Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (PS3) Review

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Good: Arcade perfection, largest roster to date, core fighters
Bad: Same old sort, Dead or Alive 5 Penultimate
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(18 votes)
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dead or alive title

Team Ninja’s latest entry in their bouncy, for lack of a better term, fighting series brings the ultimate iteration to home consoles. Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate brings all of the best parts from both the original entry and the PlayStation Vita-exclusive 5 Plus entry in combination with arcade/tournament rebalancing. With Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate releasing less than a year after the original, is it worthy of being called Ultimate, or is it just another expansion?



Arcade perfection
If there’s one thing that fighting game creators have learned over the past twenty years, it’s that players can and will find glitches or seemingly broken moves. Team Ninja have taken a great deal of advice from the fans, especially at Japanese arcades, and have released a version of Dead or Alive 5 that seemingly fixes nearly every issue from the previous entry. Power Blows have been fixed to be more viable in casual gameplay and enhanced with a new Power Launcher attack. The Tag mode has also been overhauled with how health is recovered (previously, a tagged-out character could recover up to full health if given enough time) similar to the red health shown in other tag fighters. A new Force Out ability has also been added to knock an opponent’s character out of the ring for a short time and replace them with their partner, handy if you don’t want someone that you’ve been beating on to suddenly come back later on with a huge life advantage.

dead or alive training

Tutorials have also been overhauled to allow newcomers to the series to get a hang of Dead or Alive‘s more detailed mechanics. After covering the basics of the triangle system (Holds beat punch/kicks beat throws beat holds), the tutorials throw you right into the basics of juggling and the newer power moves. Almost every technique a new player needs to learn their footing is available from the onset. Once the basics are down, each character has a series of challenges dedicated to showing off some of their common, or bread and butter, combos for daily use. Tina’s combo challenges, for example, are dedicated to showing how to link normal punches and kicks into some of her more devastating throw setups.

dead or alive tag

Online play has been greatly overhauled with fresh netcode that not once has dropped me from a match or given me hassle with playing against fighters across the country. Lobbies can run in either traditional round-robin passing where the winner stays or a multitude of other single and tag play settings. One of the more novel innovations to Ultimate is the ability to join a lobby mid-round and spectate a game in progress, rather than having to wait until the match’s end. Smack talking has never been easier with both the inclusion of voice and text chat between spectators and combatants. What better way to show your upset than with an emoticon representation of someone flipping a table.

Largest roster to date

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate brings together nearly every character from the previous entries along with some new faces. More of the Virtua Fighter cast joins the original three cameos, bringing Pai and Jacky as first timers to the franchise. Two new faces also join the cast from one of Team Ninja’s other titles, Ninja Gaiden. Rachel from the original title in the rebooted series and Momiji from the handheld-only Dragon Sword bring their own fighting styles to the DOATEC tournament. Nearly every previously character makes an appearance in Ultimate‘s roster, save for a number of boss characters and guest characters (sorry Spartan-458, but you’ve been replaced by Rachel). With nearly 30 characters each with their own signature fighting styles makes for quite a diverse roster.

dead or alive momiji

Core fighters
Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate offers another experimental attempt at the free-to-play fighting game genre that’s picked up over the recent months. Whereas games like Tekken Revolution strip down the content and limit players to only a handful of characters, Core Fighters offers nearly the full experience with four playable characters initially (Kasumi, Ayane, Hayate and Ryu). Story mode is absent, but a full online component is included in addition to new tutorials, lobby matches, and the ability to purchase new characters for $4 each. While this isn’t a review focused on Dead or Alive 5 Core Fighters, the option to get the full DoA experience before committing $50 down is a great way to bring in new players.



Same old story

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate brings back the same DOATEC story fans have already played through in both 5 and 5 Plus. In what could have been a chance to expand on the events from the first title, the identical story mode has instead been recreated frame by frame. For those that are playing the Core Fighters version and haven’t seen what happens in the story at least have the option to purchase and play through the story mode in its entirety, albeit at a $14.99 price tag.

dead or alive costumes

Dead or Alive Penultimate
In one of the shortest timespans in fighting game history (Capcom waited at least six months before announcing Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3), Dead or Alive 5 had seen its first console debut in September 2012, a Vita enhanced Plus edition in March, and now a second retail version this week. On top of that, Team Ninja has announced a new arcade version of Ultimate to be arriving later this year, news that came about less than 48 hours after Ultimate‘s release. While there has been no word that this new version along with its one new character will not be arriving to existing owners of 5 Ultimate, it has left me wondering if this really isn’t the ultimate entry that I’ve been waiting for.


With the numerous tweaks and additional characters, hardcore fans will appreciate the revitalization to the Dead or Alive series for rebalancing tournament play. However, casual fans and players only interested in trying out the updated roster may find themselves wanting more from a full retail release. The inclusion of a free to play option and quite possibly the best lobby support of any fighting game definitely give the chance for players to give Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate a chance to prove that they too are a fighter.

[Editor’s Note: Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate was reviewed on the PlayStation 3 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]

Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate (PS3) Review, 8.9 out of 10 based on 18 ratings
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