It’s probably fair to say that if I asked most of you to name a character from the Dead or Alive series, the best answer you could give me would perhaps be “Ooo isn’t that guy from Ninja Gaiden in it?”. I’m by no means saying that the series isn’t popular, it’s been around now for almost 20 years and in that time a large number of games and spin offs have been developed … but something about it doesn’t put it in the same league as the genre front runners. Street Fighter has a large fan base, Mortal Kombat proves popular thanks to its uncensored brutality and Tekken (one of my favourite franchises without a doubt) has a lot of production and glitzy presentation to it, which has made games such as Virtual Fighter, Soul Caliber and unfortunately Dead or Alive appear rather bland in comparison. I for one have never played a Dead or Alive title so I was eager to give the latest instalment a bash and it’s fair to say I wasn’t expecting an awful lot, but I can honestly say that it’s much more of a fighting simulator than something like Tekken could ever be. Sure, it’s not as OTT in its menus and its characters aren’t as likeable or as unforgettable as its competitors, but what Team Ninja have, done is create the most ‘realistic’ (to some degree) fighter I have ever played, and I can’t believe it’s taken me until the 5th instalment to notice its impressive existence. The fifth Dead or Alive tournament begins now!
Marking the 3rd incarnation of 2012’s Dead or Alive 5, Last Round is the most up to date version of the title, now making its first outing on the PS4 and Xbox One. Following on from DOA Plus and DOA Ultimate, DOA Last Round features a couple more characters being added to the roster, as well as much more outfits and customizable hair for you to have a gander at. The current gen ports of Last Round will feature updated visuals playing at a smooth 1080p resolution and running at a sweet 60 frames per second; the game also runs on a new ‘Soft Engine’ which apparently is to show the softness of a character’s body … but is that more cool or creepy? Transferring over all of its playable fighters from Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate including everyone from the game’s DLC, Last Round also invites 2 new playable characters to join the cast, including a familiar face from the original game. Newcomers to the franchise such as I will be intrigued to see what makes this fighting game different to its competition, and one word that springs to mind is breasts. What has undoubtedly added to the franchise’s popularity during the years is its focus on kick ass, yet outrageously busty female fighters with perfectly animated jiggly boobs. What also sets it apart is its unique counter system, which can see your chosen fighter counter an enemy’s offense regardless of their position or height, as long as you defend at the exact time of course. There is less of a focus here on demonic beings and magical attacks that plague every other fighting title, so it’s definitely an interesting play to see a fighting game which is all about … well fighting instead of shooting fire balls or lasers out of their eye sockets.
From the main menu I’m presented with the generic fighter options, Story, Fight, Online and Playstation Store (which you only need to venture into if you’re totally sick of the many hair and outfit options already on offer). Jumping straight into the ‘Fight’ option I am presented with yet again the generic fighting game options I’ve come to expect, so I thought I’d jump right into the standard ‘Arcade’ mode to test my skills against the computer. So ROUND 1 begins and it’s apparent that this is no button masher as there are less complicated moves and fancy finishers and your success is derived from your ability to counter and executed perfect combos. As someone who is used to finding a fighter’s most devastating move and using it until my competitor cries for mercy, I found that I was getting my ass handed to me quite often, so a detour into the game’s ‘Training’ mode got me back on track; I strongly advise newcomers look up how to play this game properly in the in-game tutorial. After taking down my first opponent I was almost instantly taken to the next match and I then realised just how fast this game is and how much better it is as a game than anything from that genre I’ve played before. As much as I love how much glamorous build up there is between each fight on other fighting titles, all those loading screens can almost kill the excitement and flow of the game, however, in Dead or Alive: Last Round, my heart remained in overdrive as there was almost no time to breathe in between matches, this I like very much. Not being used to using the actual ‘ skill’ in fighting games, it was exhilarating to play a fighting game which hasn’t only asked you to string together fluent combos, but to actually defend against your opponents attacks and counter where possible, much like how a real fight should be handled.
As a long time Tekken fan, I’ve not come to expect much when it comes to a brawler’s so called ‘Story Mode’, so it was no surprise that Dead or Alive 5’s latest tale of treachery, conspiracy and bosoms was nothing short of a bore. The story itself follows long time poster girl Kasumi and her quest in tracking down her dangerous DOATEC created clone Alpha -152, a ruthless being whose only goal is to destroy everything in its path. Explored across over 50 cut scenes, you control half of the game’s roster and investigate their intentions going into the latest tournament and in most cases, what their involvement is in the development of the evil corporation MIST. In all honesty only half a dozen of these playable characters actually play a pivotal role in the game’s narrative so 75% of the entire mode is easily forgettable and unimportant, making it in some regards a boring experience. Ignore the fact that I haven’t played this franchise before, it’s fair to say that this game isn’t purchased for its story mode unless it’s for serious diehard fans of the series. It’s presented in a very dull manner, there’s no feeling of intrigue or storytelling, the story jumps around numerous locations without so much of an explanation why and there’s no sense of reward after defeating each opponent, which won’t keep the attention span of casual players who want to see what the series is all about.
Visually the game is rather good, though not as sharp as we would like, seeing it’s made the brave jump to PS4 and Xbox One, Dead or Alive: Last Round is more of a slightly more refined version of the previous last gen entry. The new Soft Engine that Team Ninja has in place gives the characters a gorgeous facial and bodily polish, so much so that you can actually count the beads of sweat dripping from each fighter’s orifice. This unfortunately doesn’t seem to have been applied to any other body part as there is an obvious difference between a character’s face and arm for example, which, though it sounds peculiar, it’s much like the visual difference between the motion captured wrestlers and studio animated wrestlers in WWE 2K15, a visual anomaly that is hard to un-see once noticed. By far the most striking element of DOA: Last Round is the game’s arenas and battlegrounds which are bloody awesome and much better than any other title in the genre. Each venue looks superb and exploring every one of them makes for an exciting venture every time you return. Most of the game’s battlefields features various levels to fight on and by simply thwarting your enemy over the guard rail or cliff edge will see these additional levels being unlocked. There is however a few fighting grounds that will take you by surprise and conducting various moves against it will see the entire arena change before your eyes, not by magic, but by shit loads of explosions; the first time I saw the oil rig explode I nearly wet myself.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a fast paced and exciting fighting game that has really knocked me for six. Visually it’s great and a definite improvement of last year’s reincarnation and the studio’s new engine polishes it off even better, if it is only 50% of the character. The genres trademark Arcade, Time Trial and Survival modes are fantastic and brutally quick which keeps your interest in the game running at 60 mph, however the games dull story mode does hinder it greatly. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round also houses a faultless (at time of testing) Online mode, which , though admittedly the servers weren’t exactly bursting at the seams, I was able to connect quickly and play perfectly without any hitches, glitches or lagging, which would ruin the game’s graphical performance. It’s not the easiest game to get into, or indeed master, but it’s definitely a joy to pick up and play casually even if you don’t intend to invest in the franchise’s future. For me personally I’ve found a fighting game which concentrates on the fighting, making it a brawler more about strategy and reading your opponent opposed to pressing each button until it falls off; a game which focuses on environments over presentation and martial arts over outrageous characters. The tagline for Dead or Alive 5 is “I’m a fighter” and I believed I was, but I had no idea that before playing this game I was only a mindless button masher, I will see you at the next tournament.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.