“Fighting Entertainment”+ Power Attacks = Wile E. Coyote Doom.
The Team Ninja event in San Francisco featured posters of Dead or Alive 5 playable characters Hitomi and Ayane while proclaiming in bold text, “I’m A Fighter!” That seems more than a little redundant, since they’re already on a poster for a fighting game, but okay, whatever. The developers drew attention to the revised character models for Hitomi and Ayane, and mentioned that the characters would sweat and get dirty in real-time. They also called Dead or Alive 5 “Fighting Entertainment” and told us we would know what they meant when we played the game.
The alpha build we played was very polished, set on a rooftop construction site, with the choice of Hitomi, Ayane, Hayate, and Ryu Hayabusa as playable characters. This environment is the same as is featured in the video on Team Ninja’s Dead or Alive 5 website. We had the option of playing against each other or using the "vs. computer" mode, which let you bounce the opponent around the room, literally. Though some of this environmental interaction is simple, like running up a wall and performing a flip off of it, most of it is specific to new power attacks, which let you blast your opponent onto, and off of, pieces of the environment.
A power attack takes a moment to charge and, when it hits, features a brief animation of your character dashing around and smacking your opponent around, before it gives the player the option of aiming and firing the opponent at different glowing parts of the background. This runs the gamut from everything from power generators, to cars, to a crane-load of steel I-beams. From the rooftop construction site environment, if properly directed, a power attack could blow an opponent right off the edge of the high-rise, taking the fight down to a street area below filled with falling construction materials and cars. During one match, I was K.O.'d when a concrete pillar fell on my character. Though it was funny at the time, it could potentially be very frustrating, being clubbed to death in the middle of a match by a Wile E. Coyote cartoon plot device.
Power attacks are clearly meant to be heavily exploited by players, and boy, are they fun! Bashing your opponent into a car that’s flying through the air itself is awesome—cue the “Fighting Entertainment” element that the developers mentioned. However, the attack is incredibly simple to implement (holding a button to charge, then releasing it) which could make it easy to spam attack. Through trial and error, it looked like the attack can be evaded with a side-step or deflected by attacking during its build-up period (a lesson every fighting animé character should have learned at some point, but never seemed to), but it still makes a powerful attack very accessible.
Outside of the power attack, the fighting is fast, the controls responsive. The female characters seemed to be a bit more responsive than the males, perhaps because they are quicker, but it didn’t appear to affect the flow of the matches. The game was playable on both the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, and there was no difference between the two platforms. As to what we were told by the developers, if the characters got dirty or were sweaty while I was playing, I honestly didn’t notice because I was too busy trying to bash the other player’s character into a concrete wall. Fighting entertainment, indeed.
As mentioned, the game is still in Alpha, so some of these details could change before final release. Dead or Alive 5 will be available in 2012.