Dead or Alive 5 – Game Analysis and Review
Last Updated on Wednesday, 3 October 2012 06:03
Written by PunchDrunkGamer
Wednesday, 3 October 2012 06:03
Dead or Alive 5 – Game Analysis and Review
By Patrick Newman
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Tecmo Koei
Director: Yohei Shimbori
Producer: Yosuke Hayashi
Series: Dead or Alive
Platforms: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
Dead or Alive 5’s simple, yet rewarding combat system, tweaked to be both deeper and more accessible than its predecessors, is this fighter’s saving grace. Though the essentially pornographic rendering of its female combatants remains aggressively in place, developer Team Ninja (who, let’s face it, are only responding to the market’s demands in their asinine portrayal of these women) have included a new, complex training mode to the series, a “Power Blow” attack designed to give ailing players a new chance on the floor, and a toned-down story that at least takes a stab at introducing substance to the cartoonish Dead or Alive universe. From a purely technical perspective, this is a fighter that more than earns its stars.
The single-player narrative, which aside from Dead or Alive: Dimensions is the first real story mode this series has attempted, gets an A for effort (the story is fully voiced and animated) but a D for execution. Dead or Alive 5 strives for a level of relevance and depth a few notches higher than the earlier games, but never rises above the flat-out ridiculous qualities of its source material, in which ninjas, cloning, and DD-proportioned female sprites clash under muddy premises. In this regard, Team Ninja could have taken a page from the new Mortal Kombat, one of the more successful reboots of a classic franchise in recent memory.
Dead or Alive 5’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors” or “Triangle” fighting system of balancing attacks, throws and counters is cleverly engineered here to both reward experienced combatants and draw newcomers into the fold. The nature of the fights, which usually boil down to a series of defensive stalemates in which one combatant aggressively tries to capitalize on another’s misstep through an endless barrage of combos (reminding me of the similar, superior, Super Street Fighter IV), has been thrown for a loop with the “Power Blow” feature. The new super move, which enables players surviving at or below 50% health to enact massive, cinematic punishment to their opponents, shakes up the fighting dynamics whenever they begin to grow stale.
The multi-leveled environments – always a draw for me in earlier Dead or Alive titles – are back here and fun to navigate, but lose something in their efforts to be darker and grittier in line with Team Ninja’s goals for a series reinvention. For the most part, the locales have been moved to dank urban environments (revisited throughout story mode) like alleys, construction sites and oil rigs, which somehow feels like a terrible misstep. Dead or Alive, which has mostly thrived on its sex appeal and colorful outlandishness, is never going to scrub clean its campier cartoonish qualities, so it shouldn’t go out of its way to try.
The game’s new features, including social media integration and replay uploads, are slick and much appreciated, since they help offset the sting of the game’s gaudiness and incomprehensible story. The training mode has been bolstered by a staggering array of features that should help good fighters become great ones with a little extra commitment. This is where the depth beneath Dead or Alive 5’s deceptive simplicity lies. The training mode’s relaying of real time move properties, frame data, and player stats bring new dimension to a series that is already five installments deep, which is no small feat.
Though Dead or Alive 5’s goal to reinvent itself as something more than a technically superior fighting game that doubles as masturbatory material ultimately failed, its retaining of some of the franchise’s core elements makes it worth the drudgery for any serious gamer. Series stalwarts will undoubtedly love it, and newcomers will be treated to a lot of new state-of-the-art features and an insanely deep training mode to bring them in to the experience gently. Despite the schizophrenic, silly story that never resolves with its initial intentions, Dead or Alive 5 gets the job done.
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