Dead or Alive 6 is just another step in a long line of fighting games through my life. In the the late 90’s I fell in love with the new 3D fighters that were hitting the arcades. Virtua Fighter was the first that caught my attention, and as a young outspoken man I made it a point to explain to anyone that would listen that it was the most technical fighter on the market. Of course, not everyone agreed and I continued to follow the series as I looked for something a bit more accessible, the next step as it were, in the 3D fighting arena. That is when I found Dead or Alive. I immediately fell in love with the game and have enjoyed every iteration since the first.
Dead or Alive 6 Isn’t Just Eye Candy
I would be lying if I said the girls weren’t a big part of what brought my attention to the game in the first place, but beyond that, the animation, characters, and counter system created something that I felt was a perfect melding of casual and technical fighter. While I spent hours learning each character and how to read their attack chains to guess the next hit for a counter, my friends could simply mash away at the buttons and see flashy fighting that was animated so smoothly that it was enjoyable even if you were just a spectator.
As further versions came out I spent more and more time with the game, finding the peaks at DOA3 and DOA5. I didn’t play DOA4 less for any particular reason, but I felt that Last Round (DOA5) was a great step forward for the series and I caught the bug again in a big way with the title. Due to the name, I feared that Last Round was the end of my favorite fighting franchise, but fortunately, Koei Tecmo have decided to breathe new life into the series with the release of Dead or Alive 6.
Technical Fighter or Casual Button Masher
I am not nearly as deep into the game as I would like to be at this point, but I can say, without much question that this is the definitive edition of the 20-year-old series. So much is done right that it is hard to find any worry about any faults with the game, though there are a few. Ultimately, a fighting game is about the fighting, and Dead or Alive 6 got it right, again.
First, I’ll get a bit into what I find wrong with the game. For fans of the series, these things won’t be any big surprise, but newcomers need to be warned. The story of the franchise has always been beyond ridiculous and this iteration is no different. Multiplayer has always been a bit behind competitors and as of the writing of the review, that is still true, though a lobby system and some upgrades are coming shortly after launch. Once in a multiplayer game, things run okay, though I did have some lag spikes, I was able to counter, throw, and pull off the new special attacks without much issue.
Playing With Yourself
Single player has found a big upgrade with the mission system. When you start, this is a way for you to complete quests that have three individual tasks; complete the mission, hit a sidestepping opponent three times, win in 50 seconds. Each quest, or mission, is unique and played with a predetermined character. Upon completion of the three stars you unlock pieces of costumes for different characters. Some costumes cost 300 pieces, others cost 700 and you only earn 300. So there is a reason to keep playing as you have that carrot on the stick
While the quest mode is a great introduction to the game, including a button to take you to specific tutorials for missions that may be more difficult, the tutorial is one of the biggest upgrades the game has experienced. From the start, KT has wanted this to be a competitive brawler closing in on the big EVO games, and the tutorial gives you so much information that it seems like they really mean it. What the community has to say about this is still up in the air.
Still, the tutorial is so in depth, that when your buddy completely demolishes you game after game, you only have yourself to blame if you haven’t spent time in the tutorial. On top of that, some of the new aspects of the game, such as the frequently showcased face bashing specials are explained and broken down for better understanding.
The story is silly with horrible voice acting and lip syncing, though you do unlock stuff for spending time moving through. The branching paths introduce the new characters, and the English voices are worth keeping on just so you can hear Marie Rose and friends try to decide if her name is pronounced Marie or Mary, as different characters pronounce the name in different ways – Marie, by the way, says her name is Mary Rose. Obviously the English voice overs are only going to appeal to those that have a special connection to those voices over the years.
Flashes of Brilliance
Now, to the meat of the game. The pugilism. The spectacle of Dead or Alive has always been one of the things that sets it apart. Flashy counters, over the top combos (not on Tekken levels) and the insane multi-tiered stages, all add to an over the top fighter that can become overwhelming to the senses but still accessible to anyone able to smash buttons. Countering is no different than Last Round though it does feel a bit less exacting, though that could just be my years of doing it and finally getting timing down.
Returning fighters feel the same as they always have, with a few new tricks, and the new fighters feel fresh and add to the roster in a great way. The lack of some fan favorites at launch, such as Momiji and Rachel, will upset some fans, but most of the core fighters are present from day one and can be picked up and played without missing a beat. Diego, the most interesting new fighter, feels like some sort of extension of Tyler Durden gone rogue. He is nothing more than a street fighter that likes to beat face and he is damn good at it.
The game is beautiful and the stages are more impressive than ever. My personal favorite is a street fight where the crowd will catch you when you are pushed against them and push you back into the fight. Others take you through something akin to a Pirate of the Caribbean ride at Disney with giant tentacles capturing foes knocked off the top of the stage and treasure rooms appearing as your final fighting area. Stage transitions are smooth and they keep the fights moving fast as the damage is still significant, though not as crippling as Last Round.
With a little work on the multiplayer side of things, this could be a fighter that lasts for a very long time in anyone’s library. DLC concerns are, of course, on the forefront of fans minds, with rumors of $100 season passes for costumes and characters, but with any luck KT will learn their lesson and be more reasonable this time around as they try to appeal to the masses. On appealing to the masses, the fear that the “jiggle physics” have been removed should be dashed by now. Instead, breasts move appropriate to the costume, with some allowing no movement, some allowing full water park rides, and an option to turn all of it off. Your personal feelings on that aspect of the game are yours and will not impact our final score.
The game is fantastic, brutal, sweaty and beautiful. While the story is still a mess, and the multiplayer is a bit choppy, the package is full of things to do. Costumes, titles and encyclopedia entries are constantly just another fight away, and the fights are more engrossing and enjoyable than ever, with plenty of swings of tempo. The new special move, which is used with the shoulder button to land a “super attack” is not overtly powerful, but enough to help you catch up if you are too far behind. All in all, this is probably the best of the series, in spite of the characters missing from the roster. But, KT will likely let us purchase those characters soon enough.
Update: I have now purchased the PC version of the game and played more online. I have updated the review from a 93 to a 97 to reflect my experience. I will say that the PC version is the superior version of the game primarily due to the load times being significantly faster on the right system. On top of that, the game is extremely well optimized, which could not be said about the previous iteration of the game. Overall, this is a fantastic entry for the Dead or Alive fan, and for the newcomers. You will be happy with the game regardless of system, but if you have a rig that can handle it, go with the PC version.
For reference, I play on a i7-8700k with a 2080 and 16gb of ram. This is likely overkill for the game, but I am able to easily run max at 1440 at 60fps and 4k at 60fps solid.
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A Review Copy of DOA 6 was Provided for the PS4 by the Publisher