Dead or Alive 6
Can Team Ninja’s beautiful bruiser K.O. the co mpetition?
The Dead Or Alive franchise has always felt like one of ‘ours’, since the third in the series was an Xbox launch exclusive in 2001. Some slightly dubious spin-offs involving the series’ females playing volleyball in bikinis aside, DOA has continued to impress, with DOA5: Last Round representing the pinnacle on Xbox One. So as far as we were concerned, Team Ninja didn’t have to do much to nail it for DOA6 – except maybe focus more on the fighting itself than making ever-more revealing costumes for its female fighters.
Let’s first address that most controversial and divisive aspect of the games, then - the boob physics. Team Ninja had claimed that the sexualisation of its female fighters would be toned down for DOA6, with those revealing costumes made more practical for fighting. And they are, to a point. The jiggle is still there, but can be turned off in settings, as can the level of dirt, sweat and violence. All of this in an attempt to get the franchise taken more seriously – and it should be, because Dead Or Alive 6 is a very good fighting game indeed.
Alive and unleashed
Visually, Dead Or Alive 6 is right up there with the best looking games on Xbox One. The fighters, female and male are truly beautiful, the sweat, dirt, skin, eyes, hair and glistening chests (oh behave, we were talking about the men) and costumes are all sumptuously detailed, particularly outstanding in 4K on Xbox One X. But behind all this eye-candy is a superior fighter, that packs all the punch of the series to date.
If you’re new to the series, you won’t find any of the gravity-defying fantasy kung-fu or magical moves of other fighting games. Dead Or Alive’s moves are based on real fighting techniques; each character has a unique move set based on various martial arts. There are pro wrestlers, MMA fighters, and practitioners of various forms of ninjutsu, taekwondo, karate, lucha libre, karate… new fighter Diego has his own street style, while ‘drunken master’ Brad Wong returns to flop on you like a pissed-up auntie at a family party. Each of the main buttons are mapped to punch, kick, throw and block, combining each with stick-direction as appropriate will land some accurate hits, block or hold your opponents, while some of the combos that can be achieved make for some fluid and expert play.
Yes, you can button-mash your way through fights – this is still an arcade fighter, despite potential for more complex combos. You can also get caught on the wrong end of a relentless chain of seemingly unblockable moves. This ‘Critical Stun’ can be extended, time-wise, by following up with another Stun move, so time it right and you can chain together some devastating blows that will be near (though definitely not) impossible to block.
Fill up your Break Gauge bar and you can unleash either a Fatal Rush by spamming RB until you cause a Fatal
Stun (not actually a fatality, it renders your opponent out of it for a follow-up attack) or save it up for a super-move called a Break Blow, complete with face-mashing animation.
With practice, all moves, even the Break Blow can be reversed. It’s always been the game’s strongest suit, the ability to counter effectively, resulting in more strategic fights as the window for reversing moves is generous enough to allow you to do more than just mash away, while side-stepping and moving around your opponent to move in again with a well timed attack. There is enough complexity and depth to really dig into the move-sets and learn the styles, and being able to pull off a wider range of moves means that each fight feels different, the ebb and flow of the action changing every time.
Online or offline Versus matches is standard for a fighter of course, but where DOA6 really impresses is in its depth of content for solo play. Dead Or Alive‘ s creators always designed the games to be single-player, rather than multiplayer first with a tacked on story, and 6 has a satisfyingly chunky story mode that allows you to play different characters’ story arcs, with chapters for each character unlocking as you progress in ‘story time’. Yes, it all ends up at a tournament, no it doesn’t make much sense, and every single encounter between characters ends up with them fighting… but it’s great.
There’s an additional RPG element of building up fighters the more you play with them, whether in Arcade, Versus, Time Attack or Survival modes. The most welcome addition are the DOA Quest fights, with three ‘medals’ to be won for specific actions or moves pulled off during the fight. Completing these will grant you in-game money and ‘patterns’ - parts of unlockable costumes. Intuitive and useful training modes and tutorials will really help you nail those fighting skills too.
If there’s one criticism of the game it’s that technically it simply doesn’t feel like a step up from DOA5: Last Round; but even at the Xbox’s launch, DOA3 was criticised for not being different enough from DOA2. Still, when a game works so well – and it really does – why reinvent the wheel?
“Each fight feels different, the ebb and flow of the action changing every time”
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