Dead or Alive 5 is the first main Dead or Alive game to be produced since the departure of the series’ creator Tomonobu Itagaki. Itagaki is widely regarded as the driving force behind so many of the features that have defined the Dead or Alive franchise and many have wondered how the series could survive without his guiding hand.
I’m happy to report that, upon first glance anyway, this has everything you would come to expect from a Dead or Alive game. Graphically the series has always featured impressive visuals, and Dead or Alive 5 is no exception.
Our demo took place on a platform on a construction site high above a busy street. The environment is incredibly detailed, with lots of incidental background items, such as tools and traffic cones, littering the scene. Meanwhile the character models, while still being stylised, feature an impressive level of detail, particularly in their clothing. Having said that, after spending an hour or so playing around with the game Itagaki’s absence can truly be felt.
On the surface level the female characters’ clothing is less revealing and the infamous jiggle physics for the characters’ breasts is less prominent. Similarly, in terms of gameplay, the combat is slightly slower, which initially may feel strange for someone that has played many of the games in the series.
The enemy A.I in this demo is significantly less punishing than in previous entries in the series, performing fewer reversals and leaving themselves open to being hit more often. Obviously as we’re only playing the demo, and it consists of one fight, it’s hard to say if the difficulty will significantly ramp up as you progress through the full retail game. The recent 3DS title Dead or Alive Dimensions suffered in some regards from how fair the game was. By removing the harsh A.I and their cheap tactics that were a stable of the series under Itagaki, it made the game significantly easier, and as such replayability was hindered.
One explanation for this seemingly lower difficulty is that it gives the player the chance to try out some of the new features. The most prominent change is the new Power Blow system. By holding down R1 you can perform an attack that, once fully charged, initiates a powerful blow that can send opponents flying across the arena. Once the blow connects you are given a few seconds to aim in which direction you wish to send your opponent flying, with specific interactive objects being highlighted in red.
Sending the enemy flying into these objects has varying results; in this level there are power generators (that explode upon contact), a solid concrete wall, and some iron girders on a crane. Hitting the girders causes the platform you are standing on to tip over leading to the opponent tumbling over the edge.
Once an enemy goes over the edge this initiates a short quick time button press event. The person going over the edge is given a brief window of opportunity to grab the ledge and then dodge any attack that follows, while the attacker has a larger window of opportunity to either perform an attack, or a grab, sending their foe hurtling towards the ground causing maximum devastation.
Tumbling from one section of a stage to a new level below has been the mainstay of the Dead or Alive series, and it is pleasing to see how these new Power Blows can be used to seamlessly switch from one environment to another. The sheer level of destruction upon landing at the road below is visually impressive, with exploding vehicles flying through the air followed by balls of fire.
Of course Power Blows aren’t the only way to cause significant levels of environmental destruction; you can still initiate the scenery destruction by hitting enemies into the objects with regular moves, but the most impressive way of doing it is with the power blows. One amusing little detail is that, when knocking an enemy into a wall, debris falls down from above, including traffic cones, which bounce off of both characters’ heads, causing them to stumble.
A quick glance at the main menu reveals that Dead or Alive 5 will feature all of the game modes that you have come to expect, including survival mode, time attack, and tag battles, as well as your standard story mode. The Dead or Alive series has always included a number of game modes and it is pleasing to see that this tradition will continue.
All in all we came away feeling very positive about Dead or Alive 5, although we do have some concerns about the apparent lowering the series’ trademark difficulty. We’ll find out for certain when Dead or Alive 5 is released across the globe in September of this year.
- Luke Mears