It's been a while since we got a regular old, Dead or Alive game. And no, I'm not counting the re-releases, re-hashes and remasters. As far as I'm concerned, the last mainline game was Dead or Alive 5 which launched way back in 2012. for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. When I played it back then, I felt it had one of the best fighting systems with deep mechanics wrapped in beautiful visuals. However, I also felt like the franchise was getting a bit stale and that it's convoluted story was getting a bit out of hand.
Competition today is fiercer than ever and Dead or Alive 6 has a not so easy task of surpassing games that have significantly evolved the fighting genre in the past seven years. Does it accomplish that? Let's break it down.
Dead or Alive series is known for a colorful cast of characters and a convoluted story of their interactions across multiple games. If you like that about the series, rest assured, it's the same in Dead or Alive 6. Having played the last game so long ago I went into this one thinking it'd be up to modern standards of providing newcomers with some information about what came before. I was wrong.
Entering the story mode menu, you'll see that it's presented to look like a flowchart of sorts. Although there are key characters that progress the overarching story, you can move through the chapters using any combination of your favorite characters.
It's a pretty unorthodox way to present a story and one of the main reasons why it's more confusing more than it should be. To be frank, even if the story were completely linear – it would still be laughably bad and cliched. The main reason for that is the dialogue. Cutscenes often feature only a couple of spoken lines which hilariously lead to characters fighting. Some fights end without any cutscenes, and some cutscenes last only about two seconds – I kid you not.
The characters taking the spotlight here are Kasumi, Ayane, and Hayate which are embroiled in a plot in which the organization known as M.I.S.T. are trying to bring the famous dad of the century – Raidou, back to life. Other characters are a simple sideshow where the story mode shows some of their nonsensical personal struggles and motivations of why they want to attend the Dead or Alive tournament.
Sure, you could say that the story is an afterthought in a fighting game. However, in a world where games like Dragonball FighterZ, Injustice, and newer Mortal Kombat games exist – the bare bones nonsense that Dead or Alive has to offer just doesn't cut it anymore.
Dead or Alive 6 core gameplay is as tight as ever. At its center is this sort of rock-paper-scissors system of strikes, directional holds and throws with a huge amount of additional combat options. Not only that, but the characters feel faster and their movements are more fluid than ever.
As always, each of Dead or Alive 6, 26 fighter's feels unique and their fighting style is either based on a real-life martial-arts or a hilarious variation on one. The characters are also very balanced in terms of their stats and not one of them seemed to stick out as being overpowered. Sure, some of them do feature strings of combos that are easier to pull off or a combat style that seems to flow a bit better. I'm looking at you Brad, you silly old drunk.
Strikes are your regular hand or leg punches that you can combine with the movements buttons to perform all sorts of different combos. Strikes have the power to break attempted one-button throws which remain largely the same as in the previous installment. Lastly, you have the holds which stop the opponent's combo and produce a counterattack. Using only this simple yet effective system is already enough to make for a fighting system that's wholly satisfying and strategic. But, Dead or Alive wouldn't be Dead or Alive if there weren't multiple layers of additional mechanics stacked on top.
These come in the form of the move called Fatal Rush and the Break Gauge respectively. The former being a unique 4-hit combo that you perform using the special attack button (R1 in the case of the PlayStation) that does fairly moderate damage. The added nuance of this attack is that every hit stuns the opponent and this stun can only be broken by using part of the Break Gauge to perform a Break Hold.
This Break Gauge meter is located right below the health bar and you fill it up by doing just about anything during the fight. It does, however, fill up much quicker when you attack, meaning that DoA 6 greatly favors aggressive play. This, coupled with the fact that each attack greatly damages the opponent means that the matches can be lightning quick and insanely fun. This is greatly helped by the fact that PlayStation 4 load times are very quick so you are almost constantly in the thick of the action.
Additionally, this is the first time the series has implemented true sidestep attacking. This addition is not such a game changer since its easily avoidable and countered with holds and attacks that track your opponent. However, it can be highly effective against players that come into the game expecting a simple button masher. It's also one of the easiest ways to launch your opponent into the environmental hazards sprinkled about some stages.
While all the above can seem intimidating to newcomers, the system is really easy to use and the game does a great job of explaining and letting you test each mechanic. After only a couple of matches, you'll intuitively know how to use most of them. Even if you keep struggling, the game offers an extensive training mode that will get you up to speed pretty fast. It's one of those systems that's fairly easy to pick up but very difficult to master.
Other modes on offer here are your standard versus mode, arcade, time attack and survival with the standout being the new DOA Quest challenge mode which features a staggering 96 battles where you need to perform certain actions in order to get rewards. Many of these will simply task you with performing specific moves, which makes for a great and addicting way of learning the game while reaping rewards in the form of coins or alternate outfits.
It's only too bad that outfits and the largely talked about customization system is extremely lackluster. There are only a dozen or so outfits for each character and they are often just a color variation of the same theme. In, addition, there's only a handful of hairstyles and accessories you can equip and none radically change the way the characters look. This is sure to be "fixed", like in the previous game, with a generous amount of paid DLC's down the line.
The early review version of the game didn't have any online modes implemented but rest assured that ranked matches will be available when the game releases with lobby matches following not long thereafter.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
I know that the awesome visuals are sort of the staple of the franchise and while this might have held true for previous installments of the franchise – it's not a home run this time. Even though they can sometimes look like plastic dolls, the characters are by far the most visually attractive segment of the game. This is especially true, as you'd expect, for the female characters.
Until they start talking that is. Not only is the voice acting absolutely horrendous but the lip-syncing is almost completely absent with characters uttering whole sentences with a bare minimum of lip movement.
Although the 14 stages on offer are pretty varied with multiple levels and some interactive objects, they feel very generic with dated visuals and a painful lack of a personality. It's once again, a far cry from games such as Injustice where each stage is thematically linked to a certain character and filled with visual elements that make them feel entirely alive.
Music is what you expect of the Dead or Alive series with an old-school kind of feel with high powered electric tracks dominating the menus and most fights. After a while, you won't even notice it's there.
Dead or Alive 6 nails what matters in a fighting game – the combat. The developers expertly managed to introduce new mechanics without disrupting what previously worked. While the boobs are still in the double D range – the sexism is dialed to a minimum with the game trying to shift focus to a more serious audience.
It's a shame then that the story is still as laughable as ever with only the most die-hard fans probably being able to piece it all together. It does offer a significant amount of content to go through, but its quality and variety are severely lacking when compared to the heavy-handed competition. Nevertheless, it's still a fun and deep fighting game that can provide you with many hours of good fun.
|+ Deep fighting system||– Nonsensical story|
|+ Big roster of character||– Stale visuals and bad voice acting|
|+ DOA Quest mode||– Lackluster character customization|
|+ Good performance and fast load times||– Lack of worthwhile content to unlock|