We’ve seen new iterations of Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Tekken and even Soulcalibur come to consoles over the last few years, so it only feels fair that Koei Tecmo should get in on the action with an all-new Dead or Alive game. Thus, Dead or Alive 6 is upon us, bringing with it the brand of technical fighting that the series has always been known for. However, the series has always been known for SOMETHING ELSE too (you know what I’m talking about), but it’s been toned down a lot more this time around to help establish the game as a more ‘serious’ fighter.
It kinda works? I mean, on first impressions alone you can see that Dead or Alive 6 has taken a different approach, but you’ve only got to look at the options menu and unlockable outfits to see that it hasn’t steered too far adrift of its titillating roots. It’s still fun though, even if it feels like it plays second fiddle to just about every other AAA fighter that’s available right now.
Anyone who has played one of the Dead or Alive games before will feel right at home with the newest entry, with it following pretty much the same formula that’s made the series popular with fighting fans. You’ve got plenty of combos to pull off with each character as well as an assortment of throws and holds, whilst those who pick their moment to strike will be able to counter most manoeuvres by playing tactically – it still has the ‘Rock Paper Scissors’ like system in place where strikes beat throws, throws beat holds, and holds beat strikes, so using the right move at the right time is imperative to your success. The series has never really been about button-mashing, especially against skilled foes, but the simple control scheme and accessibility makes it one of those fighters that’s ‘easy to play but difficult to master’. Sure, it’s a cliché, but what else can you say about a fighter that rewards players who’re better at countering attacks as opposed to dishing them out?
The special attacks that were introduced in Dead or Alive 5 make a return too, giving players a powerful asset that can cause some serious damage when used at the right time. However, there’s also the Break meter which when filled allows you to counter any attack in-game – even those aforementioned special attacks. There are two moves at your disposal with it (the Break Blow and Break Hold) and both can cause some REAL hurt to an opponent whilst interrupting their attack.
Given that the series prides itself on defensive play, these moves are game-changers. A Break can disrupt pretty much any combo and stop your opponent in their track, whilst having them performed to you can see the tide turn in what should’ve been an easy victory and turn it into an unlikely loss. It might sound like a disruptive mechanic, but it adds that extra element of excitement to the game whilst giving players an extra easy to utilise trick to have up their sleeve.
Everything comes together well to make for an enjoyable and strategic experience. Sure, it can be a little guilty of feeling a bit slow-paced at times thanks to the fact that skilled players will want to carefully pick their moments to strike, but with things like the Break attacks available there’re a lot more opportunities to take out an opponent. It changes up what Dead or Alive players are used to and evolves upon the formula, which can only be seen as good thing.
I’ve got to give props to Koei Tecmo for including an in-depth tutorial mode in Dead or Alive 6 too, which offers a good introduction to the gameplay mechanics for those new to the series (or those who just need a refresher). Given that the game can be pretty technical and less forgiving compared to other fighters, it’s a good place to learn the ins-and-outs of the mechanics and each character’s move set. A lot of fighting games are guilty of simply reserving their tutorials to teach players how to string together combos, but Dead or Alive 6’s does really teach you how to learn how to play the game and even, potentially, get good at it.
Story modes play a bigger role than ever before in fighters these days with titles like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, and Soulcalibur all managing to present them in meaningful ways where the narrative is just as important as the fighting that takes place. Unfortunately, Dead or Alive 6 doesn’t, with its story mode feeling both nonsensical and pointless throughout and the showdowns with enemies rushed. Given the wealth of characters that the game features and the history of the series, I was hoping it’d do something fun with the tale but instead it ends up falling flat.
Fortunately, the other game modes are a lot more entertaining, with the Quest mode in particular standing out with its rich selection of missions that offer diverse challenges to the player. It pushes you to play in specific ways and even teaches you new ways to approach combat along the way, which proves to be both a rewarding and learning experience at the same time. It’s good fun. Then you’ve got things like Arcade, Survival, and Time Attack, as well as local and online multiplayer. Everything I’ve played online has worked well too, with most matches lag-free and having no connection errors – I’ve even managed to win a fair few fights, which shows the aforementioned tutorial must’ve done its job well.
Visually, it’s a pretty impressive game with both the characters and environments looking attractive, whilst the animations and in-game performance are fluid throughout too. Popular Dead or Alive alumni like Ryu Hayabusa, Helena, Kasumi, Tiny and Bayman have never looked so good, whilst each stage is packed with detail too – it really is great to see in motion. Of course, there’s also the ability to make everything more… uh… ‘jiggly’ if that’s what players prefer. We’re not here to judge anyone…
So Koei Tecmo have made a conscious effort to make Dead or Alive 6 feel a lot less sexualised than the other titles in the series, with the female fighters less objectified and not having such revealing outfits. It makes the game feel like a more serious fighter in a way and one that relies less on titillation in order to appeal to its audience – there is an enjoyable fighting experience to be had in the game though, so it shows it doesn’t have to be all about the boobs.
That being said, some of the costumes you can unlock are VERY suggestive, so it’s clear that the game hasn’t steered too far away from its ruder roots. Those who put time into the game (and believe me, it can be a grind) will find that there are more revealing outfits to be worn whilst fighting, and whilst they may not be there from the get-go you can still have an old-school Dead or Alive experience. Is this a bad thing? Nah, not really – some people have expectations with what they want from the series, so at least it pleases everyone.
Dead or Alive 6 is a lot of fun to play and offers an enjoyably strategic fighting experience, but it is definitely one of those games that becomes more rewarding the better at it you become. It’s not as exciting as similar titles in the genre though, with the slower pace and focus on balancing out offensive and defensive manoeuvres making for battles that can drag out a little – it’s definitely better suited for those who prefer more technical showdowns.
Still, with a great tutorial to teach you the ins-and-outs and a thoroughly enjoyable Quest mode, Dead or Alive 6 does have a lot to offer fighting fans. Just stay well away from the Story… believe me, you won’t regret it.
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platform(s): Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC