the table in terms of content, but is released at a reasonable price of £25 RRP, which is not too shabby. However, bar the five new characters, the rest is just more matter, less art. Frankly, over the years Dead or Alive has become a game for ardent fans of the series who should already know by now the intricacies of the fighting system, so a training mode just seems a tad redundant. The Combo Challenge is a nice distraction to hone your skills with each fighter, but a distraction nonetheless. And really, who gives a rat's ass about having loads of different costumes with which to dress your fighters?

Lonely masturbators, that's who. A high percentage of the extra costumes are bikinis (for the women), which is perfect for lusting after pixelated, over-proportioned boobies. The time, effort and money that has gone into the animation of the female characters' breasts is staggering to the point of sheer absurdity. The physics behind making wobbly tattybojangles is overused and looks ridiculous. After your victory pose, your female character remains stood perfectly still yet her norks continue to wobble subtly, continually and forever, like some sexy perpetual motion machine.

And this, sadly, is where the Dead or Alive series has faltered over the years. The core fighting engine in DOA5U is pretty deep and technical, as it was back in the halcyon days of Dead or Alive 2 on the Dreamcast (a real corker of a game). Where the fighting system hasn't changed or evolved over time, however, its over-reliance on using sex to sell has. Sure, Dead or Alive has always been synonymous with scantily clad women (Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, anyone?!), but now we're left with an under-developed system that masks the age old rock-paper-scissors fighting with better graphics and a bigger bra size.

In terms of the fighting, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate stands in the shadows of some colossal giants. Initially it looks like it could be a Tekken clone, but is not as accessible. DOA5U's two-button fighting style allows for some simple and impressive strings of combos much like its Namco counterpart, but its unforgiving margin of error when on the defensive is pretty infuriating. Aside from the standard block, you have counter throws which must be timed and executed with expert precision in the tiniest window between your opponent lifting their fist and bringing it forward. You also have to be able to tell if it's going to be a high or standard level strike, otherwise you leave yourself wide open to receive the blow, not to mention the inevitable follow-on cascade of punches and kicks that ensue as a result. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is a game where it very much pays to be defensive, but to do so requires either hundreds of hours spent learning how, or by being a gaming savant. Or Nicholas Cage in Next.

It's also really not that fun. Super Street Fighter IV allows for different fighting styles, button combos, charge characters versus combo characters, etc, but DOA5U is all about pressing the one punch and one kick button in whatever sequence that takes your fancy, as long as you do it quickly. A game like SSFIV is dynamic, exciting and varied. DOA5U's characters all feel stale and samey.

Now, the story. I am a little conflicted on what to say about the story of this game. For starters, it's exactly the same as in DOA5, but this was expected as Ultimate is merely an update. Fair enough. Most fighting games stumble at a story mode, leaving it to be told in either short before and after tournament animations, or via reams of text. Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe revolutionised the story mode within fighting games by creating a solid, structured narrative which has you controlling a fighter as he or she plays out their section of the story. When the focus of the story changes, so does the character you control for the next few fights.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate continues this method, which is certainly welcome to the fighting genre. It implies thought and effort have gone into the whole game to give fans some value for money, rather than present the same ladder match format with some extra words or animated shorts for you to sit through. However, the story in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is dreadful. It has some bizarre timeline interweavings going on, where characters crisscross around each other, with little to no explanation of what is going on. Some characters fight over piffling and trivial matters, merely as an excuse to have them fight. And, as many of the story arcs focus on going to Antarctica, you'd think one of these many costumes offered by the Ultimate package would be something appropriate to wear in the coldest place on the planet. Head of an international weapons research and development company she may be, but Helena is the only woman on Earth stupid enough to travel to Antarctica in a revealing dress. This woman should be dead.

It is dire nonsense and takes some real endurance to sit through, but the story mode's mere inclusion is better than nothing. You get to learn many of the characters' moves via this mode, including some you may not care much for and wouldn't normally pick for a fight online. It does, however, fail to pack the considerable punch Injustice: Gods Among Us does with its excellent similar story mode.

Playing DOA5U online also has its good and bad points. New to Ultimate is the two on two tag team mode, which is pretty self-explanatory. There is also a pretty seamless seven versus seven mode, in which your defeated fighter gets replaced instantly with the next in line until all have been defeated. Both these and standard single character fights work well... once they load. Both on and offline the game takes far too long a time to load up, and when it does lag becomes a fairly recurrent issue. For a game that requires pinpoint accuracy and fast, multiple buttoned combos, even the slightest lag can be a game changer.

Despite some nice fighting mechanics and additions to DOA5, this version of the fighting game leaves a lot to be desired. Ultimate was meant to fix the bugs and glitches found in DOA5, but we are still faced with punches that pass through opponents at certain times, painfully long loading times and online lag that isn't the worst in the world, but enough to make online play pretty arduous. With a primary focus on boobs, and a Spectator Mode which borders on sheer perversion - you can alter the amount of sweat on a character's body and take pictures as you watch them fight - the sad fact is that pretty girls are using a total disregard for clothes as a not-so-subtle subterfuge to mask a subpar fighting game. A fairly advanced, highly technical fighting game, granted, but its poor execution and annoying bugs and oversights shadow over any positive points the fighting system has to offer.

There are easily many many more fighting games out there that are better in pretty much every way, but if you want to dip your toe into this game, check out Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters on PlayStation 3 only. It's a Free to Play version of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, with the usual restrictions on which fighters you can choose from without paying the freemium price. Extra fighters beyond the original four will cost you, as will the story mode, which is also inaccessible without paying for it. DOA5U is recommended for fans of the series - and fans only.

6.00/10 6

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (Reviewed on Xbox 360)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

A franchise that stretches back 17 years, Dead or Alive was once a worthy contender in the ever-increasing field of fighting games. Now, however, it's a shallow husk of a credible game series that's been self-diluted by its insistence of focusing game design on tits.  

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Gary Durston

Gary Durston

Staff Writer

Gary has been a gamer all his life and is a total retrohead. A lover of games, gaming and just about anything with a pixel, really.

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COMMENTS

Ewok
Ewok - 11:38pm, 3rd April 2015

Great review mate, very entertaining.

Reply
Kaostic
Kaostic - 11:38pm, 3rd April 2015

Jesus, this game has fighting in it? I honestly thought it was just some weird Japanese dating sim. The name always made it seem pretty grim to me...

Reply
thom.whyte
thom.whyte - 11:38pm, 3rd April 2015

Love that candid first paragraph.

Reply