After a short delay, Team Ninja’s latest entry in the Dead or Alive series is finally here. Arguably Koei Tecmo’s biggest release of the year, it’s out now for Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC – our review’s based on the PS4 version.
With roughly seven years between each of the last three main entries in the Dead or Alive games, it’s easy to forget how long the series has been around. The original game went up against the likes of Virtua Fighter 2 and 3 in the arcades (now there’s a franchise we’d like to see return, by the way), and the series has since appeared on virtually every console and handheld you can think of – especially if you include spinoffs and re-releases.
Dead or Alive 5 was especially ‘notorious’ for its many iterations. There was a “plus” version, an “ultimate” version and ultimately a “last round” version. That’s the version that many Dead or Alive 6 players will be coming from, and therein also lies a big challenge for Team Ninja. Serving more and more as a fighting platform over the years, the game had gotten so many DLC addons that the amount of content in any sequel was likely to pale in comparison.
Dead or Alive 6 confirms this, although is also comes with a DLC bundle deal at release that gives you access to two extra characters and a host of alternate costumes. You get over thirty of them with the season pass, but you have to be really really into cosmetic changes as it comes with a price tag that’s more than the base game itself. Unless you’re in that group of people, the ratio of extra characters versus extra costumes is going to feel a little weird.
It’s especially odd to see the DLC strategy when you look at the fact that you can also unlock cosmetic upgrades in-game without paying for them. Playing the game’s quest mode, and completing the challenges therein, can help you unlock stars and points – which in turn unlock more challenges and bonuses. It can be a bit of a grind to do so in long stretches, but fighting games in general have a tough time with anything that’s not tied to a single player campaign or multiplayer mode. From that perspective, Quest is better than most comparable modes – partly because many of the objectives are tied to what you’re doing in-game, so it also serves as a learning tool.
Dead or Alive 6 is not radically different from Last Round, although there’s a refreshing emphasis on single player here. Part of that is a lack of meaningful online multiplayer modes (at launch) though, as you can only play ranked matches. The single player portion feels much more fleshed out with an entertaining and well-delivered story mode, although some of the writing was lost on me and I personally still prefer the cinematic delivery that Injustice 2 used to great effect.
The core of any game in this genre, however, is the fighting engine itself along with the roster of fighters that goes with it. Starting with the latter, this is a smaller roster than the one in Last Round, though that’s hardly surprising as that game was gradually expanded upon over many years. What’s slightly disappointing, however, is that only two of the characters in the game are not returning characters from the series – giving the game a “DOA 5 got a makeover” feel when glancing at the roster.
However, the fighting system itself is where the real makeover lies, with subtle enhancements that change the game for the better. The old “rock, paper scissors” mechanic is still there (where moves of one type trump the other), but being able to very effectively side-step adds, almost literally, a new dimension to the game. Two other novelties come by way of the Break-Holds and Break-Blows – representing defensive and offensive super moves respectively. Both use a gauge that you fill up over time, and you can trigger a super-attack version of the Break-Blow as well.
They are welcome additions to the franchise, even though they’re not revolutionary for anyone who’s played other fighters before. Dead or Alive 6 does come with an excellent tutorial system that helps you learn the ropes though, which makes the learning curve a lot more manageable this time around.
Dead or Alive 6 doesn’t radically change what fans have known and grown to love in the previous games. There is a giant emphasis on costume changes that won’t appeal to everyone, but there’s also a robust and deep fighting system below the surface of a gorgeous looking fighting game. The age where Dead or Alive was mainly known for its attractive female characters is behind us – this is a more than competent fighter even though it’s multiplayer could have used a bit more polish.