Dead or Alive 6 review: Not just a pretty face

Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja
Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja /

The Dead or Alive series has a reputation that precedes it, but is the latest main entry a true contender or just another pretender?

Title: Dead or Alive 6
Developer: Team Ninja
Publisher: Koei Tecmo
Platforms: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbox One, PC (via Steam)
Release date: March 1, 2019

A series like Dead or Alive might have a pretty steep hill to climb for those wanting to dive into it for the first time. Unlike similar and more complex 3D fighters like Tekken or Soulcalibur, DoA developed a reputation that went well beyond its arena-style gameplay.

Fanservice. Including lots and lots of fanservice.

Whether that be through main entries or a cavalcade of spinoffs, scantily-clad characters are probably the first thing you think of if you know anything remotely about Dead or Alive. Of course, your mileage will vary on whether or not that interests you.

Dead or Alive 6
Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja /

So when the series’ sixth main iteration was announced, and promises of a bigger focus on gameplay and a push for esports were made, people had every right to be skeptical. DoA was never really known for breaking the mold within the fighting game scene, again, in comparison to its direct competitors.

Ultimately, Dead or Alive 6 presents some fun combat that stays true to the series but unfortunately stumbles in a few key areas that keep it just short of the echelon of great fighting games on the market.

It would likely take a herculean effort to turn those around who maybe didn’t take the series seriously until now or were just completely turned-off by the overabundant sexualization of some characters.

So, did they succeed with Dead or Alive 6? Well, somewhat. Ultimately, Dead or Alive 6 presents some fun combat that stays true to the series but unfortunately stumbles in a few key areas that keep it just short of the echelon of great fighting games on the market.

One of the first things you’ll notice right off the bat is how great the game looks. The series has moved to a brand-new engine for current-gen hardware, and it shows. The lighting shines (for lack of a better term) in the game’s varied stage environments. Lush greens, bright daytime areas, inner-city slums, and nice-looking indoor arenas are just a few of the scenes for combat.

Dead or Alive 6
Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja /

Characters also really stand out as well and look the best they ever have thanks to the bump in hardware. While it’s nowhere near the level of detail of say Soulcalibur VI, the Dead or Alive 6 cast gets a significant boost in facial animations and some clothing textures throughout the varied 27-character base roster.

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  • The game’s included photo mode, the first for a fighter as far as I can tell, does a decent job of showing off the level of detail despite being pretty bare-bones in terms of features. And just like in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round, water and sweat effects can be turned off in the options, and the jiggle-physics can be toned down if either option looks a bit too unnerving for you.

    The newest entry also stays true to the series’ roots in terms of gameplay, not going too far out of the way to mix up the formula. Each fighter has a unique fighting style made up of strikes, kicks, grabs, and holds which make up a pretty fun and accessible system. Combos with strikes and kicks are actually really easy to perform off the bat, but the real meat of combat is learning how to counter an opponent with holds and using grabs.

    New to the series in this game is the Break Gauge, which is the series’ first experimentation of a meter that can be used for things such as the Fatal Rush system, which essentially act as super moves for each character. Unfortunately, not many of the final Fatal Rush moves are abundantly creative, with most resulting in either a close-up of a character getting punched in the face or merely pushed away to the other side of the arena.

    Thankfully, Dead or Alive 6 has plenty of single-player options to help teach these new mechanics. A pretty extensive tutorial hits both basic and more advanced techniques, while each character also comes with combo and command challenges as well as their own arcade ladders. For those wanting to get out of the training room, DoA Quest is a serviceable option with plenty of missions to complete and rewards for certain costumes to collect.

    Dead or Alive 6
    Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja /

    One of the bigger negatives of Dead or Alive 6, however, is the story mode. Those who haven’t been keeping up with the series get absolutely no background as to what’s going on aside from a couple of paragraphs of text before hopping into the main plot, which shows very little of the game’s namesake tournament and instead focuses on the resurrection of original series big bad Raidou by the organization M.I.S.T.

    Experience through several games included a large amount of lag throughout ranked matches and just made things unenjoyable overall.

    With the way it’s all laid out, it feels more like a series of cutscenes rather than a cohesive plot. In the menu, the main story exists in one thread while tons of side episodes that are taking place at the same time are in quite a few others. Not only that but after selecting one cutscene or story battle, you’re transported back to the menu to select another. It creates a pretty big disconnect and takes out any sense of immersion that keeping everything together would have been.

    The online experience also isn’t great as of launch weekend. Experience through several games included a large amount of lag throughout ranked matches and just made things unenjoyable overall. Lobbies are also not available at the time of this writing, but they are coming later in March as part of a free update. One thing it does get right, however, is in telling players when they’ve matched up with either a wired or wireless connection. It’s a pretty nifty feature for those who want to avoid Wi-Fi warriors at all cost.

    Dead or Alive 6
    Koei Tecmo, Team Ninja /

    What’s an even bigger negative towards the game is how it handles rewards. While in-game gold is fine to buy hairstyles and glasses for characters, the way costumes can be unlocked is a tedious grind controlled by random number generation.

    Essentially, every time you level up your player profile, you get random costume parts for a character you may not play or an outfit you may never use. It’s not quite a loot box mechanic, but it’s just as infuriating. Even trying to unlock more specific parts through Dead or Alive Quest feels like much of a grind than it should be, which leads to the next point of this review.

    The abhorrently-priced season pass may be the most inexcusable thing about Dead or Alive 6. It’s not completely surprising given the history of the series’ DLC, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see that this expensive of a model still exists.

    For example, around $93 USD will get you the game’s first season pass, which includes access to tons of optional costumes and only two extra fighters coming in June. The pair will both be guests from SNK fame, with one being Mai Shiranui, who returns a guest spot in Last Round. On top of that, it may not even include all of the DLC released in the next three months (which is what the pass is supposed to cover.)

    Much like Last Round, DoA 6 is scheduled to get a free-to-play “Core Fighters” version down the line, but it doesn’t really help things at the launch of a $60, full-retail price game.

    6. <em>Dead or Alive 6</em> is certainly a looker; make no mistake about that. It’s even really fun to play at times, and anyone from season veterans to button-mashers can get in on the action with no problem at all. But everything else about the game makes it difficult to recommend unless a free-to-play version launches down the line.. Team Ninja. . Dead or Alive 6

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.