HIGH Landing that new Break Blow animation. Yeah! Smack them in the face!
LOW As a value proposition, it’s clearly inferior to its predecessor in terms of content.
WTF Rachel and Momiji don’t make the cut but Raidou and Phase 4 do? Ugh.
It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s been quite a while since the last Dead or Alive — the previous installment was DOA in 2012. It was an excellent rebirth for the series given that it was no longer under the wing of original creator Tomonobu Itagaki, and despite some questionable additions in the form of irritating childlike characters and some truly disgusting DLC practices, it was, at heart, still a decent brawler that I put a lot of time into. Now Dead or Alive 6 steps into the ring, and unfortunately it’s looking a little tired.
Two new characters have been added – the tough as nails street fighter Diego and the horrid ‘failed cosplay scientist’ NiCO, though there’s a lot of missing faces who were previously in the roster. The Virtua Fighter characters are all gone, which makes sense given that they were guest characters on loan from Sega, but Ninja Gaiden‘s Rachel and Momiji are also gone, which should be a criminal offense as far as I’m concerned.
The fighting system will be familiar to returning players, as it still features the rock-paper-scissors approach to countering attacks that the series is known for. Holds beat strikes, strikes beat throws, and throws beat holds. The trick is to predict what the opponent going for, and then responding appropriately or forcing them into the wrong choice through aggressive tactics. Naturally, the characters all have their strengths and weaknesses, with swift characters like Christie able to whip in faster attacks than slower characters who have more powerful throw mechanics, such as Bass or Tina.
The new Fatal Stun attack replaces the Critical Burst, and offers the chance to land a single attack that forces the opponent into a stun state they can’t hold out of, instead of requiring a certain stun threshold first. It’s not a great addition in my opinion, and has led to a lot of boring, identikit combos from players I’ve encountered online at a frequency that’s much higher than previous games in the series. Landing one move, then dropping a long, precanned and inescapable combo seems at odds with the traditional freeform flow of the series’ combat.
The other big addition is the use of a super meter which allows for special holds that can catch every type of strike, a Fatal Stun combo, and the new finishing Break Blow, which often cinematically zooms in to show someone getting punched in the face in a satisfying manner. That said, there’s also a weird form of censorship at work here — the characters that look most like children have the finishing blow cut away from the close up of them getting smacked in the mouth. Isn’t that curious? If they’re the age Team Ninja claims they are, why not show the Break Blow landing in the same way as every other character?
Otherwise, much of the content seems low effort or recycled from previous entries. Many stages appear to be less-interesting copycats of previous stages, with smaller arenas and less spectacular effects when fighters are thrown through. There’s not one area that’s even half as visually spectacular and distinct as the Demon’s Church, the Great Wall of China or the Dragon Hills arenas from Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate – a game which released almost fifteen years ago as of this review.
The modes available are fairly standard. Story is absolute gunk this time around, presented like the most terrible fanfiction imaginable, constantly flitting between absurd and often meaningless events with little or no build up, and twenty second load times for brief, single-round matches. There’s also standard arcade mode, time attack and survival modes as well… though the tag mode is entirely absent. The only online mode available at present is ranked (no inviting friends into private lobbies) and the only truly new addition is a quest mode.
Unfortunately, quest mode isn’t exciting. It simply hands out three tasks to complete during a fight, such as landing a particular move, or doing a certain amount of damage in a combo. Every time one of these quests is completed, players are rewarded with gold, trivia, and a type of costume currency. What’s truly baffling, though, is that said costume currency is handed out to random characters. Anyone hoping to unlock Tina or Christie’s costumes may well find themselves receiving parts for Raidou’s wardrobe instead.
It’s a ridiculous and irritating reward system, and quest mode is the only viable option for unlocking new outfits, given that finishing other modes typically hand out one or two costume pieces instead of several hundred at a time. There’s tons of awful color swaps in there as well. Jann Lee’s Game of Death tracksuit tribute totally loses its appeal when it’s dyed navy blue, for instance.
The online quality is variable — I experienced everything from near-perfect connections to ones that were utterly infuriating. A game centered around the ability to hold certain attack strings is simply not enjoyable when the inputs don’t register in time due to network latency and the connection filter isn’t reliable.
Dead or Alive 5 was riddled with microtransactions and DLC, and Dead or Alive 6 looks set to continue that abominable tradition. Nyotengu and the abysmal Phase 4 are already being held hostage as DLC characters despite being ready before launch, and the first of (I presume) many season passes has already been released at the exorbitant price point of almost a hundred dollars. DLC for skins, costumes and even characters isn’t anything new to the genre, but Dead or Alive 5‘s went far, far beyond the pale and history seems to be on course for a repeat performance.
Under all the questionable choices, cut content and overall lack of value, Dead or Alive 6 is still a decent fighter. That said, many of the problems are hard to look past, and it feels like a bare-bones effort given the amount of recycled content on display. With an inferior roster, dull stage design and the hard reset on purchased content from anyone who was crazy enough to buy into the exorbitant amounts of DLC released during DOA 5‘s lifespan, it’s hard to recommend Dead or Alive 6 as it currently stands.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei-Tecmo. It is currently available on PS4, Xbox One and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4 Pro.
Approximately 9 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 10 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated M and contains Blood, Language, Sexual Themes and Violence. The violence is minimal for a fighting game, in that it’s all stylishly executed rather than resulting in someone having their lips torn off. No, it earned this for showing off loads of skin and that’s it. And possibly because the story mode is so insultingly done that it could cause brain damage.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There’s little to prevent Deaf or hard of hearing players from experiencing the game as intended — aside from certain audio cues signalling incoming attacks, the majority of the action is easily discernible through the visuals alone.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls