While Dead or Alive fans may have to wait a bit longer for the game to come out now, Koei Tecmo at least tried to satiate our appetite with an online beta to test the servers along with the game itself. The beta had five 5 playable characters: Kasumi, Ayane, Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, and one of the newcomers named Diego. There was only one playable stage, the outside arena that has been shown since the E3 reveal. Ranked match was the only match option for the beta.
I made sure to play as all five characters, it helps that I like all four of the ninjas and I was interested in Diego. The four returning characters generally felt the same perhaps with a few new moves here and there. Diego was satisfying to use, though took some getting used to due to being slower with some of his moves having short reach. If I were to compare him to a character from another fighting game, he felt like a slower and more powerful version of Miguel from the Tekken series.
Two of the biggest new gameplay mechanics added are Break Blows and Break Holds. For Break Blows, they're essentially the new answer to super moves in the game where they're very strong hits that can stun the opponent. Also if the player has a full meter, they're able to unleash one last powerful attack from the Break Blows, that lands pretty high damage. At first, I didn't really like it, because it seemed like an uninteresting super move. The more I pulled off these moves, the more they grew on me as they felt inputting parts of an ultimate attack, which made it seem more interactive. While the final hits of the Break Blows always resulted in sending the opponent flying, some of them had slightly more unique animations. The best example was Ayane's, in which she blasts the opponent away with a purple energy blast.
In terms of Break Holds, they're a special hold (or counter) that you can use about one block of meter to escape any attack, even Break Blow hits. Though just like regular holds, they need to be timed when the attack connects.
One thing that I didn't like is that sidestepping felt stiffer, and it somewhat made me want to avoid trying to do, as to not leave myself open. Dead or Alive always seemed very smooth and responsive with sidestepping. Otherwise, the game felt fluid and fast like past games. It was a shame there was only one stage in the beta, as it would've been nice to play on a stage that featured more interactables, along with stage transitions which are a DOA staple.
Graphics and Sound
Dead or Alive has always had beautiful graphics, and the same so far can be said with Dead or Alive 6. The models and presentation are very smooth and sleek, though the leap in graphics is rather small from Dead or Alive 5. The reason may be that it's difficult to evolve this graphical style, without changing it too much. Sometimes in the intro and victory screens, I did notice some jagged polygons on the characters and background stages. Otherwise, the game still looks very nice, and the colors seem a bit less washed out than Dead or Alive 5's color scheme which is an improvement. Some of the new default outfits for characters are probably my favorites in the series, mainly Hayate and Ayane's. Hayabusa has the same default outfit he's had for a long time, but there's nothing wrong with that. I wasn't as keen on Kasumi's new default outfit, but thankfully her ninja outfit from DOA5 and her classic were seen as alternate outfits.
There weren't many music tracks to comment on yet. What was heard sounded nice, but not quite as blood pumping or as intense as soundtracks of previous games. The impact sounds of the hits were very satisfying. Impact seems to be a feature they were pushing more with this entry. It was also great to hear the characters in English after most of the trailers featured only Japanese voices. There was a more unique dialogue between the fighters before matches than ever before, which was great to see.
From what I did play, online ran fairly smoothly. Like most online fighters, the game lets you know the quality of the connection of your opponent before you face them. There definitely were matches that contained some lag, but none that were unplayable.
The ranking system is also intuitive as it gives you a letter grade, and it pairs you up with someone with the same grade or slightly above you. Experience is gained from winning, and even more so when matches are won. However, your grade can go down if you lose, especially if it's opponents that are a lower grade than you. The online experience wasn't perfect, but for me at least it didn't hinder the gameplay and there were no matches that crashed or sent me back to the main menu.
While it was limited for what I was able to do with the game being a beta, I definitely enjoyed what I played. Really the only issues where minor lag, stiff sidestepping, and I do feel the game could've maybe evolved a bit more as it does feel very similar to Dead or Alive 5.
Perhaps I just didn't really get to discover the new additions due to limited stage selection and not really being able to practice. Lastly while this wasn't the game's fault, it would've been great if the beta offered one or two more characters. The ninja characters are always great, but they do share some minor similarities, and it would've been great to try out a non-ninja veteran like Christie or Rig. Hopefully, the delay until March 1st, can help the game be an even greater experience from what I witnessed in this beta session.