Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the final expansion to 2012’s Dead or Alive 5. While the game is available for last generation systems, the next-gen edition of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round on the PS4/Xbox One on the other hand is a whole different story, if not the real deal. The PS4/Xbox One edition not only features a wealth of new content but also a revamped graphics engine that takes advantage of the new technology. Dead or Alive 5: Last Round marks a less-than-ideal debut of the franchise on modern hardware, a distraction until Team Ninja unleash the inevitable Dead or Alive 6. Obviously for the uninitiated, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the best possible place to start and a great fighting release through and through. But even those who were on board since the original iteration landed in 2012 may find the offerings of Last Round appealing enough to fall in love with the game once more.
Dead or Alive 5 on last generation systems is still a visually impressive game, but the extra polish in Last Round thanks to the horsepower of current hardware certainly does it favors. A side by side comparison of the two makes a lot of things apparent, such as the improved textures, sharper resolution, stronger color contrast, and above all a complete ironing out of all the jaggies and muddy textures. Last Round looks and performs great on modern hardware, it runs smoothly at a superb frame-rate, and really brings out the best of a game that was already pushing boundaries.
Dead or Alive has always been a graphical showcase when it comes to the 3D fighting genre, and while Last Round may not look next-gen enough to change your life, there is still enough visual fidelity and eye-candy to feast your eyes on. The huge and interactive 3D arenas still impress with their attention to detail and scope, but more importantly the characters look and animate more fluidly than ever, especially the women. The new and improved Soft Engine in Last Round makes the skin textures appear more smooth, and even the patented trademark breast physics of DOA sees a substantial improvement. Heck, even the most subtle details like the glistening sweat are more apparent. Now that’s technological progress folks. In short, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the sexiest DOA has ever been, figuratively and literally.
By now you’re probably familiar with how Dead or Alive 5– and Dead or Alive in general– plays like but it’s worth restating because even now there isn’t a 3D fighting experience quite like it anywhere else. The fighting system follows a simple rock-paper-scissors like control scheme: punch, kick, grapple, and block/counter. Of course, the actual gameplay is anything but, as these simplistic controls can be used to effortlessly chain together some impressive combos. The biggest hook in the gameplay is the countering system, another trademark of the series, where you time the block button to perform some powerful reversals. In fact, getting an edge over your opponent really comes down to carefully timing your reversals. Reversals can be simple evasive parries to high-damage counter attacks.
The beauty of DOA’s core gameplay is that it has an instant pick up and play appeal. This is a game that wants to be fun first, without worrying too much about technicalities and intricate-balancing found in more competitive fighting games. It’s all about playing aggressively, but that said there is enough mechanical depth for those wanting to go the extra mile and master the game. Speaking of which, Last Round comes with a pretty comprehensive training mode where you can learn the ins and out of the fighting system, and even in-depth tutorials for each of the characters.
Now unlike most fighting games, arenas aren’t just there for show in DOA. Ever since the second entry on the Dreamcast, the series has featured the most diverse and interactive 3D arenas in any fighting game. These stages play a crucial part in the core gameplay as you can smash opponents through walls and floors to enter new areas, and even cause some heavy damage as you knock them down stairs and off the ledges. Things get even crazier in Last Round when you have battle tanks and boulders interfering bouts in some stages. Last Round is like a Kung-Fu action flick with all the over-the-top explosiveness. The stage variety in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the best the series has ever seen, with each stage sporting impressive visual detail and contributing to the fighting action in its own unique way.
Now another really fleshed out aspect of gameplay are the tag team battles, which change the rules of the game substantially. While most would probably prefer the one-on-one action, the tag team variant can still be a lot of fun especially when you pull off special tag team grapples, and learn to switch characters in and out proficiently for an impressive chain combo.
In terms of content Last Round is the most complete offering with 34 characters all unlocked and ready to go, including all the characters that were DLC in past editions. This impressive roster also has nice selection of guest fighters from SEGA’s Virtua Fighter series, marks the return of original DOA final boss Raidou as a jacked-up cyborg, and also marks the debut of Honoka. Now Honoka is an interesting addition to the roster, she is a slow and heavy fighter (heavy on the top too!) and has an interesting fighting style made up of bits and pieces of other styles. From Ninjutsu to Pro Wrestling, Last Round doesn’t disappoint with its gameplay variety. There are characters suitable for all play styles. You have fighters like Hitomi who is perfect for newcomers, Ryu Hayabusa (of Ninja Gaiden fame) for only the most proficient of DOA players, and even offbeat entities like Neotengu who likes to fly around.
Complementing the all-star roster is a wealth of unlockable costumes, and I do mean a wealth as there are over 300 costumes. A lot of the single player values comes from the time spent unlocking these outfits, and you can even customize certain fighters with different hairstyles and glasses.
As far as single player content goes, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round offers the essential modes (especially the ever so addictive Survival Mode). So considering all the modes, characters, stages, and costumes, there’s a lot on offer here. However, if there is one aspect of the offering that really disappoints it’s the Story Mode. Now after adding so many interesting characters over the years, it’s quite disappointing to see the Story Mode remain completely unchanged. It would have been handy if extra chapters were added for the new characters.
Obviously a fighting game is best played with friends, and while most fighting games feel like they demand a PhD, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a button masher that nearly anyone, gamer or non-gamer, can enjoy. Which in this case is a strength, although fighting purists may disagree. That said, there is nothing wrong with a fun and inviting fighter that’s all about sexy aesthetics. I guess you could say, these DOA girls just want to have fun… and so should you.
Online multiplayer is nicely integrated into the experience, if not a consistent presence. Turning on the “Throwdowns” option essentially means that challenges from other players can pop up at random any time, and you’re always online even as you’re occupied with single player. Of course, you can also go into a more filtered online match-making as well. The net-code is shockingly sublime in Last Round, it was always decent in past editions but now they’ve really nailed it in the PS4/Xbox One release. Despite my lousy Australian net connection, the matches I had online were smooth and hitch-free.
Now for those who enjoy a little extra eye candy, Last Round has a pretty cool photography mode where you can dress up characters and have them pose in any of the stages. For those who are especially into this sort of thing, there is a special selection of videos (aptly titled “Private Paradise”) as DLC where the DOA girls– dressed in any skimpy outfit you please– frolic on the beach. You get to use your camera to your heart’s content to create a special gallery for those lonely nights.
At the end of the day Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is a worthwhile expansion to Dead or Alive 5, and is a welcome addition to the PS4/Xbox One fighting library until the big sequels land. The story mode is pointless for anyone who has already experienced it before, but the new characters, stages, costumes, goodies, and above all, the revamped visuals and graphics, all add substantial value to what was already a great game. It may be based on a 2012 release, but Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is still the most entertaining 3D fighting game out there.