Dead or Alive 5: Last Round Review – A Flawed Port but Great Nonetheless

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Dead or Alive 5: Last Round
Team Ninja

I’ve been playing the Dead or Alive series since way back in 1996, when its first incarnation graced me and my gaming buddies. Well, graced might not be the word in retrospect, since the graphics were pretty rough looking. Since then, each new version of Dead or Alive has stepped up its game, so to speak, and offered not only visual improvements, but also various gameplay innovations as well.

I distinctly remember that Dead or Alive 2 looked a lot better than the first game, but it wasn’t until Dead or Alive 3 that I was truly hooked. Dead or Alive 3’s graphics were simply stunning—way ahead of its time, and quite simply, blew its closest competitors (the Tekken and Virtua Fighter franchises) out of the water. Speaking of which, I’ve always been a fan of the Tekken series as well, but Virtua Fighter always seemed too clunky and floaty to be of interest.

In the past, I’d often wondered if a developer would come along who could take the greatest fight scenes from film—such as those from The Matrix series as well as any great wire-fu movie—and properly translate them into a game. Well, playing Dead or Alive 3 was the closest thing to that I’d experienced, up to that point in time. In fact, I lost hundreds of hours to it while playing long into the nights, along with my equally addicted gaming friends. It was just that magnificent.

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I considered Dead or Alive 4 a slight update to Dead or Alive 3, but not as groundbreaking, although a few of the stages, such as the rope bridge and Vegas strip, were particularly memorable. Sadly, the series’ developers, Team Ninja, announced that Dead or Alive 5 would be the final swan song of the franchise, and it was released back in 2012 to the console market. I didn’t weep any virtual tears upon hearing the news since I was more into PC games as opposed to consoles. But, when it was announced that Team Ninja was working on a PC port of this last entry in the series, my ears perked up and my expectations began to rise. Couple that with the fact that there just aren’t any decent 3-D fighting games available for the PC, and I was pretty giddy indeed.

So, in 2015 Team Ninja released Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (the PC port) to the gaming masses and I promptly snapped it up. Unfortunately, I hadn’t read the fine print because not only was Dead or Alive 5: Last Round missing a few things, such as a couple of stages and breakable costumes, but also not present was online play. That’s right, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round launched on Steam without online capability, but Team Ninja and their publisher, Tecmo, promised to have the online portion available within a few months. That in turn was extended to many more months, much to the chagrin of us faithful gamers, many of whom had purchased the game specifically for online play in the first place.

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Finally, in October of 2015, after many gamers had already abandoned the game, they released an online patch. However, disappointingly, their version of an online mode was a seriously flawed one. I purposefully put off reviewing Dead or Alive 5: Last Round until now, since I wanted to see if they’d improved the game’s online mode, but here we are nine months later and it still hasn’t happened, and sadly, probably never will.

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round’s online component is bereft of any matchmaking capabilities (good luck finding a friend to play with) since it doesn’t have any lobbies. Not only that, but many gamers reported having serious issues getting Dead or Alive 5: Last Round to work online at all. I personally didn’t experience any problems with my online play but it wasn’t the greatest experience. Many times, I’d wait to get connected for an online match, only to run into the same few players over and over again.

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This whole cascade of issues is unfortunate, because I consider the series (since Dead or Alive 3 at least) to be the greatest fighting game system out there. Dead or Alive games have always sported some of the most responsive gameplay I’ve ever experienced in a fighting game, and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the crowning achievement in that regard. It’s both newbie-friendly, since beginners can learn to string together combos quite quickly, but has so much depth to it that veteran fighting game aficionados will always keep learning new things as well.

The series’ signature rock, paper, and scissors fighting game mechanics, where strikes can contradict throws, and holds interrupt throws, is fully intact in this latest iteration. Moreover, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round’s controls have been tightened up so perfectly that after a while you’ll just get it, and whatever character that you’ve been focusing on will suddenly feel super-intuitive. In a relatively short amount of time you can go from being an awkward newb, to flourishing as a decently-trained competitor, if you put some work into it.

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Another factor that makes Dead or Alive 5: Last Round such a joy to play is its interactive environments, such as being able to knock opponents into (and over or through) walls, barriers, and other obstacles. This fifth game even gives you the ability to grab onto the edge of a cliff or platform in order to save yourself from falling, for even more intense matches. And don’t let me start about the game’s counter system. You can not only sidestep your adversary in 3-D, but if you trigger a counter at the right time, you can use their momentum against them and punish them with either a reprisal counter attack, or some type of devastating sweep or throw. This makes for truly cinematic martial arts battles that resemble any great action film of the same genre.

Dead or Alive 5: Last Round’s graphics are simply stunning, with smoothed out edges, naturally flowing hair and clothes, and a new feature in this fifth game—sweat glands and clothing dirt. You heard that right, characters in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round will develop a sheen of sweat on their bodies and their outfits will get grungier as each round progresses.

If only other fighting games would take note of this and implement these features into their games, we’d have much more immersion in the genre as a whole. The only thing that I’d like to see further is realistic locational damage, such as bruises and cuts, but you can’t have it all, at least at this point. Hopefully, someone will think about including this rather glaring feature omission in fighting games. I mean, punching and kicking a character in the face over and over and there’s no indication of damage at all? Come on.

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In all, I’m disappointed that Team Ninja dropped the ball with their PC port of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round. It’s as if they really don’t care about the PC gaming market. That’s unfortunate, because there is a huge vacuum of decent 3-D fighting games on Steam. Bandai-Namco just announced that they’re going to be releasing their first Steam version of their equally venerable fighting series, Tekken 7, next year. But until then, gamers can get at least a partial fix of 3-D fighting goodness with Dead or Alive 5: Last Round. Its incomplete online suite somewhat mars the overall package, but with its solid fighting system, outstanding visuals, and over-the-top, cinematic action, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round shouldn’t be passed up on by any true fighting game fan.

SCORE: 81%

Dead or Alive: Last Round has the most impressive graphics I’ve ever seen in a fighting game, but they require you to have a pretty beefy gaming PC in order to play it. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming PC:

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