Dead or Alive 5 Preview (PS3)

The pressure on Team Ninja right now is probably immense. With studio head Tomonobu Itagaki gone – and under rather negative circumstances – the studio has the undesirable task of proving they can survive and thrive without him.

Ninja Gaiden 3, their first game without the guiding hand of the outspoken developer, didn’t help matters. It received a critical mauling for losing sight of what made the series great – but have the team learned lessons from that nasty experience and ploughed them into DOA5?

Dead Or Alive is a strange fighting game, as it’s always tried almost a little too hard to be technical for its own good. In the 3D fighting space, its attempts to simultaneously be as technical as Virtua Fighter and as accessible as Tekken led to it really being neither. Despite that, it was always a fun series to play.

On the surface, Dead or Alive 5 looks, feels and handles quite similarly to DOA4, eschewing some changes made in spin-offs like the 3DS DOA Dimensions in favour of sticking with what worked previously on consoles. New systems and mechanics pepper that, though, and give it a new flavour – more than enough added to avoid feeling like a retread.

That DOA feeling that just about any hit can be countered easily is still there, thankfully, and the manner the game rewards you for correctly predicting your opponents’ actions is still crippling. While a game like Street Fighter or Tekken may allow players to bash out the same predictable combo after they get you in hitstun, DOA still allows players to brutally punish any sort of predictability.

One particularly loaded word for DOA5 is stun. All fighting games have various methods of stunning characters, be it regular hitstun which leads to combos or ‘dizzy’ states when a player really gets blown to pieces by their rival, but DOA5 adds the ‘Critical Burst’, a new type of hit that stuns the opponent briefly, allowing for whatever follow-up you like.

Every character has moves that can trigger a Critical Burst, so those are the ones most players will likely be shooting for. When stunned, a character can’t counter out of it, eliminating some of that constant DOA danger of being countered or grappled out of an ill-thought-out move – at least for a moment.

DOA5’s most significant addition comes in the form of the new ‘Power Blow’ system, a mechanic that essentially amounts to being at least superficially similar to the ‘super combos’ fighting fans will be familiar with from Street Fighter.

This special, charged attack is difficult to land, but if you manage it a flurry of predetermined hits will be lavished on your opponent, doing massive amounts of damage. Unlocked after losing a certain amount of health, it essentially allows you to do the same stuff that an Ultra Combo might in Street Fighter IV – it can be used to come back from a crushing defeat or to embarrass an opponent you’re already schooling.

Used in conjunction with the Critical Burst, a Power Blow can be made a part of a combo for devastating results. These systems feel like they may well combine to make DOA a much more tournament-viable game, but only time will tell.

With Street Fighter and Tekken hooking up, Team Ninja was clearly feeling a bit of envy – and so have pulled in some of the cast from SEGA’s Virtua Fighter for DOA5. Akira and Sarah are a perfect fit for the DOA universe, the Viruta Fighter moves and fighting style translating well into the DOA engine, even if VF is naturally more finessed.

After nasty mistakes with Ninja Gaiden 3, it’s clear that Team Ninja is sticking closer to the mould with Dead or Alive 5 – and that makes sense. Building on the solid gameplay setup that already existed and pandering to the rabid fans who love DOA’s scantily clad ladies only makes sense – and the former, at least, means that this is likely to be a pretty damn solid fighting game.


By HenoKutus (SI Elite) on Aug 23, 2012
Dead preferrably!