Dead or Alive 6 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One and PC
The Dead or Alive series is seen by the general gaming public as “that jiggly bouncy fighting game”, despite its accessible gameplay and competitive merits. Dead or Alive 6 makes a good effort at redeeming its name without completely detracting from the iconic aspects that series fans have come to love and appreciate but it does so at the cost of not adding anything substantially new.
To elaborate on Dead or Alive 6’s redemption efforts we’re going to have to take a step back to the game’s predecessor. Team Ninja fully intended for Dead or Alive 5 to make the game less sexy by deemphasizing its female characters’ skimpiness and removing their, more often than not, maligned breast jiggle. This was met with the ire of fans and the decision was swiftly reversed. For Dead or Alive 6, however, the team has come up with two elegant solutions that attempt to meet both sides of the “bouncy boobs” debate in their respective halfways. Most of the iconic female cast has been given sportier outfits that cover up their bodies in more sensible ways whilst not completely reinventing their design. Kasumi, for instance, sports a tight fitting body suit that feels more ninja-like yet doesn’t take away from her femininity. For diehard fans of the series, the classic iconic costumes are available to unlock and purchase with in-game currency; a solid message towards the game’s dedicated fanbase if you compare it to Street Fighter 5 which charges real money for Nostalgia costumes. But what about the jiggle, I hear you say?
For the most part, female breasts in Dead or Alive 6 bounce in all their glory as they always have. However, they do so in a more natural and less distracting manner. Gravity doesn’t seem to be taking a backseat anymore and the new outfits do a great job of masking their movement. For those who still find the jiggle problematic, though, Team Ninja have included an option to turn breast physics off. Coupling both this option with the new outfits, we have an elegant solution that’s more enticing towards both fans and non-fans alike. Enough about bosoms, though. This is a fighting game.
Dead or Alive has always been a fighter that strived to be both accessible and competitively sound and 6 carries that legacy forward. There’s a single button for all the fundamental moves and mechanics, a scheme that effectively backbones the series’s Triangle System. Punches and kicks, each of which are assigned their own respective button, are considered Strikes which are effective against Throws. Throws are powerful counters against Holds which, in turn, are effective against Strikes. It’s the same Rock-Paper-Scissors concept found in all fighting games with the difference being that in Dead or Alive 6 it’s a lot more well defined. By countering a Hold with a Throw the opponent not only takes a lot more damage but the animation changes as well, which makes it easier for players to recognize how their opponent is beating them and what adjustments they need to make to their game.
Combos in Dead or Alive 6 are also quite easy to pull off thanks to the game’s stun system. Each character has certain moves that put the opponent in Critical Stun, a state that leaves them open to attack. Players can use such moves as a way to confirm their hits and follow up with a launcher combo. Critical Stun, however, doesn’t leave the opponent completely helpless as they can perform Holds to potentially reverse the situation; that is unless placed in a Fatal Stun state which only allows for Break Holds to be performed at those cost of Break meter (the game’s equivalent to a super gauge) to pull off. In essence, even when starting up combos, the mind games are still present. Beyond a refined stun system, the game introduces the Fatal Rush, a flashy combo that can be performed with its own dedicated button, which can end with a powerful bone-crunching Break Blow if the Break meter is full. Fatal Rushes serve as a dead simple way to perform a combo and get some damage furthering the accessibility and fun factor. Overall, these systems make for intense and entertaining bouts that anyone can just jump in and enjoy regardless of their skill level. Dead or Alive 6 doesn’t attempt to reinvent the 3D fighting wheel which is both fine and disappointing at the same time. Compared to other games, such as Soul Calibur VI which introduced a slew of flashy and exciting mechanics, Dead or Alive 6 plays it safe by sticking to the familiar and refining it.
Single player content is quite barebones and lacking. There is a Story mode. It’s silly, nonsensical, confusing, and absolutely ridiculous but has its fair share of charm. Arcade mode is there, too. Then there’s DOA Quest where players can take on challenge bouts with their own requirements. It serves as both a way to gain in-game currency as well as teach some of the game’s finer points, an effort that is sorely lacking in other bigger players in the genre. Each mission will also prompt for a mini tutorial if there is a mechanic or game element the player needs to be aware of. This mode would have been the game’s single player saving grace had it been more expansive and more focused on providing more opportunities for players to practice the game’s mechanics and character intricacies and be rewarded for doing so. Then there’s VS mode, but that’s to be expected.
Speaking of expectations, it’s surprising that Dead or Alive 6 is also lacking in the online area. As of this writing, the only way to play online is through Ranked mode. No lobbies to play with friends nor a casual mode for more stress-free brawls online. There has been an announcement that Lobbies will be patched in soon but it’s still a sore point considering the game was delayed for a couple of weeks. Beyond the grievances, online has been a smooth experience when there was no lag present. Timing combos was quite easy to adapt to considering the game deemphasizes strict frame-timed links. The netcode performed quite well during low latency matches.
Dead or Alive 6 is a mechanically solid and foundationally sound fighting game. At its core, playing matches with others is a fun and thrilling experience that’s easy to grasp if you’re new to fighters or the series. Its lack of modes, however, coupled with its small roster, and a recently revealed $92 season pass raise a lot of questions as to what ideals drove the game’s development. For those looking for a well-designed core fighter, Dead or Alive 6 is definitely a great buy, whether you’re #Teamjiggle or #Teamnojiggle.