Dead or Alive 6March 1st, 2019
PlatformPC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
There was a brief moment while playing Dead or Alive 6, Koei Tecmo's latest fighter, that I had to stop playing and download Dead or Alive 5. Something felt amiss and I didn't know what, so the hope was that returning the last step in the Dead or Alive franchise would help jog my memory or remember what I was missing. What it made me realise is that Dead or Alive hasn't moved on much.
Dead or Alive 6 is, of course, the latest incremental upgrade in the Dead or Alive franchise. It's the kind of sequel that will have anyone not already a fan of the series confused about what's been changed or added. Quite rightfully so. Fighting games have always been closely tied to visual presentation, and Dead or Alive 6 looks an awful lot like Dead or Alive 5, frankly.
But that's not to say there aren't new mechanics or reasons to get into Dead or Alive 6, but know this in advance: more casual fighting game players might enjoy the game's somewhat disjointed story mode, but it's not worth investing in over Dead or Alive 5 if that's all you're here for. It's a shame, but casual players just won't find that much here to keep them invested in the game.
And the story mode here is, well, disjointed is a start, though it's not too unusual for Dead or Alive standards. You'll be playing as the whole cast, going through short story segments for each one. The story menu is atrocious. Truly, truly atrocious. You cannot manually navigate the menu. It's set on a weird grid, where each vertical row is a character, and from top to bottom, it shows you story chapters in chronological order. Sounds fine, but the camera is absurdly zoomed in, and you won't even be able to see which story chapters are next at a glance. You can skip to the latest new chapters with R2, which is good because it's necessary, otherwise half the game would be spent trying to understand this accursed menu.
Each story chapter plays out as you'd expect, a brief cutscene, a fight, and a cutscene to finish. They are rote and the whole mode feels arbitrary, like it just needed a story mode, regardless of whether it was interesting. You see Zack recruiting for the next DoA tournament, multiple fighters gearing up, and the ninjas are of course preparing to save the world from some evil on the horizon. Yeah, it's the typical DoA tale alright.
Luckily most players don't come to Dead or Alive for the story. Nor the titillation — that's Dead or Alive Extreme. Instead, it's all about the combat and some fighting action, and to that end, Dead or Alive 6 is great. If, again, a bit similar to Dead or Alive 5.
The game uses five buttons, Hold, Throw, Punch, Kick and Special, and that Hold button is important. It can be used as a block button, but tapping a direction and Hold at the same time activates counters. You can Hold high, mid or low and must accurately predict where your enemy is going to hit in order to use them successfully. Successful counters though can result in a free combo or a neutral reset.
The 4-way Hold mechanic is this game's bread and butter which separates it from every other fighting game on the market, and it feels good. Make no mistake, it works well and pulling it off online against other fighters is endlessly satisfying, and will help you put predictable online foes in their place. In addition to that, of course, you get the usual mix of punching and kicking combos, with each of the eight directions resulting in a new attack. Critical counters can stun foes too, allowing you to extend combos even further.
It all adds up to solid core fighting mechanics that are fairly easily explained, but have deep and nuanced uses in battle. The fact that there's only a single button for each Punch and Kick also means that you know exactly which buttons you'll need to mash to get a quick and dirty. The Special button seems to help newer players too. Mashing away at it will perform a basic four-hit Fatal Rush, ending in a special attack that uses the Break Gauge, DoA 6's new special meter. It works well and is fun to pull out in battle.
The biggest problem with the overall package for me is the character roster. When fighting games change drastically, it makes sense for the roster to change. It would've been difficult for Capcom to take the entirety of Street Fighter 4's cast and put them in Street Fighter V, for instance, with a new game engine and art style. With Dead or Alive 6 though, well, it still looks a lot like Dead or Alive 5, and when it's asking to buy DLC for the likes or Nyotengu and Phase 4 — characters already available in DoA5 — it feels a bit cheeky. The smaller roster here leaves room for DLC, which DoA5 had loads of, but that's not exactly an excuse for the light roster now, especially when at launch the game has two characters already available for purchase.
That's the problem with Dead or Alive 6. It is a great fighting game, with the usual rubbish story and excellent gameplay mechanics. But in a world where DoA5 is similar and packs more content, it's not as easy recommending it to owners of the previous game. Dead or Alive 6 will definitely please franchise fans and the fighting game community would be wise to give the game a serious look, but if you're on the fence, perhaps stay there until they release an ultimate edition or you know what the future DLC roadmap will look like.
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 (code provided by the publisher).
Dead or Alive 6 has a great fighting system and a bunch of small extras that enhance the experience. Is it better than Dead or Alive 5? That's harder to determine. As it stands this is an awesome fighting game, but the character roster feels a bit light and the story is predictably rubbish. At least the games I played in the Online Ranked mode were incredibly solid, which is sure to please fighting game fans.
- Easier for new players
- Great Hold mechanics
- Awesome character select music
- Solid online experience so far
- Superfluous story
- Smaller cast than DoA 5
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