The Dead or Alive series is probably best known for its pendulous breast physics and revealing costumes, which is a rather reductive assessment. Team Ninja’s franchise is quite far from being skin-deep, with a distinctive approach to fighting that manages to balance accessibility with nuance. For the sixth mainline iteration, the Shinjuku-based studio attempts to downplay some of the more series’ titillating traits, bundling a respectable roundup of modes and applying a profuse amount of polish to the pugilism. Additions have been implemented to make the game welcoming to newcomers, while being careful not to dissatisfy fervent franchise fans. In short, it’s one of the more solid fighting game releases of the past few years, yet one with a few unfinished elements.
While players might be tempted to jump right into a match with any kind of preparation, they’ll miss Dead or Alive 6’s incentivized training. Head into the game’s DOA Quest component and you’ll discover one of the game’s two new combatants. NiCO is a blue-haired scientist with electrified gloves; here she’s on hand to extend over a hundred challenges. Each tasks players with meeting a trio of varying criteria, from dishing out a certain amount of damage, delivering specific moves, to eliminating your opponent within a fleeting time span. Success pays out dividends, from unlocking portions of costumes or giving out in-game currency that’s used to actually purchase an outfit for your fighters.
Flub one of the objectives, and DOA Quest can escort you into a tutorial where you can practice until a technique becomes part of your arsenal. While the lessons impart specific moves and combos, they don’t focus on the franchise’s more abstract elements, such as the series approach to fighting. Like most of its contemporaries, Dead or Alive is built around a rock-paper-scissor’s like system. But here, strikes, holds, and throws have inherent strengths and weakness, rather than having varied intensities of punches and kicks. In execution, quick reactions are undoubtedly important but being able to predict, read, and confound opponents are just as vital.
Head into the title’s story mode and you’ll be treated to DOA’s customary madcap exposition. Told through in-game graphics and puzzlingly pixelated cinematics, you’ll be reintroduced to a transnational company with questionable motives, martial artists, wrestling teams, and ambiguous family lineages. Each mainline DOA entry attempts to create a comprehensible mythos, but with characters as varied as Bass, Ryu Hayabusa, and a luchadora, it’s undoubtedly challenging to create a coherent, compelling narrative.
But largely, Dead or Alive 6 does a laudable job of presenting its chaotic plotline. Story mode is arranged on a giant grid, with thumbnails representing episodes. Make your way through the storytelling and skirmish found in one event and others will open up, with the title weaving an intricate tapestry of a central plot along with character-specific scenes. Pleasingly, Team Ninja understands the value of pacing, and each episode is refreshingly concise, permitting cast members to chew up the scenery. Sure, minor disagreement habitually ends in fisticuff and sparring seems to take place under any context making for some campy fun. The only real downside is that some characters receive an abbreviated number of scenes, potentially showing a rush to make a release date.
Whether you opt for DOA Quest, Arcade, Survival, Time Attack, Versus, Training, or the game’s local and online competition, you’ll eventually witness some of the changes made to the fighting mechanics. Fatal Rush was undoubtedly designed to make the series more inviting to newcomers. Now, with a few presses of the right top trigger and a partially filled break gauge, beginners can effortlessly summon a short combo. If you’ve filled the meter by landing or receiving hits, you can even opt for an eye-catching break blow.
Intermediate and advanced players can use their break gauge to execute either a break blow or a break hold. The former has the potential to parry an incoming strike, quickly turning the momentum of the match while the latter are counter-holds that function at all heights. Landing one causes a small amount of damage, switch positions with your opponent, and causes a brief stun- presenting the issuer with a potent opportunity. Of course, if you squander your break gauge indiscriminately, you’ll give your challenger a golden opportunity.
During fights, the care lavished on DOA 6’s character models is quite apparent. Immediately, before release there was a concern that Team Ninja tampered with the franchise’s famed breast physics. In execution, the jiggle has kept in line with the look of the combatants and lost some of its artificiality. Now, clothing plays a role in how much movement you’ll witnessed, providing yet another incentive to unlock some of the more risqué clothing options. Let’s hope that Koei Tecmo didn’t stockpile the sexiest costumes behind it’s disgracefully priced (currently $92.99 USD) season pass. I have an unhealthy love for King of Fighters’ Mai Shiranui, but the publisher is delirious if they think I’d spend nearly a hundred dollars on two characters and some outfits.
Another potential setback is found in the game’s multiplayer component. Currently, online play only accommodates ranked matches, with a more comprehensive matchmaking system due later this month. While you’re able to play people of your own skill level in matches that are routinely lag-free, playing online against friends isn’t an option at the moment. One additional caveat is that the connection quality indicator isn’t always accurate, displaying ping rates prematurely.
But save for this, Dead or Alive 6 is a consummate performer. The addition of facial expressions makes matches more convincing, as combatant wince in pain or smile after a win. Backdrops are picturesque without being distracting. While Team Ninja still devotes more attention to the female fighters, you’ll spot beads of glistening sweat on the chiseled abdomens of the game’s males. While the publisher recommends an i7 processor for play, fluidity was near-perfect on an i5 7300HQ/GTX 1070 combo. But if you do opt for a weaker processor know the game doesn’t extend a wealth of graphical options. Beyond screen resolutions, fidelity for background and character shadowing, and a single setting for visual effects, there’s not a lot of scalability. Oddly, controller support can become lost if you alt-tab to other windows.
Save for a few corners that were cut to make its release date, Dead or Alive 6 is a thoroughly rousing success. Supported by a robust cast of twenty-four fighters, a bevy of play modes, and an ample supply of sophistication, this is a solid package representing Team Ninja’s ambitions for the esports crowd. If you’re turned-off by the nonsensical price for the first season pass, you might want to wait for the all but confirmed free to play Core Fighters iteration to perceive the polish evident here.
Dead or Alive 6 was played on PC with review code provided by the publisher.