Review: Dead or Alive 5 Last Round (PC)

Despite originally debuting in 2012, the saga of Dead or Alive 5 continues to push forward. After essentially three additional iterations, Koei Tecmo has decided to release yet another version of their quick-paced and overly sexualized fighter, and for the first time, on PC. While the PC edition is a little late to the party, and won’t ship with online functionality at launch, we could quite possibly have the definitive version of Team Ninja’s fighter. Console gamers may have had their fill, but PC players should get a good taste at what Dead or Alive 5 has to offer.

The basic formula from previous DOA games remains the same, and being a fighting game, that’s generally not a bad thing — especially when the system is as solid as this. Dead or Alive 5 Last Round uses the “Triangle System” (also known as “Rock Paper Scissors”), where certain moves defeat others. The four basic movies are punches, kicks, throws and holds — each mapped to a different face button. Punches take priority over throws, holds take priority over punches and throws take priority over holds. While there are a ton of intricacies, such as holding at different heights or guarding, the formula remains the same. It’s an easy-to-grasp system that makes DOA not only less-frustrating than other titles to master, but accessible for the unconverted.

While the fundamentals remain the same, the presentation has received a graphical overhaul. Stages have been refined to better take advantage of the settings. Pinning opponents against walls occurs more frequently and level-specific “Danger Zones” have been updated with “Cliffhangers”, allowing the downed combatant to make one desperate grab before falling. Cosmetically, the most noticeable change is the addition of perspiration. As the match goes on, fighters begin to sweat depending on the effort put forth. Characters eventually become drenched in sweat that, yes, makes clothing see-through. It’s not just sweat, though, as the more they roll around on the ground, the more dirt they tract, as well. While seemingly irrelevant, these add a layer of realism to the game that makes it seem more immediate.

While on the subject of translucent tops, it’d be foolish not to bring up the “breast physics”. While bouncing breasts have always been a staple of the fighting series, they’ve been completely shaken up — literally. Female assets moved based on the costume worn and traced movement, but it reached the point where it was just silly. Jiggle. Any tiny movement will elicit breast movement. Extend an arm? Jiggle. Take a step forward? Jiggle. Smile? Jiggle. It’s even more apparent in Last Round with a seemingly new, and highly promoted engine that may as well have its own AI assigned. While the physics were intended to add realism to character models, it ironically made the game less genuine. Let’s be honest, though; ridiculous as it may be, it’s doubtful Koei Tecmo will be receiving any complaints from male fans any time soon.

Unfortunately, the game doesn’t sound as good as it looks. Throughout the entire campaign is an atrocious English dub that makes the story more unintentionally funny than it already is. With over-expressive reactions and voices that don’t match the characters, it hardly seems like any effort was put forth. Thankfully, the language can be changed to Japanese with subtitles from the main menu, displaying the emotion the English dub should have carried. While it’s a nice option and certainly recommended, players shouldn’t have to be forced to play a game in another language to avoid poor voice acting.

Dead or Alive Ultimate was a significant leap in terms of enhancing the formula Team Ninja established in 2012, not to mention adding new characters into the mix, but unfortunately Last Round can only be described as incremental. While we get all of the characters and meaningful enhancements to the combat that were in Ultimate, there are only two new characters to be found, and unfortunately, the PC version is missing the two additional stages. Raidou makes his return to the Dead or Alive franchise, best known for his appearance in the first game, but he has gone through some cybernetic changes. The other character is Honoka, a young Japanese school girl who doesn’t really have any of her own defining traits. This is because Honoka has essentially meshed together moves from other characters to form her own attack pattern. She’s a fascinating experiment, and with a cast of 35 unique individuals, which includes the three downloadable characters from the last game, you can’t really knock Team Ninja for taking the easy route in not designing a new move set — although she takes the best moves possible.

Like the rest of the package, the visuals aren’t a significant overhaul, either. As mentioned before, the breast physics have been lightly touched upon to give more jiggle for every movement. The fact that that’s a touted feature is depressing on many levels. Regardless, it’s abruptly obvious that this was developed for consoles. Character models are the biggest highlight and look absolutely gorgeous, but the environments can be lacking in a lot of spots. There are 24 different stages to choose from, and just as many as there are vibrant areas, there are those that look dull and even contain some spotty texture work.  Thankfully, at the speed Last Round moves at, the player’s focus won’t be trained on the backgrounds, and most of them are interactable, having multiple layers to a fight through. There’s also an embarrassing amount of fan service. While I’m sure male fans of the series won’t be too upset with the constant panty shots and highly exposed cleavages, it might be a little much for the average consumer. There are some costumes that have characters fully clothed and throwbacks to older games, but Team Ninja is very much going after a certain audience. There are also costumes including in the package that weren’t in the console versions, at least not without paying.

As one would expect with a PC release, there are a couple of visual upgrades that take advantage of the more powerful and flexible hardware. Unfortunately, the configuration is not located within the game itself as it’s an external program that needs to be activated before going into the main software. Internal resolution is able to hit 3840×2160 with shadow resolution as high as 4096×4096, and the ability to adjust the anti-aliasing (upwards of 4x SSAA) is available. Other than that, there’s not a lot here to choose from. Texture resolution is standard throughout, same with any visual effects. Regardless, while this isn’t a significant overhaul over its console counterpart, it definitely benefits from the anti-aliasing and crispness if you have the hardware to back it up – and it doesn’t take a lot to run Last Round. That’s not to mentioning the modding community is a dedicated bunch, even though Koei Tecmo has warned them about going overboard.

It’s highly advised to play Dead or Alive 5 Last Round with a controller. While the keyboard controls aren’t unusable, although they take an incredible amount of effort to get used to, they aren’t ideal. Using M and L as confirm and cancel, respectively, is an odd choice to begin with, not to mention the attack commands are assigned to the most awkward keys. Mind you, they’re not scattered about, but there’s no way the mechanics were supposed to be used like this. It certainly doesn’t help that the keys can’t be remapped, making things even worse for those without controllers. Overall, those who buy Dead or Alive 5 Last Round on PC will be in for an unfortunate time if they don’t have a controller handy.

Closing Comments:

It’s unfortunate that Koei Tecmo released Dead or Alive 5 Last Round for PC in its current state. There’s nothing technically wrong with the release, it’s just missing one of the most key components: online functionality. There’s a lot of content to be found, namely a bevy of fighters and single player modes, but the lack of competitive multiplayer and leaderboards makes this a trivial release, at least right now. It doesn’t help that the keyboard controls aren’t ideal for a fighting game and the inability to remap them only make things worse. Thankfully, the sharper visuals do add to the experience and it’s not too difficult to hit 60fps. The fighting mechanics are also highly entertaining as things move at an incredibly fast pace. It might have benefited Dead or Alive 5 Last Round to be issued into Steam’s Early Access program as, in its current state, is a lacking experience that’s below its console counterparts.