I’ve always found fighting games are like sporting teams. Once you’ve got an affinity for one it’s hard to be invested deeply in another. For me it’s always been about the Dead or Alive franchise – a series that has had its share of detractors because of its sexualised nature. But while it doesn’t feature the same level of gore and brutality as Mortal Kombat or share the same level of hype that Street Fighter or Tekken does (it also has the worst movie adaptation of the games in question), I have always found Dead or Alive to be the more enjoyable of the bunch. Whether that’s because I have a man-crush on Jann Lee that dates back to Dead or Alive 2 I’m not sure, but what I do know is that Dead or Alive 6 delivers another impressive fighting experience and reinforces it as the king of fighting games (in my world at least).
My boi Jann Lee
Now don’t go thinking that Team Ninja has thrown the recipe book out the window and reinvented the wheel here, because if you’ve ever played a Dead or Alive game before then you pretty much know what to expect. I mean after all it’s a fighting game, there’s not much to them apart from allowing you to beat the crap out of the computer, your mates or strangers online in legally sanctioned donnybrooks.
But what Dead or Alive 6 (DOA6) does get right it excels in, which is being a fun, fast-paced and intuitive fighter. Like many fighters, it’s easy to pick up and play without having to master commands and combos in order to have fun. Had a tough day at work and feel like giving someone a beat down? Take Arcade Mode for a spin. Feel like you’ve got what it takes to make a name for yourself online? Jump online and see if you can walk the talk. Furthermore, gone are most of the overly sexualised outfits, which is a long overdue change and should hopefully broaden its appeal to those that have condemned it in the past. If you’re worried that they’ll be dressed like nuns though don’t stress, both the ladies and fellas are still dressed to impress.
All of your DOA favourites are here – Jann Lee, Ryu Hayabusa, Tina, Leifang and the rest of the crew – all with their own movesets, styles and costumes for you to play around with. Thanks to a slick new engine the character models look as good as they ever have, with every bead of sweat glistening on Jann Lee’s body visible after a rousing victory.
Now you might want to sit down for this next part, because it’s sure to come as a surprise. Much like its predecessors, DOA6’s story is utterly ridiculous (and surprisingly easy). I know, shocking right? It lacks any form of cohesion, with missions/chapters playable in any order as long as they’re unlocked. Each character has their own path with a number of missions, with new chapters and character paths unlocking as you complete linked missions. For example, as Leifang you’ll be tasked with taking down the mighty Jann Lee. Once this fight is complete Jann Lee’s path then becomes available.
Plot-wise the story is more obfuscated than doing a hook turn in Melbourne’s CBD. Kasumi has retired from active duty after the events of DOA5. However that hasn’t stopped the megalomaniac powers that be from initiating a new plan during the sixth Dead or Alive tournament. The story will see Ninja and DOATEC duke it out against M.I.S.T. for supremacy and victory. The story is told via short cutscenes (the voice-acting is something that’s for sure) between fights and for the most part it’s totally forgettable, however you will unlock goodies such as costumes as you go.
DOA Quest is another neat mode that allows players to complete challenges within fights for XP and in-game currency/credits. Challenges are simple things such as complete three combos or two throw attacks during a fight along with winning. Each character has their own quests, so you can’t complete every quest with the one character. This may seem annoying but it forces you to switch it up and learn different characters and styles. One cool feature of DOA Quest is that after a fight if you fail to complete a challenge the game will ask you if you want to go to the tutorial for that type of attack. It’s little features like this that make the game more accessible.
Learning the ropes
If those modes aren’t what you’re after then there’s a handful of common modes such as Versus and Training for players to sink their teeth into. I myself spent a large amount of time relearning (trying to at least) Jann Lee’s moves in Training before unleashing a can of whoop ass in Arcade Mode.
The fighting itself feels excellent, and initiating a chain of combos before delivering the killer blow has never felt better. As usual it’s all about timing. Time your attack right and you’ll be rewarded with additional damage, likely sending your opponent flying across the arena. Team Ninja has introduced a couple of new features that make it easier for newcomers. One of those features is Fatal Rush, which allows players to deliver a devastating combo from multiple pushes of the same button.
As in previous iterations, players will be able to use the environment to their advantage, dealing additional damage when sending an opponent into electric-charged ropes or inviting a giant octopus to squeeze them like snake Jafar from Aladdin. Furthermore, punters will push opponents back in the action should you knock them into the crowd, giving you an opening to unleash that special attack.
Feel cute, might delete later
Visually the game is top-notch, with environments and characters all looking realistic and detailed. A noticeable change is the level of blood that is shed during a fight. Not normally known for its graphic visuals, DOA6 takes the series into new territory with every brutal hit emphasised by blood spouting from the victim. It’s not on the same level as a Mortal Kombat and you can turn this off if seeing blood isn’t your thing.
It may not be everyone’s go-to fighting game but the Dead or Alive series has been consistently good for the better part of twenty years. Thanks to a few gameplay tweaks, Dead or Alive 6 successfully weaves fast and fun gameplay with accessibility while still providing veterans and experts with a challenging experience.
Reviewed on PS4 Pro // Review code supplied by publisher