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Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate Review

See PixlBit's Review Policies

On 09/29/2013 at 12:00 PM by Daniel Iverson

Three's a crowd.

Easier to recommend the less you've already purchased.

Dead or Alive 5 represents a classic fighting game paradox. While every release increases the game's quality, it also increases the burden of delivering added value to fans who are skeptical of re-buying a game they’ve already purchased one or two (or three or four) times.

Enter DOA5 Ultimate, the third iteration of Team Ninja’s fifth entry into its provocative fighting game series. Originally released almost exactly a year ago, DOA5 returned with a Vita port (Plus) in March. Now it’s bouncing back to consoles with a few extra features to share.

DOA5 was already pretty great, so the fact that Ultimate is the best version now available should be no surprise. Like with any “Ultimate” or “Game of the Year” update, however, being the best version now available doesn't necessarily equate to being worth the upgrade.

While Ultimate's complete list of updates is quite extensive, a lot of its “new” features are imported from Plus. Although these features still might be new to audiences who skipped the Vita port, I’m going to focus on what's unique to the Ultimate release.

Five new characters, boosting the roster to 29, comprise what's easily the most visible and substantial update. DOA regulars Ein and Leon return, Jacky joins the other Virtua Fighter guests, and Momiji and Rachel represent Ninja Gaiden.

Momiji's the most fun of the lot. She's responsive and quick, and her spectacular acrobatic combos are surprisingly easy to use. Ein and Leon are true to their earlier incarnations. The former's combos are great, while the latter's strength is a force to be reckoned with. Jacky's fighting style resembles Jann Lee's. He's about the punches and therefore a great choice up close, but low damage and short reach can be a problem against certain opponents. Rachel is a well balanced character, but she's also the least distinct.

While the gameplay is mostly untouched, Ultimate adds one new mechanic called Power Launcher. Like Power Blow from the original release, it's a special attack you may activate only after you drop below 50% health. It launches opponents into the air, opening them up to aerial combos. Also like Power Blow, it's a bit tough to pull off because it will be canceled if you're hit while holding the buttons to activate it. As a casual player, I found it was smarter to keep calm and carry on than to get myself KO'ed trying to activate it. It might be more useful to a more skilled player, but it doesn't fundamentally change the gameplay either way.

Several of the well received training modes from the Vita port return, but the only new mode unique to Ultimate is Team Fight, which allows you to build a team of up to seven characters to fight against the computer or a couch opponent. It's a welcome addition, but there isn't a whole lot else to say about it except it's a shame you can't play it online.

Speaking of which, Ultimate addresses the unreliable online experience PixlBit's original review described with improved netcode. I didn't notice any lag, but the trade off is incompatibility with earlier versions of the game. Other online updates include new ranking systems and the ability to play tag team matches with a friend. An online pass is no longer required to play online, either.

Ultimate boasts 231 costumes, including one or two new ones per character. While a lot of the paid DLC costumes from DOA5 are now unlockable in-game, others undermine the “Ultimate” designation by still requiring a purchase. The game also adds five new stages, increases the number of titles to more than 800, and implements myriad other tweaks, some of which you'll notice and/or care about more than others.

Ultimate costs $40 — a reasonable price, at least at face value. Fighting game DLC characters are usually $4–$5 apiece, so the roster update alone could be said to add $20–$25 value. With the other $15–20, you get a ton of DLC costumes cheaper than buying them individually, the other new features, and the base game itself.

If you don’t already own a version of DOA5, Ultimate would be the one to buy. Face value doesn’t always reflect perceived value, however. If you’re considering a second or even a third purchase, you’re likely to experience a sense of diminishing returns here. Welcome although the other changes may be, the new characters and possibly the online improvements (if you’re still playing online a lot) are the only updates with enough substance to factor into purchasing decisions. They're likely to rekindle your interest for a while, but expect a quick return to feeling like you've already experienced everything worthwhile the game has to offer.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




09/29/2013 at 12:28 PM

*sinster laugh* AT LAST! it seems that TKAC has realized the error of their ways and have killed there online pass! if only for this game it is atleast a good start. too bad they didn't realize this with the re-release of Ninja Gaiden. i passed on DOA5 because of their accursed online pass. looks like I can now finally play it and get it all at a discount. sold!

Vice's Assistant

09/29/2013 at 08:26 PM

Good review. Out of curiosity, what do you think about the Free-to-play verison? It looks to be pretty solid but I can't tell for sure because I have the retail verison. Though there's no difference when playing online. That is a really good netcode.


09/30/2013 at 04:25 PM

Sounds good.  I was waiting on DOA 5 and Ultimate looks like my reward.  I'll pick it up soon.


10/01/2013 at 09:35 AM

I'm glad I held out of DOA5.  Now, I can just get this version. 

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