To give some perspective before I even start talking, I’m a horrendously casual fighting game fan. My idea of strategy is learning a few short combos, guarding occasionally, and then panicking and slapping my hands all over the controller as I get beaten down. So if you’re looking for a hardcore fighting game fan’s opinion on Dead or Alive 5, I won’t be fulfilling that here.
What I can tell you is how user friendly Dead or Alive 5 is for the more casual player, and that’s where the title really stands out. Despite my controller drumming during gameplay, moves seem to smoothly flow into each other, even if you don’t entirely know what you’re doing. Many of the attacks, while they may not be full fledged combos, will chain from one to another, eliminating some of the start/stop gameplay lower skilled players might experience with more complex fighters. One thing that I can point out for those more familiar with the genre is that the PlayStation 3 version would occasionally stutter, which is a big no no in the fighting genre. I can’t speak for the Xbox 360 version, but this rarely interrupted my highly strategic flailing.
The series multi-tiered levels make a return, letting players knock each other into other rings within a single stage for bonus damage. Despite being an old franchise feature, it remains impressive in Dead or Alive 5 and still adds strategic depth in terms of character placement.
Speaking of franchise staples, the nonsensical story campaign is here as well. It’s a bit tough to follow, but is saved by the wide variety of personalities in Dead or Alive 5. This makes the plot flexible, with major story characters like Kasumi, Hayate, and Ayane of the Ninja Clan delivering the more serious aspects, and more light-hearted characters like Hitomi, Tina and the always lovable womanizer, Zack, adding a lot of humor and overall weirdness.
Dead or Alive 5 is just a fun game to sit down and play a few rounds with. The lack of a high skill bar ensures that most players will get some level of value out of the title. For those who do want to take the game further, there’s clearly at least a healthy level of depth here, as well as the ability to compete online, either head-to-head or through leader boards. While I only spent a very limited time online, the few matches I did play were running smoothly with no noticeable lag. Although, beware the need for an online pass for rentals and used purchases.