Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate Review

By Darryl Kaye on October 8, 2013

It may seem like an odd analogy, but the Dead or Alive franchise feels rather like the buses at the moment; you wait around for years until the next release, then you get a whole bunch of them in a short space of time. Indeed, while the wait between Dead or Alive 4 and 5 was quite considerable, we're now on our third iteration of Dead or Alive 5 despite it releasing a year ago. Still, it's not all bad as with Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, there are some new modes, characters and a smoother online experience.

To cut straight to the chase, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate features almost everything from the original, but also Dead or Alive 5 Plus, which released on the PlayStation Vita in March, 2013. This means that the developers have had time to address feedback about how the game plays, resulting in better balancing, but they've also had time to fix bugs that cropped up in the previous two versions.

All of the original Dead or Alive 5 characters return, but this time there are a few notable extras. Taking a small leaf out of Namco and Capcom's book, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate features Jacky Bryant from rival franchise Virtua Fighter. But there's also room for Momiji and Rachel from Ninja Gaiden. Leon and Ein, who featured in earlier Dead or Alive games, round out the character additions to bring the overall roster to 29.

While the addition of Jacky Bryant is only a small step, it does hint towards potential plans for the two franchises. Street Fighter x Tekken and vice versa has garnered quite a lot of interest and DoA x Virtua Fighter would surely do the same.

The core gameplay in Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is the same, but there a few additions which Team Ninja hope will make the game more viable for competitive play. The first is the Power Launcher. This allows you to launch your opponent high up into the air, making them ripe for juggling. To cater for this, each of the characters has gained additional moves, which allow them to enter into the Power Launcher. To help with balancing, this can only be used one per round and only if the opposing character has less than 50 percent health.

Tag Mode has also seen some modifications to make it more enticing for high-level players. It's also now much more accessible, with two-on-two tag battles arriving to the online scene.

When looking at specifics, tagged characters now have restrictions placed on how much health they can get back and there's also a new tag-specific attack added called Force Out. If you manage to score a Force Out, that character is rendered obsolete for a short amount of time. This means you have to weather the storm with only one character.

These two additions do make the gameplay more interesting, but outside of that, it's pretty much the same experience as with Dead or Alive 5. There are some new poses and tag throws, but that's just basic filler material.

When it comes to the game's presentation, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate features a few glossy touches here and there, but as with many other elements featured, the vast majority is taken from the original game. Some of the costumes added via downloadable content come packed in with this version and if you already bought a ton of them, they will also work with this version of the game. It's a nice touch on both accounts. Ultimate, as with Plus, also makes it possible to use your own music during fights.

The online mode is where this game will see the majority of its replay value, but it's great that Dead or Alive 5 Plus' tutorial mode makes an appearance. While not that greater for veterans, it does make the game a bit more accessible to newcomers who maybe aren't so familiar with the Dead or Alive franchise, and the mechanics that set it apart from its contemporaries. When it comes to the online, the experience has been made a bit smoother. Taking some pointers from Street Fighter, there's now a Character Points system, which allows you to see how good your opponent is. With the addition of two-on-two tag battles, the experience also gets a bit more strategic.

Final Thoughts

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is without a doubt the best version of the game to date, but given the close proximity to the other releases, it's hard to recommend to anyone who has already picked up a version of Dead or Alive 5. Still, there are some good changes to the online side of things and the new characters are solid, so you could do a lot worse if you haven't played Dead or Alive 5 yet.

Power Launcher makes the combat more intense.
Two-on-two can now be played online.
Jacky Bryant.
Not enough content to warrant a second DoA5 purchase.
Core gameplay needed a bigger facelift.
Can't play online with either of the previous two versions.
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