Dead Or Alive 6 Review – The More Things Change, The More They (Mostly) Stay the Same

The problem with changing up the formula in a popular fighting series is alienating the audience that grew up with said series. Case in point- a few folks felt turned off by Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite when it shortened up its roster without their classic X-Men characters, instead focusing (mostly) on current characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Still a great game, to be sure (well, to me, anyway), but there are some that were turned off that it wasn’t as “loaded” as it was before.

And now we come to Dead Or Alive 6, which finally arrived this past week on store shelves and digital storefronts years after Dead Or Alive 5 and its countless add-ons, including Last Round, made their run. For years, Team Ninja and Koei Tecmo continued to add on to its popular game, including several types of outfits (including, of course, trademark bikinis) and not really paying much attention to improving gameplay.

But last year, the company finallyset a course for a new sequel, introducing Dead Or Alive 6 and promising to focus more on the core fighting mechanics, instead of simply introducing outfits that took advantage of what we like to call the “cheesecake factor.” This is where the sexuality of mostly female characters (and a slight bit male) took the spotlight over the fighting itself. Of course, that caters to its fanbase, but it also leaves some folks wondering if the series would evolve.

Well, the good news is that it has with part six, with some interesting new gameplay mechanics, interesting unlockable content and the usual visual splendor we’ve come to expect. It’s not a huge leap forward compared to how other series have moved forward, but it pulls off a nice trick, catering to those that grew up with the franchise (even without an overabundant amount of said “cheesecake”) while at the same time leaving the door open for newcomers to join in on the fun. It’s not perfectly balanced, mind you, but it’s way more adaptive than other entries we’ve seen in the past.

 

Gameplay- 8/10

First, let’s talk about the core fighting mechanics. Most of what Dead Or Alive 6 has to offer will be familiar with fans, including punches and kicks that can be stylishly mixed up (particularly with more athletic characters like ninja Kasumi, all-star wrestler Tina and all-around badass Rig), as well as throw moves and counters that can be executed with ease. There are other techniques to master as well, including combos and special defensive maneuvers to get around attacks.

Perhaps the most interesting aspects of the game come with the Break techniques, the Attacks and the Counters. With the counters, you can build up momentum with a special power bar that fills up two different times. The first time, you can execute an attack that quickly knocks your opponent for a loop. But when you fill up the entire bar, you can unleash a darn near unstoppable special combo with a final blow added to it that will knock the glasses or hat right off their face, as they fall to the ground.

While some may see this as somewhat cheap, it’s actually a neat balancing track when it comes to “getting back into the match,” as it were. Dead Or Alive 6 is a game built on speedy combos and counters. And newcomers that don’t quite get that will see that bar fill up quickly and wait for a prime opportunity to unleash said combo. We certainly don’t mind it, to say the least.

Plus, as with other DOA games, part six lets you use the environment to your benefit in some cases. For instance, in a wrestling ring, you can shove your opponent into the ropes for additional damage, since they’re electrified. There’s also what appears to be a pterodactyl nest surrounding another stage, and when you hit your rival and make them crack open a dino egg, one comes flying out to pick them up and slam them to the ground. There’s also a tentacle that pops up out of nowhere in a different area, where they slam around your opponent like mad. Dead Or Alive 6 may not have much going when it comes to realism, but its fantasy-based elements sure do stand out.

Both online and offline options for Dead Or Alive 6 work fundamentally well. Matching up against others is really a piece of cake, though there are times that online matches can take a little longer to load up. This is particularly true with the Ranked Matches, as you’ll be put against a foe that will definitely put you through your paces. For the moment, that’s really your only option with online, though it’s likely that we’ll see general match-ups make their debut with a forthcoming patch. Fingers crossed.

As for offline, Dead Or Alive 6’s matches are a lot of fun, as you can really square up with a friend (or enemy, as it were) and see how far you can keep your streak going.

If you prefer, you can go it alone in single player, which we’ll talk more about in the Innovation tab. There’s something here for everyone, whether you want a quick jaunt in Arcade, or want to see what the Story has to offer.

Between options and changes to the gameplay, Dead Or Alive 6 has a lot to offer. But just how much of it has any true substance? Well…

Innovation- 7/10

In this section, we’ll cover most of the ground with the single player content. We’ve already discussed quick Fight and Arcade options, so let’s get into the Story Mode, as well as the new DOA Questmode.

With the story, well, there’s very little that makes sense here. You’ll essentially see a number of timelines pop up that revolve around the DOATEC company, which has held tournaments over the years and finds itself with rivals that need to be, ahem, taken care of. Some new characters are introduced here, as well as returning favorites like Helena, Tina, Bass and Kasumi.

The story definitely has some detail going for it, and the ability to jump between timelines is pretty interesting. That said, it’s also somewhat cluttered, and really caters best to the die-hard fans that understand what’s happening with the series. Even then, there are times that I got a slight bit lost, eager to skip ahead and just get to the fight. That’s not entirely Team Ninja’s fault, but with a game that’s built around fisticuffs, telling a story within the brawls themselves seems to fare better than, say, playing out a movie where some character decisions are slightly off.

As for the other main component for the single player side of Dead Or Alive 6, that would be DOA Quest. Here, you’ll learn a thing or two about how the game clicks, as you’ll be tested across a number of areas across various missions, unlocking three stars for each one. The more progress you make, the more missions and gear you unlock.

DOA Quest is pretty cool, as it mixes up what you can do with different characters, including Zack, Jann Lee, Tina, and many others. There are over 100 available, and they help you unlock outfits for characters, along with other gear that turns out to be very useful.

On the one hand, some of these missions will help you become a better fighter in the game. We learned about a couple of new mechanics that are quite helpful, so rookies may want to give it a look.

But then there’s the flip side of the situation, in which some of the missions are just…tedious. That’s not to say they’re terrible by nature, but they require you to perform some actions that can take some getting used to, or putting up with an AI behavior that may feel like they’re dragging you down into the doldrums.

I could totally see a mode such as this improving over time with additions and tweaks, and perhaps even making its way around again in Dead Or Alive 7 with more variety and challenges. As it stands, it’s still somewhat worth going through, but, like the story mode, you may just be itching to get into a fight instead.

 

Graphics/Sound- 8/10

While Dead Or Alive 6 doesn’t exactly go leaps and bounds over what the last game offered in terms of visual performance, there’s no question that the folks at Team Ninja have pumped a great deal of effort into the visual design. It definitely improves upon the model, with a range of fighters that are fun to watch- even without that “cheesecake factor” being overwhelmingly involved.

First off, the backdrops in the game vary, and they benefit as a result. Sure, some stages are outrageously over the top. But then others bring you back down to Earth as you focus on the fight instead. They’re well designed, and, as I noted above, it’s great to see elements get involved, even if it is something as weird as a pterodactyl or a tentacle smashing you to the ground.

The fighters themselves offer remarkable differences, and old faces have never looked better. I actually like Dead Or Alive 6’s version of Kasumi over previous ones, as they focus less on her sexiness and more on making her a kick-ass character. But don’t be too turned off, fans- Tina, Christie, and others still like to show off in some stylish gear. And there are some new outfits that, yep, are alluring as you’d think they would be. It’s just not completely over the top, that’s all.

I liked the in-game audio as well. It’s not amazing, as the music seems to follow the course of previous titles, but I still like it. The rock tunes that play in the background really add to each fight, even if they’re not entirely “hummable” tunes, as it were. The sound effects have something significant to offer as well, with enough deep punches and kicks to go around, as well as occasional special techniques that really rip through your speakers. (Not in an annoying way, either.)

The voicework is cool too. Not amazingly cheesy, but actually a little better in tone than previous games. Sure, some dialogue can wear out its welcome (like a character saying the same victory phrase after each fight, instead of mixing it up), but the acting is pretty well done in this department.

The only downside is that the game doesn’t have too much to offer when it comes to really giving your fighter of choice a customized look. Sure, there are a ton of outfits to attain in DOA Quest, but outside of that, there’s not much you can do. But some fighting fans will like what’s on display, and it makes fine use of both the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro.

Value for Money- 7/10

One big problem I wanted to note with Dead Or Alive 6 is with its current season pass. Surprisingly enough, it seems to be going for a higher rate than the game itself, going around…$90?! That’s absurd, to say the least. Either Koei Tecmo has a pricing issue here, or it isn’t waiting to load up the game with an abundant amount of side content.

That said, there is some good news. You don’t need to purchase this content to get the most out of Dead Or Alive 6. Sure, you may have to drag through DOA Quest for a bit in order to gain access to the goods, but you won’t have to worry about dropping funds to get the most out of it, despite what some die-hard fans will tell you. It’s optional at best.

And while the online modes could offer something more (again, we hope to see this fixed with a future patch), the local fighting is a blast, and single player does have some decent stuff to offer, even if the story is all over the place at times.

I really wish Dead Or Alive 6 had gone for more innovation with its modes and unlockable gear, as well as with its online features. But as it stands, it’s still got a lot going with its gameplay, and its presentation can’t be beaten as far as DOA standards go. It’s nice to see the series go back to basics a little bit, while still moving forward in some areas. Now, if we can just get some balance with online content and its DLC pricing, we’ll be set.

 

Summary- 7.5/10

Are there areas where Dead Or Alive 6 could use some polish? Yes. But at least it doesn’t feel like a continuation of DOA5, and still moves forwards in some respectable regards.

The new fighting techniques really add to each match, and as crazy as the stages can get at times (again, tentacles…), they really do move the fighting engine as a whole forward. And, again, it’s nice to see balance play a better part when it comes to character design, although, yes, there are still sexy outfits for those of you that can’t get enough of them.

All we need now is more online modes to choose from, a looser hold on that downloadable content, and maybe a few touch-ups in customization, and we’ll finally have the Dead Or Alive sequel we’ve been waiting for. As it stands, there’s still a lot to offer here, but the real question is what else is on the way. Guess we’ll find out.

In the meantime, give it a look. You may just like where these fighting tactics take you.

Dead or Alive 6

Pros:

  • Fantastic looking fighting engine brings the game to sparkling life
  • Fun local multiplayer fighting options and single player has some good (if slightly confusing) content
  • Great gameplay that continues to grow divinely

Cons:

  • Very little options when it comes to online play (at the moment)
  • Story mode kind of jumps all over the place, and may confuse some
  • Wait, why is the downloadable content priced so high?
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