Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round

March 11, 2015

I felt, when DoA5 first launched on the 360 and PS3 a few years ago, that it was a bit of a throwback to an older time. The fighting game scene has changed dramatically, thanks to the success of Streetfighter IV, and shifted away from pure 3D fighters. Games that, five or six years ago, would definitely have been envisioned as 3D fighters (the revived Mortal Kombat and Injustice games, for example), became 2.5D, using 3D models and stages but restricting everyone to a 2D plane. The 3D stalwarts— Tekken, Virtua Fighter, SoulCalibur and Dead Or Alive all seemed now to be relics of the past. The fact that recent entries in all these series have been somewhat lacklustre hasn’t helped.

So it’s hard to really throw myself behind Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round, a game that is basically a next-generation update of the original. It adds a few new characters, a stunning number of new costumes, and brings the game’s free-to-play model up to the new generation. This troubles me a lot, given that I’m a huge fan of the DoA series, going right back to the original arcade game.

It remains a solid fighting game, with mechanics that haven’t changed dramatically since the second game in the series. It’s still easily the best of the current 3D fighters, just in terms of how easy it is to pick up and learn moves with any particular character, and the unique Hold mechanic still makes fights very strategic and fun. It’s all perfectly good fun.

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But I feel that it’s just not quite fun for me anymore. I want to play the crap out of it like I did with the first three games in the series, but… I just can’t get into it anymore. Maybe I’ve grown out of the DoA series, or maybe I never liked it as much as I thought I did. Whatever it is, DoA 5 just doesn’t do it for me now.

That’s not to say the game hasn’t evolved at all over the past few iterations. The story mode has been overhauled in the style of Mortal Kombat 9 and Injustice, telling a single story that has you jump from character to character as it progresses. I like this in one sense, as it’s far more interesting than traditional fighting game storytelling methods. On the other hand, it’s frustratingly limited, as you just sit through cutscenes with no control before fighting (and winning) the required fights. I know time and budget have a lot to do with it, but I can’t help but feel there could be more interactivity here.

The rest of the game’s modes are as standard as they’ve been for a long time. There’s arcade mode, survival mode, versus mode, and of course, online mode. The arcade mode includes a fight request feature that interrupts you when an online match is found. I’ve always liked this feature since I first saw it in SFIV and it works exactly as you’d want here. Online itself is fast and lag-free (at least, it is for me), and I had no trouble other than the fact that my skills have rusted severely since I last fought actual people in a DoA title.

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The most controversial aspect of Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round is its business model. Additional costumes for the characters are available as DLC, and there are a lot of them. Kasumi alone has 37 costume options currently, most of which need to be purchased. The packs aren’t cheap, either, and you can spend as much again on DLC costumes as you did on the game itself. I’m personally not bothered by the idea of selling costumes as DLC, but the volume on offer is just far beyond what should be there this early in the game’s lifecycle.

And then there’s the fact that few of the costumes will do anything to lift DoA’s reputation as a game more concerned with the, erm, assets of its female cast than with being actually good. It is good, of course, it’s just that getting people to look past the bikinis and school uniforms and realising that isn’t always easy. (As an aside, the game is probably the most gender-balanced fighting game series out there, even if it prefers not to dress them practically for the fighting.)

Even so, I can’t help but love the Dead Or Alive series, and Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round is certainly a good enough update to it that I’ll look forward to the next game in the series. While the core mechanics remain solid, and this is still a great fighting game, I felt that there isn’t enough to really evolve the series, and keep it interesting. Hopefully the next game can at least bring it into the present, a world in which 2D fighting games rule the roost and 3D fighters are the ones struggling for relevance, rather than the other way around.


Same great fighting mechanics
Online play is seamless and fun
Best looking fighting game out there


Feels dated in comparison to modern 2D fighters
Ridiculous amount of DLC at ridiculous prices
Story mode is nonsensical

Overall Score: