Having been blessed with the opportunity to get hands-on with Dead or Alive 5 at various points throughout its development, you might think that Electronic Theatre has seen everything the videogame has to offer. In reality however, nothing could be further from the truth. With every new iteration Dead or Alive 5 continues to impress, and makes a concerted effort to reveal more of the nuances of its strike-heavy combat system.
Fluidity has always been a guiding principle for the Dead or Alive franchise. Even when hardware wasn’t capable of supporting detailed facial animations or the frantic battle action we take for granted these days, the original Dead or Alive made a point of proving that Virtua Fighter’s static blows could be combined with the combo systems of Street Fighter and Killer Instinct to create a more dynamic system. A punch isn’t just a punch; it’s an opener for a series of blows, each of which in turn provide more combat options creating a branching combat system.
As has always been the case, players can simply find a four-to-ten hit string that has universal implementation and simply opt for that, working their way into a position where it’s possible to begin the execution and slowly wearing down the opponent’s health before they do the same to you. With a little bit of practice however, players can easily learn four or five of these preset strings, offering them more flexibility in their openers and more opportunities to provide a response to an enemy assault.
A handful of new characters were available to play in this latest build, most noticeably the return of leading lady Kasumi. Always a swift fighter, Kasumi’s combo structure appears to have received a significant balancing makeover, if not a visual one. Certain attacks in her strings have been made slower, while others have become more forceful. Now able to land stun blows on opponents in order to queue-up more complicated attacks, Kasumi is a character that will welcome back returning players while offering newcomers the chance to jump straight into triple-hit strikes. Dead or Alive 4’s new boy Elliot returns with his short range and tuck-in attacks, striking the gut on the counter-attack for some damaging blows, and Brad Wong once again proves to be the Voldo of Dead or Alive: difficult to master, but deadly in expert hands.
The new stages revealed by Temco Koei Europe work only to prove that Dead or Alive 5 has made the decision to deliver a truly current-generation experience by taking the steps forward that Tekken Tag Tournament 2 seems to be utterly ignorant of. Damage to the environments and objects within is permanent, and more than simply knocking your opponent through the wall. Wooden plans crack and splinter, pottery knocked of table will shatter upon the floor and dust kick-up mid fight will constantly – and realistically – react to all subsequent action within the area. You may say this is unnecessary incidental detail, but it’s just another of the steps forward that Dead or Alive 5 is taking in it’s attempt to secure the respect of the beat-‘em-up community. Based on that which Electronic Theatre has witnessed, it will deserve no less when it launches on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 next month.