Like a Dragonball Z character who has been powering up for the last three episodes, Dead or Alive 5 takes its final form.
Running crisp and clean at 1080p 60fps, with gloriously clean particle and environmental effects, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is already a sight to behold running on current-gen consoles. This fresh coat of paint does a lot for the game, as does the fact that DLC content from previous iterations will carry over.
The DLC transferring is a big deal. Team Ninja Creative Director Tom Lee told me the game has over 300 outfits and maybe closer to 400 in this newer version. On that front, I experimented with putting a Noh mask on one of the female characters felt a lot like having a fighter wearing troll-face, which seems appropriate for fighting games; a genre of trash-talking and taunts.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round aims to be the ultimate version of the game, which is a bit odd, since the last version to be released went under the moniker Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate. Lee refused to speculate on the future of the franchise, but we did both acknowledge that there were these new, highly powered consoles now that made new developments (for all of Team Ninja's brands at least) very attractive. Gameplay in Last Round remains the same, with the rock-paper-scissors mechanic of blocks beating attacks, throws beating blocks, and attacks beating throws. Watching their patterns and anticipating your opponent's tactics becomes a big part of the game, and you can begin to predict when to perform which of the three actions based on how they play.
Dead or Alive 5 is a solid fighting game to jump into if you're fresh to the genre, since even button-mashing confers a certain amount of fun gameplay, even when paired with more technical opponents. Like all fighting games it targets certain rhythms of knowing your opponent's speed and attacks, and knowing when and where to counter or use a correct move to get the timing right. This give-and-take as both opponents size up each other's style and figure out where the holes are works well in Last Round; since it's not impossible to turn things around if you've been losing for much of the game, it can be a frustrating element in more technical fighters with longer combo streams.
Lee told me that they were happy to see the game pick up steam in pro-gaming circles, where the series had previously been relegated more as being more about the female-bodied fighters than the technical aspects of gameplay. In gameplay I preferred the female fighters, not because of their customizable costumes or risqué presentation, but because they were faster and more intuitive to use (with a trade-off in power), making them easier as pick-up characters for 1-on-1 matches.
I was able to play in a new stage, The Crimson, a city slum that started on a rooftop and took advantage of the environmental attacks, knocking players off ledges and down to the next level, taking fall damage in addition to the blow itself. Looking behind the characters, while we paused to talk after my defeat in the round, I saw steam escaping from pipes and other subtle particle effects that were improvements over the prior-gen versions of the game. In addition to the new stage, two new characters were shown privately but will be revealed at a later date.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is positioned as the final version of the game to be released on February 17th of next year and is incredibly reasonably priced on the PS4 and Xbox One at $39.99 and at $29.99 for digital release on PS3 and Xbox 360. The limited, Core Fighters free-to-play version of the game introduced with Dead or Alive 5: Ultimate will also be available, with an augmented version with four more fighters available for $4.99 on Xbox One. Last-gen DLC is transferable to the current consoles, which is good to hear, since the game looks gorgeous on the newer platforms.