Dead or Alive 5: Last Round Review – PS4 / Xbox One

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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: Last Round is part next-gen HD remaster, part special edition, boasting even better graphics, new cutscenes, new fighters, and enough unlockable costumes and accessories to make Barbie jealous.  PS4 and Xbox One owners can get Last Round and enjoy all the updated visuals and performance increases while last-gen gamers can find the game in their system’s respective digital store for download only and enjoy the new content.  Given the current lack of fighting games on both the next-gen systems, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t getting a completely new installment in the franchise.  Simply updating a two-year old game seems to be more of a corporate cash-grab, especially when you see how the game is being marketed.

You might be disarmed by the $40 core game purchase price, but once you realize there is $93 worth of DLC out there if you want to own all the costumes you’ll want to lock up your wallet.  If you don’t feel like dropping a c-note on digital schoolgirl costumes and swimwear you can pick and choose your outfits in a variety of smaller collections or even piece together your wardrobe one outfit at a time at $2 each.  Thankfully, you don’t need to go into credit card debt to enjoy Last Round.  The core game purchase has all the content the original had so you can complete the various modes with all the mainstream fighters.

Dead or Alive 5 was the ultimate evolution of the franchise when it released back in late 2012, with its ultra-refined 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 recruited 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 cruise ship-sized 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 – at least until the end when things get more cinematic.

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 and more on the way in the form of DLC.

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.  This next-gen remaster also boasts true 60fps gameplay offering some of the best and most responsive controls of any recent fighting game.

The PS4 version of the game brings a more refined fighting experience to the arena, with slightly better visuals and none of the hiccups or lock-ups of the Xbox One version – although a patch is in the works to fix those Xbox One issues.   Matchmaking seems a bit more responsive on the PS4 – perhaps more people were playing on that system, and the DualShock 4 is clearly the better controller for the game due to its perfectly placed D-pad and precise input for those all-too-important diagonal moves.  Those who have played the original game on PS3 or Xbox 360 will be pleased to learn that you can import your unlocked acquisitions into Last Round on the new consoles.

Sexy ladies in skimpy costumes make for great marketing but lurking beneath the flowing fabric, enhanced boob-jiggle, and ultra-realistic character models is a solid fight engine that will expand to meet the demands of both casual fighter and tournament veteran.   It might not be a true sequel, but Dead or Alive 5: Last Round has the content and the moves to make this worth a purchase, even if you never spend another cent on DLC, but only if you are really craving a good fighting game for your new console, and if you never played the 2012 version.  Otherwise, save your money for DOA6.

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