Have you ever had tunnel vision?
You're too focused on something… it's all you can see. You have to have that one thing, you have to get to that one place, but you ignore everything else that's going on around you. When you get there, you can't find your way back. When you get that one thing, you can't seem to appreciate it.
Team Ninja's return to Dead or Alive has shades of tunnel vision. The series expectedly returns with the girls, the guys, and the combo-counter combat. The last numbered entry in the series debuted on the Xbox 360 in 2005. Have Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja grown the series up in the past seven years or do they falter without Tomonobu Itagaki?
Let's get the most obvious thing out of the way. Yes, plenty of females make up the roster on hand. Yes, you can play photo mode while two characters duke it out. The reality is that this is Dead or Alive through and through, so you know what to expect.
In fact, if you played Dead or Alive 4, you know quite a bit about 5 already. Team Ninja hasn't added meter to their traditional Japanese 3D fighter: punch, kick, guard, or grab—rhat's all you need to know. DoA5 is still about combos and countering. Wall hits are just as crucial.
You can perform a strong special move when your health falls below 50%, but don't expect to rely on it like you might on Mortal Kombat's X-ray moves or Street Fighter IV's Ultra Combos. I would hardly call it a game-changer and players should use it as a part of their combo rather than an interrupt.
Little has changed since DoA4. Tag battles, versus mode, arcade mode, photo mode, and a handful of extras sit waiting on DOA5's menu screen, which altogether lacks variety in modes. Likewise, the online mode is also threadbare: You can play simple or ranked matches, or hang out in a 16-player lobby.
New to the franchise is a dedicated story mode that cycles players through each of the characters. The sequence of events, nonsensical as they are, is all lined up and clear. While Mortal Kombat's story mode felt like several movies, DoA5's feels truncated like a handful of TV episodes.
That said, it does a great job of introducing each character, encouraging players to analyze strengths and weaknesses, and getting fighters to work on the mechanics, with what little there is to learn. In particular, the side missions put players in a realistic situation and presents them with an opportunity to get better. Early on, these missions might be land five punches or counter three hits. That said, these missions aren't simple training exercises. The AI ramps up as you continue in the story and the secondary tasks continue to develop as well. Soon you have to work complicated counters into heated bouts.
The character models continue to be gorgeous, with fighters getting dirty, scuffed, sweaty, and out of breath. If you get knocked out, your character will collapse and plead with their eyes for another shot. While all that beauty is welcome, it can feel like a flower growing in concrete. Some textures offend the eyes like no other.
It's shocking, really. The difference between the fighters and the environments or UI is jarring at times. The visual dispartiy actually challenges players to capture a decent shot in Photo Mode. Despite that, DoA5 scratches a certain kind of itch.
If you're a fan of Japanese fighters, you won't find a more core-focused beatdown. The stringent reliance on the formula can be a turn-off, but there's a level of welcome simplicity in walloping your opponent with fists and feet. However, I think somewhere on the way to market, Team Ninja fell victim to tunnel vision. They've done little to change the fighting formula or reflect the new wave of successful fighting games. Sometimes that can be endearing, but poor execution means a game is just plain bad. Dead or Alive 5 isn't out of the fight, but it is a little scuffed up.