Dead or Alive has been my fighter game of choice since I picked up Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore for my PS2. I liked the fast-paced and depth in the combat, it was great to look at, and it had some seriously over the top characters that worked right alongside the more serious ones. Since I never picked up a 360, I had to miss out on owning my own versions of 3 or 4 but did get to play them with friends who did own them, and then I had to pick Dead or Alive 5 up when it came out as an enhanced version for the Vita. A few years later and after passing over Ultimate on PS3 because of a lack of time, I get to review Last Stand on the PS4 and I have to say, other than a few bumps, the game hasn’t looked or played better. Being that this is the third time around for Dead or Alive 5, one would hope that’d be the case at any rate.
Set a few years after Dead or Alive 4 and the destruction of the DOATEC headquarters, Helena Douglas has undertaken the task of rebuilding DOATEC but doesn’t want to use its capabilities the way the previous head of the company did and has pulled out of all the questionable research they were previously doing and has decided to put on another tournament. While we have this story going on, we also have Kasumi still trying to hunt for Alpha-152 with other members of the Mugen Tenshin clan not entirely sure about her true intentions. The story mode here is played out through a timeline and broken up by characters and plays around with different timings so while you get a complete story with the character, the overall story is playing out piecemeal and out of order. The timeline shows you how it’s all progressing and where each point fits in overall. It’s an over the top affair and most of the reasoning’s behind the fights are little more than the fighters being there. Although I think the fight over the last bit of food is probably my favorite one after a rather long and entertaining cutscene. Not every character in the game gets a chance to be in this. Some of the 34 character roster got added later, 2 of which are in this edition, or are from Virtua Fighter. Most of the bigger characters get a shot though so there is that.
If you don’t like playing online and the story mode isn’t your thing, you have offline options galore here to dig through. The Fight menu gives you five offline options to choose from. Versus which is a single match that you can either run solo or tag matches through. These you can play locally if you’ve got two controllers. Arcade you’re out trying to attain the highest score while playing through opponents and can also be tackled solo or in a tag match. Time attack has you trying to defeat your opponents in the shortest time possible. Survival you have to fight an oncoming stream of opponents for as long as possible. Time attack and Survival both also have Solo or Tag Match options. Team Fight lets you assemble a team of seven characters to go all out with.
If you want to practice without too much fuss and actually learn the moves before you jump in online or against the AI, Training is available. Free Training is solo or tag matches where you can just go in and practice without worrying about it ending or anything else and just go to town. Command Training is a bit more in depth and gets you involved with learning each of the 34 characters and their movesets. If you want a bit more with that they have Tutorials with 42 different steps involved to help you master some of the game there. And lastly they’ve got the Combo Challenge which is like command training but you have to master combos and it specific goals to complete the challenges.
Online offers up two ways to reach out and smack someone. You have the Rank Match which pits you one on one against other players in a ranked fight that can be done Solo or Tag and gives you options to search for all sorts of different criteria form network connection down to skillset, or you can advertise yourself out there for others to fight you. Lobby Matches are an extension of the Rank Match only you’re in a group of up to 16 other people waiting in line to fight whoever is up depending on how the lobby is set up. It defaults to Winner-stays and that’s how most of them are when you jump in online, but you can set up tournaments, an online dojo or loser stays where one guy gets to be everyone else’s punching bag. You can also register other people online in a Fighter List to see how you’re ranking up against other people you’ve played directly online. There’s also a Throwdown option that you can turn on while you’re playing offline so that if someone pops on that fits what you’re looking for online, it’ll pop up an icon to show you there’s someone there and then you can bail out of that and head into your online fight.
The last option you can really do anything with that isn’t buying DLC or customizing out your music or game options is the Extras menu. From there you have Spectator which lets you watch fights between the computer controlled characters or pre-recorded ones. Album lets you get in to check out your screenshots in game without having to bail out to the PS4 menu or gallery. The one out of here I’ve spent more time with was the Fight Record which keeps track of your stats online and off and lets you see what you’re good at and who with and who you’re really awful with and doing what. Titles you earn by playing through the game and you set these so that other players can see them online when you head in more as bragging rights to go along with your ranking than anything else. Movies
Visually the game is a mixed bag. While the fighters and some of the characters do look amazing not only in the actual fights but in cutscenes as well, the backdrops outside of the fighting haven’t gotten quite the same treatment. The arenas look pretty good for the most part, but some of the cutscenes you can just tell the environment didn’t get the same love that the characters and the arenas did coming to the next gen consoles and this detracts a bit in story mode at least. In the actual fights though, where you spend the bulk of your time, everything looks fantastic and runs incredibly smooth, even when playing through Remote Play on the Vita. There’s options abound to change all sorts of things on the visuals to make the game more your taste including getting rid of the added dirt from getting knocked around as well as a modicum of control over character physics. The only time these fall down a bit is when you use English over the Japanese vocals.
The character mouth movements often don’t match the character dialogue at all with the English voice cast and the facial expressions versus the tone and impact of the dialogue can be incredibly different as well. This is easily solved by just kicking on the subtitles and swapping over to the Japanese voice actors, but if you don’t want to do that you’ll have to suffer with you character’s lips not syncing up with the words coming out of their mouths. The arena sounds and cutscenes otherwise work and sound really good. You have the option to customize your music with this version as well and I recommend it. Mine was default to the character so the themes fit the main character I was playing at the time which can lead to mixed results. The option to dig through a lot of better music is very nice because while I do like several of the regular themes here, being able to hit up older music from the franchise is a very nice bonus.
The set-up for the PS4 controller is pretty good on the default setting, but the key to a lot of the game is customization and you can go in and re-assign every move to an entirely different button if you want. This makes it extremely nice if you’re looking to go simple and want to link up some combo buttons or if you want to strip them away to do that all manually. It’s also helpful with the Remote Play on the Vita, but Team Ninja was very nice to us by giving Vita owners some touchscreen love on the front of the Vita to help with that. More on that in a bit. The controls are very responsive no matter what I’m doing. Yes even in Remote Play. It feels very concise and everything goes the way I want it, except when I’m a bit slow on hitting the buttons to block or get out of the way, but that’s on my poor reaction time and not eh game or controller.
At first Dead or Alive might seem like it’s a pretty straight-forward system to fight in but they’ve built a lot of depth and options not only into each of the fighters but into the game system itself. The basic all come down to a triangle system like rock, paper, scissors, only you have Punches/Kicks, Throws and Holds instead. Punches and Kicks are over a Throw, a Throw is over a Hold, and a Hold beats a Punch and Kick. Holds cover guarding as well as countering. If your opponent comes in with a punch or kick, holding will give you a counter attack to block that punch or kick with one of your own. Similarly, if your opponent is working on a throw you can land a punch or kick to break their throw and prevent them from tossing you around. While this covers your basics, they’ve made sure that things in the arena are a bit more complicated than that.
Many of the arenas have some kind of destructible element to them. By moving around the arena you can position yourself to knock your opponent into them, but by destroying the arenas you also can open up to some vertical drops as well which can lead to some interesting drops that do even more damage to your opponent before you arrive to continue the fight. If you’re not in the mood to go for a ride or get nailed by an oncoming hit, aside from blocking they have the side-stepping system that lets you move out of an incoming attack and lets you land some attacks of your own. Along with that we have the Critical Burst that can cripple an opponent long enough to allow you to get in some decent damage provided you meet the right criteria to set it off. The Power Blow is a chargeable attack that deals quite a bit of damage and can really help you out if you’re struggling. Probably one of the more fun moves you can trigger is the Power Launcher which sends your opponent flaying into the sky and allows you to do combos and other attacks while they’re up there.
Trophies and unlockable costumes are one way they’ll get you to keep playing, but the fact that it plays incredibly well and has a wide variety of modes to play with is probably the bigger thing that will keep people playing this. I played through DOA2 with a lot less over and over again because it was such a blast to play and having more options just means it’s easier to dive in and not get bored. Add in the option of online when you don’t have anyone to play against and are tired of wiping the floor with the AI, and you’ve got even more reasons to keep coming back, well, for the most part. My experience with the online portion has been mostly miss rather than hit, but I’ll get into that later.
One of the nice things about this upgraded release on the PS4 is the price point. It’s an upgrade visually and with more content than the PS3 version and costs twenty bucks less than a brand new PS4 AAA title. On top of that you’re getting a ton of content to play through especially for a fighting game with a lot of different fighters to play through and the option to go online to fight other people if you can’t get anyone to come over. You can easily dump up to five hours into just the story mode on this without ever touching one of the other modes. You can also gauge who you want to fight online and go for people in your rankings as well so that’ll help if you’re not as skilled as someone who’s incredibly high in the ranks while you’re still struggling, but it is hard to find anyone outside of lobbies to play for a quick match.
Despite two new characters and two new arenas to fight in and a lot of polish to the visuals and some bugs, this is pretty much the same game as Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. In fact you can get a free update to make Ultimate Last Round on the PS3 as that version doesn’t have the extra characters or arenas. This was a nice big upgrade for me as I only had Core Fighters which is the bare bones version of Last Round and DOA5+ on the Vita. You’re not getting anything new here though if you’ve played Dead or Alive 5 before though. There’s a ton of visual re-work and some bug fixing as well a fine tuning here and there, but this isn’t going to contain any surprises there. That being said, this one has me hooked all over again working through the story and trying to hone my skills with the fighters all over again as I’d learned the moves on the Vita and while it mostly translates, I have different options. It’s gorgeous to look at and plays extremely smooth and moves fast which makes it perfect to pick up and play for short periods which always end up being far longer than I thought they’d end up being.
Having the last iteration of a Dead or Alive title, hopefully considering the track record with upgrading and re-releasing Ninja Gaiden titles, on a next gen console is a nice bonus. The fact they included everything from the Ultimate Edition plus 2 new characters and then new costumes, some of which are DLC, and hairstyles all while running at a steady sixty frames per second while you’re in an arena. It has a lot of content, especially for a fighter with a ton of options to keep you from getting bored. It looks great and plays incredibly well except for a few hiccups with the online portion.
While the game is incredibly solid in the offline portions, I’ve had a few issues with it while playing online. During one of my lobby matches we ended up running out of time because both our fighters stopped responding and just kept walking into each other for 45 seconds until the match ended. It immediately fixed this with the next round, but it was a bit frustrating and hilarious at the same time. I’ve had almost zero success getting into a straight up fight or tag match. Out of the twenty times I’ve tried I’ve actually matched up once for a fight and those were all with the broadest range of setting available and at different times of the day. Where I did get to play online was in lobbies of which I can usually find five or six in my skill range, but then you’re in waiting for your turn at the champion of that lobby instead of actually fighting. So the online experience has had mixed results for me so far.
Being on the PS4 also gives me the option of playing this on my Vita through Remote Play even though I do have Dead or Alive 5 Plus. I mention this because Remote Play can have some hiccups and lag here and there and many of the games I’ve gotten for my PS4, like Dragon Age: Inquisition and Saints Row IV, didn’t bother to customize the button layout for the Vita while games like Destiny and Assassin’s Creed IV did. I’m happy to say that Dead or Alive 5 Last Round also customized it. They dropped the R2 and R3 buttons into spaces on the front touchscreen at the corners to the right and did the same for L2 and L3 on the left. Sure you can completely customize out the button layout on your controller anyway in game, but having those set-up for ease of access is a fantastic touch. The Vita plays DOA5 Last Round extremely well through Remote Play as well. There’s very little latency in it even when the screen starts distorting the video feed because of network congestion at my house and when I took it online it worked fine there as well. This makes it a very nice option when I can’t be in front of the TV when it actually matters that the game is recognizing you hit a certain button and at what time. Team Ninja did a great job with the whole game overall but as a Vita owner I appreciate that little touch as well.
Short Attention Span Summary
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the fighting game I’ve wanted to have on my PS4 and didn’t know it. After the nice upgrade and port of Dead or Alive 5 to the Vita, I hadn’t had time to pick up Ultimate, but Last Round hits all the notes I could have wanted in a Dead or Alive title. The characters all look fantastic and are detailed well. The animations look great and the gameplay and controls are solid even over Remote Play. My only issue with it is some clunky online interactions, but the offline portion is more than solid and offers up plenty to do. This has received some nice visual updates and the framerate is great, but it is basically a clean-up on the Ultimate version with two more fighters and arenas, so if you’re expecting something brand new out of this you’ll be disappointed. What this is though is an extremely solid fighter as far as offline play goes that’s just a blast to play.