Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate – Xbox 360
Publisher: Tecmo Koei America Corp.
Developer: Team Ninja
Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Genre: Fighting
Reviewed by Mark Smith

Review Score: 5 of 5


It’s been almost a year since we played and reviewed Dead or Alive 5, so I was excited to get back into the swing of things with the new Ultimate edition just released for PS3 and Xbox 360. In addition to everything the original game offered, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate now has new online features, stages, game modes, and even more new and fan-favorite fighters added to the impressive roster. Fans with love the return of Ein, Leon, the introduction of the Dragon Shrine Maiden Momiji and Fiend Hunter Rachel from the Ninja Gaiden series as well as Jacky from SEGA’s Virtua Fighter. In addition, players can expect a plethora of new costumes, several gorgeous interactive arenas, robust training and ranking modes for increased competitive play, and upgraded online functionality and features.

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate also adds new fighting modes such as Team Fight mode, allowing players to create teams of up to seven characters to compete against other players offline or the COM to takedown all of the characters on the opposing team. With “2 on 2” Tag Mode, players team up for online cooperative tag matches. Improved training modes have also been added providing new lessons for Tutorial mode. The Move Details from Dead or Alive 5 Plus has been expanded in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate giving players highly-detailed information to study and implement in to their game plan. Nearly 1000 titles are available with a huge library for each character. Battling in different modes, clearing new missions and other new challenges unlock titles to be used to customize player profiles. But best of all, any time you have invested in the original DOA5 won’t go to waste as the Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate will detect your save game and import all of your unlockables and story progress into the new game.

Of all the fighting franchises out there Dead or Alive has always been my favorite and not for the reasons most of you are thinking, although sexy ladies who kick really high certainly help. Perhaps the biggest draw for me has been the story, usually told through these character-specific cutscenes that would often have intertwining elements to them. You would pick your character then partake in a dozen fights to get your cinematic reward and then repeat the process with the entire roster until the big picture was finally revealed.

Dead or Alive 5 is the ultimate evolution of the franchise, both in current-gen graphics, fighting styles and controls, and a fully evolved story mode that is propelled to the forefront of the experience. Rather than piecing together parts of an overarching story, you are now presented with a quest-like experience that has you dabbling in various fight styles, learning new concepts along the way, completing various bonus fight challenges, and getting to play as most of the popular characters. Instead of the characters dictating the story, the story now determines which characters you play, who they will fight and where.

The story mode is massive, with a plot tree that snakes its way across your screen linking each fight encounter, allowing you to return later if you wish to complete a missed objective or just desire a rematch. Between the fights are lengthy and gorgeous cutscenes that keep the story moving with parallel events that are taking place around the globe as our fighters are slowly united for the Dead or Alive tournament being hosted by DOATECH, the company whose headquarters we blew up in DOA4 and that Helena has now taking control of and runs from her luxurious yacht. At first, the ratio of movies versus gameplay can be annoying for those looking to get in and fight, but the cinematics get shorter as the story progresses – just enough time to rest your weary fingers.

The story also serves as a tutorial of sorts as each fight attempts to teach you a specific move or combo. You can totally ignore these instructions and blast your way through each fight using your own favorite moves or make an honest effort to learn the button presses and repeat the sequence as many times as required to get the ultimate reward – a green check in your bonus box. And once you have mastered all the new fight moves and techniques you can jump into live matches with local multiplayer modes or head online for arcade and tournament matches.

The fighting engine has been greatly enhanced with all new moves, grabs, throws, tech rolls, and various blocks and counters. You have new attacks like Power Blow and Critical Burst and cool finishing moves, many of which can involve the interactive and multi-tiered environments that you will be fighting in. These stunning new 3D arenas take on a whole new dimension as you can now move in and out of 3D space to dodge and counter incoming attacks.

And all of your favorite characters have returned along with a few new faces as well as several characters from other games like Ninja Gaiden and Virtua Fighter. Ryu Hayabusa, Hayate, Ayane, Kasumi, Hitomi, Bayman, Christie, Lei Fang, Zack, Kokoro, Bass, Tina, along with Akira and Sarah Bryant just scratch the surface of the largest roster in DOA history, and all of these characters look amazing with fluid animations and superior texture detail, especially the hair and clothing. And for fashion conscious fighters, there are plenty of costumes to unlock, especially in this Ultimate version.

The levels look equally impressive with arenas that range from an oil rig to a rooftop and climates like Antarctica or a steamy South American jungle. And when the DOA tournament starts you can expect all the lasers, lights, and pyrotechnics of a major WWE event in a massive high-tech arena. Many levels have Danger Zones that can be used to help you defeat your opponent, or, if you feel these are too cheap you can disable them. Many levels also have multiple levels, so what may look like a ring-out may result in a tumble down some steps or a damaging fall from a rooftop.

You can’t really appreciate all the subtle details in the visuals until you either view a replay or simply sit back and watch a fight in Spectator mode. The ability to save and share your replays is second only to the Photo Mode that seemed to occupy way too much of my time as I panned and zoomed around frozen fights like I was recreating a scene from the Matrix. Of course it is also this mode that reveals a few clipping problems with textures and limbs that pass unnaturally through other body parts, but you’ll never spot those in a real-time match.

The thing I enjoyed most about Dead or Alive 5 is the way the story actually taught me the more advanced moves that I usually don’t take the time to learn in other fighting games, so when it came time to fight my friends and strangers online I was actually more competitive than I have ever been in games like Tekken, Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat. For a game that is basically all punches and kicks, there is a surprising amount of variety in what you can actually do, and the control schemes are remarkably intuitive.

The arrival of Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate just happened to coincide with my review of the Razer Atrox, and I am happy to report that this arcade stick is phenomenal with this game. The Atrox actually uses the DOA4 layout for its buttons, and with Razer’s lag-free circuitry this was a match made in fighting heaven. I was fighting infinitely better using the Razer Atrox and was surprisingly competitive online.

Sexy ladies in skimpy costumes make for great marketing – just look at DOA Volleyball – but lurking beneath the flowing fabric and ultra-realistic character models is a solid fight engine that will expand to meet the demands of both casual fighter and tournament veteran. You don’t want to miss Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. It was one of the best fighters of 2012 and it’s even bigger and better now.