E3 2012: Dead or Alive 5 hands-on
Dead or Alive 5 is like the latest iteration of a sports franchise; it’s not a game that moves past its predecessor with leaps and bounds, but rather makes adjustments to refine the experience. This new game does very little to mess around with the nuts and bolts of the fighting itself, but there are a few surprises, and these surprises are all good.
The first major surprise comes in the form of characters from Virtua Fighter. Within the demo at E3 only Akira Yuki was playable, with Sarah Bryant promised in the eventual release. It’s been a popular thing to do, the inclusion of characters from other sources. Dead or Alive 4 had a Spartan of all things, Soul Caliber 3 had Master Yoda. The choice of the VF characters makes far more sense, that being the addition of fighting game characters into a fighting game, and Team Ninja have done an excellent job bringing Akira into their fold. When comparing the fighting style against his own game, Akira performs identically. Based on that alone it could be safe to assume that the same respect will be given to Sarah.
Interactive, dynamic environments are the second major innovation. The entire environment will not spontaneously explode at will, but rather change due to more specific, localized contraptions. A rooftop can be demolished, but only by shoving your opponent into specific power generators. A desert city reminiscent of a modern warfare game sets up a nifty combo that utilizes a nearby oil container and a passing jet. It’s a minor addition that can affect the battle in big ways, making sure the player is aware of their surroundings.
During the demo I played once as classic character Kasumi, and then once as Akira, and there’s a great distinction between the two fighters, aside from one being a ninja, and the other being a Bajiquan master. There is a distinct feel to playing one over the other. With Kasumi it felt less like combat and more like she was dancing across the arena, flipping back and forth with quickness and ease. At the same time, with Akira it felt as though every strike had to be purposeful, because the speed in which they were executed and exited was slower.
Some time ago there was an announcement that sex appeal wasn’t going to be as prominent. Yosuke Hayashi was quoted as saying that Team Ninja was going to work on toning it down. Based on the demo, at least with Tina’s costume, there doesn’t seem to be much change. As a purely objective journalist I can say that there was just as much jiggle this time around as there was in previous versions.
Judging how offensive that can be is probably a matter of taste. One person can note exposed sexuality en masse, I can note that Dead or Alive has the most even ratio of men and women fighters I’ve seen in a fighting game, each individual fighter being equally capable of defeating the other. And that balance is probably the most important part.