Dead or Alive 5 Review

“She kicks high.”

Having never played an entry in the DOA franchise before, that and breast physics were the extent of my knowledge going into Dead or Alive 5. Why would I even bother with the series at this point, especially when my track record of enjoying 3D fighting games is not very good? Academic curiousity, for one. Ever since I jumped deep into the competitive fighting game scene, I’ve bought almost every fighter on the market just to get a sense of what’s out there. Two, you’ll never know what awesome games you’ll come across if you don’t put your neck out there every now and then.

In this case, I’m really glad I did.

In the past, I’ve found games like Tekken, SoulCalibur and Virtua Fighter really hard to grasp. Dead or Alive 5 has a level of accessibility to it that I really appreciate. It did not take me long to at least gain a basic feel for the combat, which still felt really good as a newbie. If your perogative is to mash buttons with friends while still feeling like you’re accomplishing something, this fits the bill.

Not to say that there isn’t depth here, as there’s a lot of nuance to master; particularly the game’s countering system. It’s been a staple of the franchise since its inception, though I’ve heard it’s been tweaked here. I can’t speak for how the mechanic has evolved, but I love all of the possibilities it opens up. Besides those, there is a lot to learn with expert counters, air throws, techniques to counter side-stepping, environmental hazards and more. It’s easy to enjoy it on a base level, but definitely worth it for serious players to invest the time to learn its every nuance.

While I have a long way to go before I’ll ever call myself good at this game, this was the first 3D fighting game I remember playing where the core combat felt right. If I ever plan on taking any 3D fighting game seriously, I think I would start here. I know that this isn’t nearly as popular as Tekken Tag Tournament 2 or SoulCalibur V, but at this point, I enjoy this one a lot more and feel like I’m making forward progress in it.

One of the aspects that has helped me understand everything better is the game’s story mode, which also doubles as an extended tutorial. While I don’t have any prior experience with the franchise to speak to its story nuances, what I did see was classic Japanese ludicrousness. Much of the time, the cutscenes also are only devised to show off the DoA girls in sexy situations, which is par for the course at this point. Neither the cutscenes or the story did anything for me, but the little training bits prior to every match did help me get a better sense of how the game worked. Because of how drawn out this experience is and how deep it can go in spots, it does teach players the ropes better than some other fighting games on the market. With that said, revisiting a particular episode to practice a specific technique is extremely difficult to do when all of the game’s chapters are sorted out by character and not by the lesson they teach.

Training mode is similarly hit-and-miss. It’s great that the training mode has a built in trial mode to show you every special move and combo, but it’s execution is sorely lacking. This mode doesn’t give you the ability to skip a maneuver you can’t complete. Worse yet, if you want to watch the computer demonstrate the maneuver for you, you’ll have to click in the right analog stick, which is something fightstick players can’t do at all.

The online experience features the standard suite of modes and features, such as lobbies, ranked matches and simple matches. If you’ve played any modern fighting game, you’ll know what to expect here. The most important aspect to note is the game’s online stability. I had instances of the game running very smoothly, as well as very laggy. I think that this is primarily caused by proximity of my opponents rather than the netcode itself. You will definitely want to play around with the game’s region settings to ensure a stable connection.

I never thought I’d get into 3D fighting games, but I think it was just a matter of finding the right one for me. I strongly feel that this is the introduction to the genre that I can wrap my head around. It was great to play out of the box, and I think would hold up for competitive play. The overall package might be a bit thin and lacking in certain areas, but the core gameplay is awesome enough to compensate.

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