Dead or Alive 6 (Playstation 4 Review)
There’s a stigma that comes with playing Dead or Alive, it’s undeniable and usually it’s just. From the adverts focussing on how high certain female characters kicked to the ability to increase the jiggle physics by setting your age to 99, there’s always something. There’s even that volleyball game that is probably best left in the past. It’s a very obvious barrier to entry and one that has never done the actual fighting game beneath the gloss any justice.
Dead or Alive 6 follows on from Dead or Alive 5 in terms of story and has a wealth of story content to play through. Cutscenes are bite sized and lead on to brief one round fights as the entire cast reveal their place in Helena’s latest dead or Alive tournament while the ninjas (Hayabusa, Ayane, and Kasumi) continue to pursue the mystery of Honoka as well as Kasumi’s retirement from the ninja clan. Like any game with a large scale story that requires an interest in each individual character, mileage will vary. The cutscenes are great and there is enough underlying mystery to tease you to play more, but as somebody with a fleeting interest in half the cast I really couldn’t put myself through the ringer to experience the entirety of the Story Mode – no matter how much was on offer.
So, what is there for somebody that wants to learn the intricacies of Dead or alive 6’s system? Well, there is a giant tutorial comprised of 40 lessons. While it’s near impossible to account for all outcomes and situations within a fighting game, Dead or Alive 6 tries its damnedest to explain the basics and the more nuanced aspects of its core gameplay. It might be a lot to take in, but the lengths Dead or Alive 6 has gone to in teaching its base community it extraordinary. There’s even a sizeable set of combo challenges that takes each individual character through potential combo routes and stage specific combos. And it’s all neatly wrapped up in the Strike/Hold/Throw core of Dead or Alive.
While the rock paper scissors aspect of the core system hasn’t changed, Dead or Alive 6 adds in a special mechanic via the S button. This button can be used for fatal rushes, a special combo performed by pushing the button repeatedly, sidestep attacks, performed by up/down and the S button, a fatal blow finisher, this is a special attack that grants a specific type of stun at the cost of a full bar of meter or performs a cinematic attack, and the fatal reversal, a special hold that will parry all attacks at the cost of half a bar of meter. Using these mechanics creates intense moments that allows players to comeback from the brink of death, string together easier combos for beginners, or create elaborate combos that cancel the fatal blow in to another combo.
All of these aspects build upon a great looking fighting game that has a large variety of modes to play. From your standard arcade mode, on to time attack, and then survival modes. Everything is there from the previous games except tag team, which is a shame. Within these modes there’s endless value in chasing high scores with each character, unlocking new modes and titles as you progress and continue to challenge yourself as a player to do better. There’s even a DOA Quest mode in which players are challenged to fulfil certain conditions during a fight with specific characters. Further to that, the DOA Quest mode links up with the tutorial and allows you to fluidly jump between the two if you haven’t completed a tutorial that relates to a specific. It’s a fantastic addition that encourages learning and as a result makes you a better and more conscious player. Plus there’s the added bonus of unlocking the various currencies required to unlock new outfits, titles, and cash to buy accessories for your character.
And that’s something Dead or Alive has championed in one way or another for several years, the ability to express yourself and the character you play as. While the options may not be as vast as the likes of Tekken or Soulcalibur’s customisation, there are plenty of tailored alternate outfits, hairstyles, and accessories you can share amongst the cast. The only real let down is that all of this is locked behind excessive barriers that only the most hardcore of players will be able to enjoy to the fullest extent. Even something as simple as a player title can prove quite difficult to obtain. Thankfully there are a vast number of ways to unlock extra bits and pieces through the player and character levelling system as well as online netting a large number of rewards.
But that’s if you can stomach online play. While Dead or Alive 6 appears to have a serviceable netcode, it comes at a cost. For whatever reason the scenery would obscure the playing field and result in the entire match being played through the holes in the fence in some areas and with gaudy wrestling ropes in other, should a player draw to close to a wall. The odd lag spike is forgivable, but this is not and dramatically lessens the appeal for those not playing offline.
Thankfully this is not the case offline and playing against local opponents begets the excitement of putting everything in to practise that Dead or Alive 6 has taught you. Punches and kicks feel impactful and the visual effects and stuns that come with the new mechanics are sublime. Things like improvised firecracker bounce combos and baiting your opponent to try and hold out of pressure is like no other. The balance might still be slightly skewed in the favour of ninjas, but regardless of who you play there is an arsenal attacks you can utilise in combat. Even beginners can invest in the litany of moves and the ease of execution, but the reliance on understand every type of move and the hold associated with parrying can be very overwhelming and create a disparity in those willing to learn every possible outcome of every string and those who just like to play around – but that’s endemic of most fighting games.
For those willing to look past Dead or Alive 6’s aesthetic and dedicated enough to fully invest, it’s great. There’s room for improvisation in every combo, all the levels are uniquely whacky, and the potential to be put to task for your repetition in versus means that you’re constantly pushed to think about your offence and play against opponent expectations. It’s just a shame that some of the more exciting aspects of character creation come at extensive investment in game modes that aren’t for everyone. There’s also an unbelievable amount of fan service in the DOA museum alone that’s worth the price of entry for diehard fans.