Over the years, Tecmo has established a fun little fighting franchise with "Dead or Alive," featuring sexy women battling athletic men in a variety of settings. For its latest go-around, "Dead or Alive 5," the hot women return, and there are some fundamental additions to the fighting.
The game brings back old favorites , including Texas spitfire Tina and the would-be ninja Kasumi. This version also has new characters, including a kickboxing construction worker named Rig, a female mixed martial arts master named Mila, and a pair of veterans, Akira and Sarah Bryant, from Sega's "Virtual Fighter" series. They all come together in a quality cast of balanced fighters – no one has an advantage. Even the large wrestling pro Bass can be taken down easily with some punches and kicks.
Like previous games, "Dead or Alive 5" is all about chaining together combination hits and countering incoming attacks at the right moment. But now you have access to a new Power Blow, which can stun opponents in the midst of their attacks, leaving them wide open for your barrage. There's also a new Critical Strike feature, which unlocks after you drop below 50 percent in energy, enabling you to unleash a powerful strike that puts you back in the match.
It's fair and balanced, something both casual players and fighting pros will appreciate. There are hardly any cheap shots here to exploit; everyone has a fighting chance.
The game modes are pretty basic and allow you to get fighting right away. You can face a friend in your living room or hop on Xbox Live or PlayStation Network to battle someone online. You can challenge a string of opponents in Survival Mode, or you can test your speed in Time Attack. There's also a Story Mode that splits up among several characters, like Kasumi, her rival Ayane, and others. The storyline is silly at best, but it's told through sharp-looking cut-scenes.
For this sequel, Tecmo toned down its infamous "bouncy boob" physics in favor of more realistic animation, though the girls still look great. The characters – male and female alike – are dazzling to watch as they chain attacks together, and the gorgeous backdrops to their fights are interactive. You can knock opponents into a building and watch debris rain down on them for extra damage , or smack them off a ledge, tumbling to a new area 50 or so feet down.
Though "Dead or Alive 5" doesn't change enough in formula to be considered the premier fighter, it's a quality follow-up to Part 4, with enough changes and additions to earn a place in your game library. This isn't just a pretty face.
RATING: 3 / 4