As many would imagine, Dead or Alive 5 is the latest title in a long running series that hopes to take the crown at the top of the one-on-one beat-‘em-up genre following the resurgence in popularity on the current-generation systems. And as might be expected, the fans of the franchise are confident that the team working on the videogame at Team NINJA can pull it off, while the naysayers only refer to the forthcoming release in reference to products made purely for titillation. In Dead or Alive 5, Team NINJA are aiming to move the franchise significantly towards the former.
Dead or Alive 5 still features its mannequin-esque female fighters, but in this latest edition of the series they’re far more serious than may have been expected. No longer a pretty face and a large chest that’s able to kick ass, the women of Dead or Alive 5 will get beaten and bruised just as with any other character, as can clearly be seen on the victory/defeat screen. Sweat drips from their brow as they push themselves through each fight, and while it’s still all closely related to even the earliest design of each character, there’s no denying that the six years since Dead or Alive 4 has allowed the models to mature.
The gameplay of Dead or Alive was never in question. Throughout the years it’s steadily evolved alongside the likes of Virtua Fighter and Tekken, creating it’s own feel; a swiftness in counter attacking and combo structure than has been imitated, but never replicated. Dead or Alive 5 pushes this agenda further than ever before, refusing to litter the screen with unnecessary meters and tokens. All you’ll see in Dead or Alive 5 are health meters and score tallies.
One addition to the formula that is welcomed is the Power Attack system. Each character has a unique Power Attack manoeuvre that has to be executed with some precision to execute fully. It’s a simple case of holding the R1 button (RB on the Xbox 360) and letting the manoeuvre charge. Release it to early and only a singular – though still damaging – blow will be landed, too late and it gives your opponent enough time to dodge out of the way. Making impact however, is a grin-inducing affair every time.
In a similar fashion to Street Figther IV’s Ultra Combos, the camera becomes removed from its set side-on angle, instead following the automated sequence of attacks. The final blow is dictated by the player however, with the left analogue stick used to determine the point of impact for your opponent and the Triangle button (Y on Xbox 360) to execute. It’s a dramatic, damaging manoeuvre, and one which expert players will surely begin trading in when Dead or Alive 5 is available to play online.
In a move which is almost enough to consider the Dead or Alive 5 demo builds a tutorial for the final release, players are able to see a statistical breakdown of each fighter before beginning a match, divided into five categories: Strike, Throw, Hold, Power, Speed and Moves. What’s more, in-game the player can enable the ‘move data’ display, which interprets every action, its range and the damage it does.
The two characters featured in the second Dead or Alive 5 demo, Ayane and Hayate, benefit from the same improve fluidity of Hitomi and Hayabusa, though our female friend here appears to have her moves list largely intact. Hayate appears to have received a significant overhaul in his aerial abilities, patching over that which was arguably his biggest weakness in previous instalments of the series. Whether or not all of the characters set to feature in Dead or Alive 5 will receive the same kind of attention remains to be seen, but as it stands Electronic Theatre simply cannot wait to find out.