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Dead or Alive 5: Last Round

Score: 85%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: KOEI TECMO America Corp.
Developer: Team Ninja
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 16 (Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

2015 seems primed to be a fantastic year for fighting game fans everywhere. Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X are almost ready to fill the gap thatís been open since the launch of the current generation of video game consoles. But it seems as if KOEI TECMOís Dead or Alive series has beaten them to the punch, much like it did last generation with Dead or Alive 4. But the difference in this case is that Dead or Alive 5: Last Round isnít really a new game. Its subtitle rightly suggests that itís more of a port than a new product, and because of that, it may alienate hardcore fans. If youíre looking for an excellent fighting game to add to your Xbox One library, this will suffice, and handsomely at that. If youíre a DOA 5 veteran looking for more than just a sprinkle of new content, you will be disappointed.

Just like its last gen predecessor, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a beautiful game. Its roster of mostly female combatants is, as always, diverse and painstakingly detailed. The perfect symmetry of the ladies (and their more than ample curves) is one thing, but if you look beyond all the idealization and objectification, itís not hard at all to appreciate the astounding amount of diversity in the animation work.

All of these fighters employ a distinct martial arts style, and every frame in their repertoire goes to reinforce that. In both stance and attack pattern, youíll see a wide variety of martial arts styles. None of these fighting styles are arbitrarily assigned, however Ė each of them fits the characterís background and/or nationality. Russian commando Bayman utilizes Combat Sambo, newcomer Milaís MMA prowess is reflective of the actual sport, the perpetually inebriated Brad Wong makes appropriate use of zui quan, and the absurdly buoyant American wrestler Tina is pure WWF. Seeing all of these fighting styles clash is a pleasure to behold; excellent collision and hit detection make for a seamless, uninterrupted illusion. Environment design is also uniformly excellent, from the war-torn streets of an unnamed Eastern European city to the almost oppressive industrial trappings of an offshore rig to the cherry tree-laden ninja village that fetishizes falling blossoms more than John Woo does doves. And all of it runs in 1080p at 60 frames per second. Definitely a plus for a fighting game.

Sound design... is another matter. While the soundtrack is harmless synth rock fluff, the voice acting is pretty pitiful. That being said, the writing isn't salvageable by anyone, much less anyone with a modicum of talent. Sound effects are good, though I'm not around actual fights enough to be able to tell how realistic the blows and collisions sound.


Think of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round as simply Dead or Alive 5 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Ever since the halcyon days of Street Fighter II (which was updated a whopping four times), itís been common for fighting games to receive a pseudo-sequel or two. Street Fighter IV had two, and Mortal Kombat simply bundled in all its DLC for the Komplete Edition. Most of these releases feature a slew of new characters and some extra balancing. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is not nearly as ambitious. A handful of new characters pad it out; from Nyotengu, Phase-4, and Marie Rose (already introduced in the downloadable content for the core game) to the Virtua Fighter guest characters, one throwback (Raidou from the first Dead or Alive, and one brand new creation (Honoka), the roster is fuller than it ever has been.

But if you were hoping for new game modes with which to test your mettle, there arenít any to speak of. Aside from the new fighters and a couple of new arenas, most of the new content is served in the form of unlockable costumes, previously offered through DLC. If you share Team Ninjaís affinity for playing dress-up and using the camera to pan and zoom to your lecherous heartís content, youíll eat it up. If notÖ well, thereís always the gameplay, which, as always, is superb.

All of the mode offerings from previous iterations of this particular installment are here. Single player options are well-enough designed to prepare any interested parties for the otherwise brutal and unforgiving world of online competition, but theyíre good enough to be entertaining on their own. The well-conceived but atrociously-written Story Modeís cutscenes are almost as unwatchable as those in Soul Calibur V; the most exhausted clichťs in Japanese writing ("What is the meaning of true strength? I must fight!" and other such idiocy) combine with some of the most uninteresting characters in any video game Iíve ever played. Now, I know not every fighting game can have a cast of characters as interesting as the one from Mortal Kombat, but when the character that has the most personality is essentially Black Jerry Lewis, youíve got a serious problem.


Fighting games that take place in a fully three-dimensional environment tend to be difficult to get a hold of. Among the hardcore, thatís a point of strength; the most recent entries into the Virtua Fighter series are widely known as some of the greatest fighting games ever made. But the cost of entry (patience-wise) is very steep; it can take quite some time to get a handle on the basics, much less master the gameís more advanced mechanics. And it only gets more difficult when your reflexes and mastery of the tools are pitted against those of another human being.

In terms of accessibility, I think Dead or Alive 5: Last Round fits comfortably between the pick-up-and-play simplicity of Tekken and the technical complexity of Virtua Fighter. Thereís much more to defense and offense than simply blocking and striking, but it takes those mechanics (which would otherwise seem daunting in most fighting games) and makes them much easier to digest.

Game Mechanics:

Strengths and weaknesses. At the core, thatís what every fighting game is about. Maximizing your own strengths while exploiting the weaknesses of your opponent. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round capitalizes on this philosophy to great effect with its roshambo-style hierarchy of combat mechanics.

Strikes are the bread and butter of your average fighting game. Simple button presses that have your character throw a fist, a foot, or any other part of his/her body in the opponentís direction, hoping it connects without being blocked. Easy enough. These are effective against opponents who are either stunned or in the process of trying to throw you. However, strikes can be countered by holds, which are pulled off by simultaneously executing a perfectly-timed block with a directional button press that corresponds with the incoming attack type, as well as where itís coming from. Holds are supremely satisfying because they require not only razor-sharp reflexes, but a great deal of foresight, as well. But if you catch someone preparing to attempt a hold, youíd do well to throw them, as throws are strong against holds.

Combine this simple but deceptively deep foundation with the multitude of different fighting styles at your disposal, and youíve got an exciting, dynamic combat experience that ensures that no two rounds will ever play out the same way. As your opponentís strategies change, so must your own. And itís this unpredictability that makes Dead or Alive 5: Last Round shine.

While I would say that Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the definitive version of an already great fighting game, I would also say that itís more of a high-definition port than anything else. Sure, thereís some new content here, but when compared to its contemporaries, it isnít much at all. But taking into account its reduced price point and the quality of the product thatís actually on the shelves, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is an easy game to recommend for anyone who wants a solid 3D fighter.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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