Dead or Alive 6

That Season Pass tho..

The Dead or Alive series has always been a fighting franchise more known for its female combatants than its fighting mechanics or various aspects of its core design. The series is now in its 6th main entry, while various spin-offs have seen the franchise dig deep into its sexualization and treated its fanbase to its cast putting aside their differences for a few rounds of bikini-clad volleyball and some pool-side antics. While the industry has been mostly moving away from overally sexualized characters, Dead or Alive has made small adjustments here to accommodate that change while still retaining what the series has been known and celebrated for.

Let’s jump right in; Dead or Alive 6 is hands down the best entry in the series from a gameplay perspective, but it certainly lacks a comparable amount of content that you would find in what NetherRealms has been offering as of late, especially with the next Mortal Kombat just around the corner. Dead or Alive 6 features a full story campaign, a challenge-based quest mode, and your typical versus, arcade, time attack, and survival modes the genre seems to package in to fulfill some sort of invisible checklist. It also features a basic ranked online versus mode that we will get into a bit later as I have concerns about the titles online offerings.

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Featuring just under two dozen characters, before you take in account pre-order bonus fighters, special digital deluxe edition add-ons, or those included in the drastically expensive season pass, Dead or Alive 6 sees the return of many of the series notable fighters while introducing just a few new faces to the series. Favorites like Tina, Kasumi, Hayate, Ryu Hayabusa, Ayane, Bass, and more all return with only two new faces to the lineup; Nico and Diego. Nico is a blue haired scientist who is behind much of the main story, and features a fleshed out story arc to really develop who she is, while Diego is featured only in the short scenario’s built around the tournament and isn’t really given much to offer other than he has a sick mother. It’s also a shame that some of the new characters introduced in Venus Vacation are not going to be included, but new fighters will find their way into the game through future paid downloadable content.

Dead or Alive 6 features a story mode that can feel all over the place, mainly due to the fact of how it is presented. While there is a main narrative to follow, one that can have their missions done back to back, there are several character based stories that can also be done, in any order you want. This method to unlocking more of these short and sometimes self contained segments can feel random and cause much of their impact to feel wasteful. One of the new characters, Diego, gets the short end of the stick and doesn’t feature into the main story at all. While he has some content here regarding his inclusion into the Dead or Alive tournament, it’s the other new character, Nico, that is front and center in the main plot. Dead or Alive 6’s main story is centered around Nico perfecting a science experiment that requires the abilities of two main DOA characters to do so. This main story is mostly told through just a few characters out of the whole roster, so its variety is somewhat limited.

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Meanwhile, Zack and Helena are attempting to put on the 6th annual DOA tournament, a subplot that is regulated to the remaining cast, and a narrative that feels largely wasted. These character subplots would have been better served as content for the arcade mode, which doesn’t feature any sort of story or ending when you complete it. There are moments of specialized dialogue, but overall, arcade mode is nothing more than a versus mode that just goes on for a few random matches. Apart from story mode, arcade, and versus, you also have your standard time attack and survival mode, which I don’t see anyone really putting any substantial time into. Sadly, Tag Team mode, which was last seen in DOA5, isn’t present at launch and feels sorely missed.

It’s safe to say that most of your time will be spent completing the numerous challenges in Quest mode. This great addition to the game features just over a 100 missions, which vary from completing a match in a certain time frame, executing certain combo attacks, or defeating enemies with specific moves. There is a ton of challenge here depending on your skill level. It’s also here where you’ll tend to unlock most of the outfits and earning coin that you will use to purchase new hairstyles, background music, and title cards for your online profile, which are still a thing I guess? Each mission has three objectives to complete to reap the rewards while also leveling up your own personal level. Each mission is character specific and the rules and opponents are fixed. Even working through a few dozen challenges, I’ve actually learned more about the fighting mechanics here than through its tutorial modes, mainly because it’s presented in a fun and interesting way. The tutorials present are functional, but typical of the genre in how they are presented.

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Taking the battles online has been a very different story from the enjoyment I’ve had offline as while the offerings here are extremely basic, the lag and stuttering made several victories very difficult. I’ve had clear wins taken away from me after lag allowed my opponent to pull off a last second upset. While sure, most of my losses were due to my lack of skill, the lag is very apparent to the point of where I no longer wish to invest much time in this mode until substantial infrastructure improvements have been made. Any sort of lag in a fighting game is about the worst problem you can have as input speed is crucial to the entire experience.

Dead or Alive 6 still features your traditional low and high attacks, holds, throws, four-way directional movement and the use of combo’s to put the rapid back to back hurt towards your opponent. Perimeters attacks and ground smashes still have the characters explode off of them, making some wins truly explosive. Dead or Alive is also a game about anticipating your opponent, performing a parry at just the right moment to turn the tide and take advantage of an opening and capitalizing on it. Where Dead or Alive 6 adds to its tried and true combat design is in its new Fatal Rush system. This system is fairly simple as it consists of mainly 4 rapid attacks performed by tapping the right shoulder button in quick succession, performing what will start out as a high attack and then end with launching your opponent clear across the field. As you perform certain moves, you will trigger Fatal Stun, which prevents the fighter from striking, guarding, or holding for a brief few seconds. Some characters have different moves that cause this stun such as Diego, who can use a kicking strike, whereas other characters can use crouching counters or crouching hi-counters well. As you perform Fatal Rush or deal or take damage, your Break Gauge will fill up to where you can pull off a Break Blow attack that deal some crushing hits and damage along with it. Apart from the new Fatal Rush system, you have your traditional sidestepping, guard breaking, and recoveries to flesh out the robust, but simple, combat system.

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While I’ve enjoyed the Dead or Alive games before, Dead or Alive 6 just feels far more refreshing to play. Combat feels far more energetic and balanced than before and something about the new engine just translates to a far better experience. I’ve been able to pull of counters, having my character duck low and get in a few punches as my opponent hits high, causing a smile to appear on my face as I pull off a quick upset. While I still find the recent Soul Calibur to feel more unique in its combat, Dead or Alive 6 is still a joy to play from a hand to hand combat perspective, despite several characters having a sword attached to their back, only pulling it out during cutscenes.

Featuring an all new engine, Dead or Alive 6 leaves the Soft Engine behind and it’s drastically better for it. Characters are better detailed, feature far cleaner textures, and contain much improved movements and physics. While the women of the series still feature a bit of the DOA jiggle, it is designed to be less exaggerated and meant to convey a more realistic sense of movement and frankly, it only enhances their sex appeal. Sure, some characters like Tina, Honoka. or Hitomi still have a bit too much bounce to convey the realism they are going for, but it is a pretty big difference from how the series first started. Adding to that, the costume designs are far more conservative than the more revealing gear the series is known for, but several characters still feature many of those styles of outfits to unlock or access through its paid content packs.

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Even before the game released, there was much talk about its expensive season pass. Priced at just shy of $100, it’s really up to your own personal preference if you feel it’s worth it in any capacity. Featuring over 60 outfits and two new characters, it’s been mentioned that this is only the first pass, indicating we will be seeing another high priced content drop sometimes after June, when the second of two characters has been released. It’s worth noting that Dead or Alive 5 ended its life hosting over $1,000 worth of DLC content, so it’s extremely likely that we may see more than that here with the latest version. If you are ok with the wait, Dead or Alive 6 will release a free-to-play version in the near future that is similar to the what they did with Dead or Alive 5: Core Fighters, giving you a modest amount of content meant to entice you to purchase the complete game.

Dead or Alive is a franchise that has continued to innovate in small ways. Each iteration brings with it minor changes that continue to elevate the series forwards. While it’s always been out of the major spotlight when compared to the likes of the genre that is the focus through several esport events, it’s still an absolute blast to sit down and play. The story mode is decent, sometimes presented in ways that doesn’t pace quite well, but overall has some enjoyable moments among how strange the lore has become. Dead or Alive 6 may not pack in a tremendous amount of value like what we’ve come to expect from other games in the genre, and it may be worthwhile to test out what the Free to Play version will offer, but if you’re looking for a fighting game with solid mechanics and a large assortment of interesting and memorable characters, you really can’t go wrong.

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Dead or Alive 6 was purchased by the reviewer and played on an Xbox One X.

All Screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.