Dead…or is it still Alive?

Dead or Alive 6 is the latest instalment in the classic fighting series from Team Ninja. Once again Team Ninja and publishers Koei Tecmo have opted to release a ‘free’ version of the game, known as the core fighters edition much like they did for Dead Or Alive 5. However, as Koei Tecmo provided us here at Game Hype with the full version of the game I’ve chosen to focus on that for this review.

I loved the old style boxing posters on the fighter select screen.

Dead or Alive has always been one of my favourite beat-em-up franchises, and often have I been subjected to the sneers and giggles of my fellow gamers wondering why I play the game, as if it’s solely for the overt sexualisation of the female characters. Now, I’ve always found this rather odd, the same attitude never seemed to apply to other beat-em-ups or any of the Tomb Raider games. In fact, the over-sexualisation of female characters has been so prevalent historically within the industry it really deserves its own editorial but I digress.

You can’t really see in this image, but the shirt reads ‘Milk’…yeah…urm…next!

Having said that, Team Ninja have made an ‘effort’ to tone down the sexualisation of its characters, rather than the games breast physics (Ok, so the very existence of such a thing may be the reason for the giggles I mentioned earlier) being overly in your face, it’s now tied to the costumes that your character wears. Now it seems to me, this is somehow worse, if the game had jiggling all over the place you could simply accept it as a part of the Dead Or Alive franchise, but to go through the effort of modifying it depending on the costume a character wears seems to have been development time wasted where it could of been used to better effect elsewhere. 

The game is broken up into several modes which seems to be a new craze within beat-em-ups, mostly thanks to Mortal Kombat X. Dead or Alive 6 has everything you’d expect from a modern beat-em-up (shhh don’t say season pass, I’ll get to that later), story mode, DoA quest and the usual staples of beat-em-ups, arcade, time attack, survival and online. 

Lobby mode…better late than never…or is it?

The story carries on where Dead or Alive 5 left off, so good luck working out what’s going on if you didn’t play the last instalment. Now, its nothing a quick google search can’t fill you in on, but as an exercise in story-telling, it’s awful. You’re thrown into the middle of the ongoing Dead Or Alive saga and to make matters worse the story is delivered in a non-linear fashion. Ordinarily, I have no issue with this kind of story-telling but in Dead Or Alive 6, it’s presented in such a horrid way that it almost killed my desire to enjoy the usual delightful farce that is a Dead Or Alive story. 

Each ‘chapter’ of a particular characters story brings on the chapter select screen, a large grid that split into several sections per character, upon selecting a chapter to play you’ll be greeted by a loading screen that on the Xbox One X lasts around 10 seconds, a brief cutscene, the actual battle (length depends on your skill level but as an experienced Dead or Alive player, typically my bouts were done in around 25 seconds) and then another loading screen to get back to the chapter grid. Thus making even the smallest amount of progress feel laborious and frustrating.

Now, as you complete chapters you’ll unlock more for different characters set at different times throughout the games plot, well I say plot, again see farce… At one point Zack (the Dennis Rodman parody who’s been a staple of the franchise since the beginning) now helping Helena, in charge of organising the DoA tournament and assessing the competitors mental and physical health, meets Kokoro, who’s recent shocking family revelation (no spoilers here) has her in a bit of a state. Of course, Zack makes her a cup of tea and they have a nice chat…oh wait no, this is Dead or Alive, Zack decides that to make Kokoro feel better he’ll have to knock ten bells out of her.  

The difficulty curve in the story is actually something I liked, while early bouts felt almost insultingly easy, as the game progresses fights become more difficult meaning that the new games new mechanics introduced fully in Dead or Alive 6 becomes rather fun and useful. 

Jann Lee on the brutal end of a fatal rush combo from Mila!

You have the fatal rush combo, a dazzling combo that finishes in a satisfying ‘critical blow’ (much akin to the ones introduced back in Dead or Alive 5), now what’s great about this is that it requires one button to be pressed 4 times. This gives beginners a chance at looking skilled and gives them a flashy finish to wow their friends with. You can only perform this combo by filling your break gauge, it’s fairly standard, as you deal and take damage the bar fills, when it hits 100% you can unleash the fatal rush. Now, where the break gauge becomes truly exciting is the ‘fatal reversal’, once the bar is 50% full you can use this move to counter any kind of strike (usual counters require you to specify the target area of the blow you wish to counter) and stuns your foe, it’s fantastic for stopping combos mid-flow and prevent you from being air-juggled into oblivion. 

DoA quest is basically a series of challenges in which you’re required to fulfil certain objectives in each match that become progressively more difficult the further along you go. That’s about all there is to say about it really, it’s added value and a welcome inclusion. 

Beat-em-ups have and always will be a competitive affair and with Esports going from strength to strength in recent years and it’s no surprise that Team Ninja want a slice of the pie. (In fact part of the reason for toning down the sexualisation of the game was so it would have broader Esports appeal). Naturally, Dead or Alive 6 has online play, but at the time of launch, it was ranked matches only! Well, this is a huge blow for any new players, stepping immediately into the competitive arena is almost certain to put off anyone new to the fold. As far as I see it there is no excuse for the game to ship without a lobby mode so that players, both new and old can come together and casually enjoy some Dead or Alive online. 

I know what you’re thinking, this isn’t at launch, no it’s not, in fact, I deliberately held off on this review until a lobby mode was added. Nearly a month after launch the lobby mode is here and to be honest, it’s awful. Dead or Alive doesn’t have a huge dedicated player base but with the core fighters edition of the game having broken 1 million downloads I expected to be able to find a lobby without any hassle. Boy was I wrong, I’ve had such difficulty finding a lobby that I’ve resorted to playing ranked matches again, not a huge issue for me, but if you’re new to DoA it’s not a welcoming experience. 

Mila is quickly becoming my new main.

Visually the game looks fantastic as Dead or Alive games always do, it has a decent cast of characters and even some guest stars from other classic beat-em-up franchises.

Wining my first Ranked Match on DoA6 as my fav character Leifang!
(shush, don’t look at my rank)

Now, as you play you can unlock new fighters and costumes for said fighters, this is all fairly standard and traditional in beat-em-ups…but it’s 2019 and what game release would be complete without drama relating to additional paid content. Dead or Alive 6 has a season pass, one of many to come. It’s £59.99, more than the game costs, even if you shell out for the full edition of the game (£44.99). I personally don’t mind cosmetic DLC, like in all consumer related products, if I want it, I’ll buy it. In this case i haven’t, and that’s for one simple reason, missing characters. 2 of the characters in Dead or Alive 6 are locked and require purchasing the season pass if you want to use them. This problem seems to be unique to beat-em-ups as a genre, something about these games seem to make developers think it’s ok to gate off huge parts of the game. This always sucks but it seems especially present in beat-em-ups and it’s this reason I’ve not bought the season pass, yes, the game was provided by Koei Tecmo but I refuse to buy the season pass to access the missing characters. I would see it as encouraging and rewarding what I feel is an abysmal business practice. 

So, should you pick up Dead Or Alive 6? Well that’s an easy one, it’s free to try. Give core jigglers…*cough, I mean fighters a download and see for yourself. Honestly, I’d have to say yes, it’s worth picking up the full version, in spite of everything it’s true to what it is and that is Dead Or Alive. The gameplay is fast and enjoyable, the core gameplay is true to the franchise and while a mess, the story is a soap opera with some martial arts based violence thrown in.