This edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Team Ninja's stylish one-on-one fighter Dead or Alive 5, which reviewers claim "just doesn't deliver what a sequel should." Dead or Alive 5 currently earns a score of 74 out of 100 at Metacritic.com.
Ian Bonds at Destructoid scores Dead or Alive 5 at 8.5 out of 10. "To me, the Dead or Alive series has never been the most technical of fighting games," he begins. "While it can be rewarding to master, it's always been more about the flash of style over fighting prowess. That is to say it's been a series that just about anyone can pick up and play, but only the determined will fully explore the intricacies of the counter system and surprisingly deep movesets."
Bonds continues: "The franchise staple of a four-button system (punch, kick, block, and throw) returns, but a few new features have been added to spice things up a bit. For starters, there is now a tag-team element -- doing a simple grab without any direction on the analog stick allows for a team grab or throw. Certain combinations of characters allow for unique attacks here as well, such as Tina and Bass's wrestling family grapple."
Bonds also praises the game's "odd yet surprisingly deep" story mode.
"You'll switch among each character in the game, following just about every person's various pathways to the tournament, and often replaying scenes from both perspectives," he explains. "You'll have different goals for each battle, which act as tutorials of sorts that attempt to teach you not only the basics but also the new techniques to hone your fighting skills."
"Dead or Alive 5 is a delicious surprise," Bonds says. "It's still not as technical a fighter as Tekken or Virtua Fighter, but it seems to be taking a step in that direction while still keeping what fans have loved about the series intact -- flashy characters, ease of play, and fan service."
OXM's Heidi Kemps rates Dead or Alive 5 at 8 out of 10. "3D fighting games have always been a bit daunting for new players to leap into, but Dead or Alive has traditionally been very accessible thanks to its simple, forgiving control scheme and ease in making awesome-looking stuff happen," she writes.
"DoA 5 continues the tradition of feeling like an 'entry-level' 3D fighter. It's certainly not devoid of depth and high-level complexity, but grasping the basics and doing cool moves is much easier than in other games of its type."
The game's graphics are another strong point. "DoA's distinct over-the-top visuals and backgrounds have always added to its novice appeal, and DoA 5 may just be the best-looking fighting game on the market," Kemps praises. "Its completely redone, ultra-detailed character models now look like human beings instead of eerie porcelain dolls (phew!), and the expansive backdrops are awe-inspiring."
"It's a solid, fun fighter for sure," she continues, "but it also lacks that special something previous installments had. Dead or Alive is a series known for pushing the envelope in many different ways, and DoA 5 simply doesn't deliver that same sense of daring design that previous titles offered. The gameplay is mostly just a tweaked version of DoA 4, with additions like the Power Blows augmenting existing gameplay rather than delivering a true game-changer."
"DoA 5 doesn't fail to deliver its ballyhooed 'fighting entertainment,'" Kemps adds, "but the spectacle still feels like it could've done with a bit more oomph."
Game Informer's Dan Ryckert gives Dead or Alive 5 a score of 6 out of 10. "With Dead or Alive 5, fighting fans are left wondering what Team Ninja has been up to since the departure of series creator Tomonobu Itagaki," he notes. "Now that this sequel is out after seven years, it feels as if the development team was simply treading water the entire time."
Ryckert finds the game's story mode to be "utterly incoherent," explaining that it's "essentially a long tutorial."
"Outside of the awful story mode, you'll find a grab bag of expected features," Ryckert says. "You can take part in arcade, survival, time attack, and versus modes, and these offer no surprises. Core gameplay is mostly unchanged, but a few new mechanics mix things up. Power blows allow you to charge an attack when your health meter is low, and you can aim where you want your opponent to be thrown. This can be used to trigger destructible and interactive elements of various stages."
"These environmental attacks are fun, but they're not enough to shake Dead or Alive 5's constant sense of familiarity," Ryckert writes. "It feels unchanged, from the creepy obsession with virtual breast physics (now with sweat!) to the asinine narrative. Other elements detract from the experience as well, including long load times and the lack of significant character customization."
"Dead or Alive 5 can be a decent fighter when you're settling into a good match, but the overall package just doesn't deliver what a sequel should," Ryckert concludes. "New characters Mila and Rig are fun to control, and some cameos from Virtua Fighter are a nice bonus, but this series simply hasn't progressed in the same way that its peers in the genre have. This may have sufficed as a sequel in 2007, but Dead or Alive is getting lapped by its competitors in 2012."