Dead or Alive is a series I have a mixed history with. I can’t argue with the calibre of the fighting games, even if they became a little too hyper-sexualised over the years. That’s when you come to the true hyper-sexualised part of the series, the Xtreme spinoffs. These eventually spent their load with Dead or Alive Xtreme 3. This is where Dead or Alive 6 comes in.
Reducing sexualisation could be one of the best moves the series has made. It can take the focus away from bouncing breasts to bouncing your enemies head off of a wall or a giant Kraken. This is what will easily push the game beyond previous entries in the series. Here are my impressions from my hands-on with Dead or Alive 6, where I got to fight against and also interview Yohei Shimibori, the producer and director of the game, which will be published later today.
I’m no novice to fighting games, I’ve been playing them since the very first Tekken. Nor is this my first rodeo with Dead or Alive. At the same time, I’m also as far from a master as you could hope to get. My general tactic is to mash buttons like a rampant ferret on speed and mixes that in with the one (maybe two, if I’m really good with that character) moves that I know.
Why do I say this? Because I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to pick up and play Dead or Alive 6. Everything was fast and responsive, the game doing what I asked it to do and when my move didn’t come off, it was understandable why. It’s even better when you realise it’s the PC version of the game I was playing, from a company whose average PC versions can normally be charitably described as crap. Everything felt very smooth and responsive. More importantly, the controls weren’t labyrinthine and it didn’t feel like you needed a ten-step plan before you could perform a simple grapple.
Of course, the more complex moves will take some time mastering, but isn’t that the whole point of these games? One of the ways that this had been made more accessible is through the use of a super key. This lets players use a simple series of attacks that makes them look like they know what they’re doing, that’s the normal function. For the first time ever the game has a special meter, the break gague, that builds up with every bit of damage dealt or received. Once it’s full, you can use the same button to perform a fantastic-looking and high-damage special attack, or a special kind of counter that will counter any type of attack.
This inclusion hasn’t been designed to make it easier for newbies to win. Frequent use of this key isn’t going to make you an unstoppable deity of fighting games. More experienced players will very easily dodge or block your combo and make you regret the frequent use of one single move. A true fighter will get the most use out of the variety of attacks. Up, mid and lower strikes. Grapples and throws round it up, with the inclusion of counter holds to add to the mix. Even the special attacks can be countered and blocked too, so there’s no chance of it being an instant-win.
There isn’t enough that can be said about how great Dead or Alive 6 looks. The move away from Soft Engine is likely the best move the series could have taken. The game looks considerably more detailed than ever before. It’s more than impressive to see the wear and tear of battle start to take its toll on the characters over a fight. You can watch the reflections of the inferno of a destroyed arena and see the sweat shining on your character. The aesthetic choices are clearly the biggest step forward for the series.
This is the right time to look at the design choice of the characters. Naturally, the choice to reduce the sexualisation of characters will be anathema to some of the series fanbase. My argument is a simple one, they have never looked better. The attention to detail on all of the characters I got to see is downright fantastic. Yes, with the girls, in particular, you won’t see lovingly rendered breasts bouncing around like watermelons on a trampoline.
Even the faces of the characters have had very specific changes made to them. In particular, you wont find the flawless face of Kasumi remain so flawless. In addition to the damage caused by battle, there’s a new push for facial animation that truly reflect the frustration and exhirtion of battle. The aim has been to remove just how false the previous games felt becuase even when they were being pummeled to death, they had a supermodels smile on their face. Now, depending on what’s happening in the fight they could look angry, frustrated or maybe even pleased with themselves. It’s a push for realism that should help to make the series more engaging.
Any push to realism from the appearance of the characters and their bouncy bits is immediately cancelled out by the environments found within Dead or Alive 6. At least certain ones. Multi-stage levels aren’t unusual to the series, letting the fight progress from one area to the next. Nor is it unusual to have interactive aspects in a battle, used to add to the entertainment of any level. These have been ramped up to twelve, partcularly in the new forbidden fortune arena where you’ll find one person get grabbed and smashed through the deck by a kraken before both fighters decide it’s a good idea to set fire to the wooden ship they’re fighting in.
It’s engaging, fun and looks downright awesome. So are the levels that are based more in realism. In addition to being able to fight around a giant Kraken, you also get the chance to fight in arenas that are as simple as having a few spectators around. These spectators also get involved, to a small degree. Knocking an enemy into a member of the crowd will see them catch the fighter and then push them right back into the fight, throwing them off balance and leaving them open to yet another attack. Small elements like this can truly add to feel of a battle, just as much as any explosions or giant squids.
From a person who’s regular time with fighting games are telling them to leave me alone while I play RPG’s or Strategy games, my hands on with Dead or Alive 6 was certainly a positive one.
I can’t help but love the aesthetic choice, with the design and look of characters being absolutely fantastic. This is rounded off with interesting levels, with some being more realistic and others having the more fantastical elements that the series has had before. It’s engaging and fun as well as easy to get into, that’s by far the most important thing here.