Scantily clad ladies throwing punches in exotic locations. Ninjas and explosions abound. Yeah, it's Dead or Alive alright. It's been six years since Team Ninja released the first outing of Dead or Alive 5, with newer versions popping up here and there ever since, so it's about time we got a brand new iteration.
One thing that we have always particularly enjoyed about the Dead or Alive series - and no we're not talking about the ladies - is the speed at which the action unfolds. Dead or Alive has always been one of the fastest fighting games around, and it's a flow that has, over the years, kept us coming back for more.
Luckily, in that respect, Dead or Alive 6 seems to be more of the same. It's fast and intense, and Team Ninja isn't opting to change any of the core mechanics. It's prettier than last time though, with sweat, blood and dirt really popping on the character models as the battles go on. One of the levels in the demo we got to play captured this raw and almost animalistic feel very well. The fight took place in a dark alley, with some spectacular rain and fire effects, but the coolest part was the crowd looking on. They act as a fence, and every time you bump into against them they push you back into the action. It felt dark, dirty and gritty, and we liked it.
There's one big new feature at play here, however, and that's the Break Gauge. This marks the first time the Dead or Alive series has used this kind of mechanic, with all damage dealt and taken fueling a bar that allows players to counter their opponent's nasty combos. If you save up on fighting juice until the meter is full, your character will be able to initiate a powerful slow-motion punch. Everything is bound to what the developers are calling the Special button (R1 on a DualShock or RB on the Xbox One controller), and mashing this button without the power gauge filled-up will trigger a fancy-looking combo that'll allow newcomers to feel like fighting game gods.
Those who rely solely on this auto-combo won't stand a chance against a real pro, of course, but the idea of a fighting game that can be enjoyed with the press of a single button is pretty neat. Team Ninja wants to turn Dead or Alive into an appealing spectator sport and plans on bringing it to the Evo fighting game tournament. Hopefully, the fighting game crowd will welcome it with open arms, and the six playable characters in the demo all felt balanced just like in the past.
The other noticeable difference in Dead or Alive 6 is the physics, or rather the breast physics. The Dead or Alive franchise is infamous for its jiggle, with certain parts of the female anatomy bouncing like balloons in the middle of fights. Some games in the series even feature a slider to increase said bouncing. However, this sexualisation is apparently a thing of the past, Team Ninja insists, and the characters definitely felt a lot less comical in Dead or Alive 6. That being said, the producer of the game told us that they'll always listen to their fans and try to make them happy - and as we all know, sex sells.
Dead or Alive 5 was once supposed to be more down to earth than previous entries, but the latest version of the game has had seven (!) different season passes to date. That means hundreds of costumes available for purchase for hundreds of dollars, and many of the outfits leave very little to the imagination. We doubt Tecmo Koei is going to pass on another opportunity like that, so expect to see a lot of downloadable content for Dead or Alive 6 following its release in the first quarter of 2019. Maybe even a slider for bouncier physics? Only time will tell.