Review

Dead or Alive 5 Last Round

Familiar Maneuvers
by Brian Shea on Feb 20, 2015 at 12:35 PM
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Developer: Team Ninja
Release:
Rating: Mature
Reviewed on: PlayStation 4
Also on: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

The final version of Dead or Alive 5 is here, but it carries some baggage along with it. The original release was a serviceable entry in 2012, even if it highlighted how little the series has evolved. With Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, Team Ninja has assembled the most fully realized version of Dead or Alive 5 – but considering that the original didn’t exactly push the genre forward, there’s not much here fans haven’t seen already.

Thanks to its amalgamated nature, Last Round is overflowing with content from past iterations of the game. All of the costumes, stages, modes, and characters have been carried over into Last Round, giving players several options to customize the experience. The plentiful costumes range from appropriate to completely silly; you commonly find yourself fighting against a character in an inconceivably small bikini in Antarctica, or someone dressed as Santa Claus in a warzone. That silliness has become the series’ trademark, and rather than run from it, the costumes show that Team Ninja has embraced the campiness with open arms.

Though the cosmetics fall on the silly side of the spectrum, the combat remains solid, but it is becoming noticeably dated. The mechanics haven’t seen a major overhaul in years, and while Dead or Alive 2 felt revolutionary on the Dreamcast, every subsequent entry has felt tethered to this foundation. While other franchises have evolved over time, Dead or Alive has stagnated, and the series’ debut on new hardware is a stark reminder of how familiar the current system feels. 

In a nod to both the old and new sides of the franchise, two new characters join the fight: Raidou, the final boss from DOA 1, and Honoka, an all-new character that emulates moves from other fighters on the roster. Each character brings a unique style to the arena, and these two serve as worthy additions. Last Round also adds two additional stages, bringing the overall total to 31 if you include all of the variations. 

If you’re playing on PS3 or Xbox 360, you won’t notice any visual upgrades. On current-gen hardware, the improved resolution and framerate make the franchise’s signature stage reactions look great. The new graphical engine does not affect gameplay, but the character models look more alive. As can probably be surmised by those familiar with Dead or Alive, the new engine application is most noticeable with the female characters, as the focus of the re-skin was to make the bodies look “softer.” The fact that this release is so technically flawed (including freezes and crashes) at launch makes the time spent re-skinning every character for the purposes of fan-service feel misallocated.

Even without the new engine and framerate, DOA 5’s fighters have always looked smooth while in action. This is largely thanks to the nature of the combat, which has been one of the most fluid of the 3D fighting franchises for years now. Strategy plays a key role, and taking the time to learn a character can prove valuable – but Last Round’s mechanics aren’t immune to button mashing. This fact shines through in both single-player and multiplayer modes, but that makes the players with skill stand out even more.

Finding an opponent online can prove challenging, but once you do, the multiplayer side is mostly smooth, though occasional lag can bring it down. Last Round doesn’t add anything to the mode list of previous versions (online or off), giving players the ability to engage others in ranked and lobby matches. While this feature list is standard for fighting games, it would have been nice to see this remastered edition expand the options.

With new characters, costumes, visuals, and stages, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is the best version of DOA 5 to date, but remember that the game has already seen one re-release on consoles, in addition to a Vita version; DOA 5 Ultimate came out in 2013, and Last Round is not a substantial leap over that revision. The core is still fun, but the additions are not especially enticing.

The Edge
I spent the majority of my time with Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on the PS4 version, which contains minor technical issues involving not being able to exit arcade mode after completion. I found the Xbox One version to be considerably less stable. During my time with the Xbox One version, I encountered game-breaking bugs that boot you back to the Xbox home screen. Though these issues have workarounds, if you’re looking to pick up DOA 5 Last Round, I’d recommend the PS4 version.
7.25
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Game Informer's Review System
Concept Take all of the content from previous versions of Dead or Alive 5, add some new characters, stages, and costumes, and present it with a new engine and improved graphics
Graphics The visual upgrades are noticeable, and the stage transitions run smoothly on current-generation consoles
Sound Crunchy guitars, loud impacts, and mediocre voice acting provide a faithful Dead or Alive experience
Playability Traditionally fluid fighting and animations can’t completely hide how dated the mechanics feel in this franchise
Entertainment Though the novelty has worn off, the action-packed battles remain among the most enjoyable and accessible in the fighting scene
Replay Moderately High