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E3 2018 Hands-On Preview: Dead or Alive 6 Takes a More Intense Approach To Fighting

I’m the weird guy that plays fighting games for the story. I’m not a competitive online fighter, so I tend to gravitate more to games like Tekken, Injustice, and Mortal Kombat than I do Virtua Fighter and Street Fighter (or really any fighter that has the word “fighter” in the title). Dead or Alive has always flown under my radar, neither being a fighting game that I gravitate towards nor one that I shy away from. I knew nothing about the fighting system in the game. To be honest, the only thing I’ve really known about Dead or Alive is that it’s had a strong focus on sexualized female characters and “bounce physics” in the chest area. I mean, this is the series that had an Xtreme Beach Volleyball outing, where the characters stripped down to bikinis and literally just played volleyball on a beach.

That said, when I saw the key art for Dead or Alive 6, I was mildly curious. Instead of focusing on cleavage or sexy female characters, the key art is dark and gritty (you can see the art in the gallery below). It caught my attention precisely because it was not what I expected from a DOA game. With the focus off of bouncing breasts and revealing costumes, Dead or Alive 6 can now offer a better lens on its fighting mechanics, which are actually quite unique.

Dead or Alive 6 preview

Punch, kick, grab, and counter are the four actions Dead or Alive centers around. Despite the simplicity, battles play out very quickly. The fighters move with speed and finesse, at least the six that I was able to play as. Jann Lee,  Zack, Helena, Kasumi, Ryu Hayabusa, and Hayate were all available in the behind closed doors demo, each with their own quite unique fighting styles.The final game will undoubtedly have more characters with even more styles of play mapped across the four simple commands.

To help out newcomers, Dead or Alive 6 has what I would refer to as an “easy button.” Mashing R1 (or the equivalent Xbox button) allows players to perform a cool combo called a Fatal Rush that feels really good to pull off. If you’ve played Injustice or Mortal Kombat, the Fatal Rush is kind of similar to the brutal X-ray moves. Of course, rely on this too much and it’s easy for the opponent to block or counter. They can’t make it too cheap and easy. But it’s an effective tool that newcomers and pros alike can throw into their combos to feel like they are actually accomplishing something on the battlefield. As with any good fighting game there is a nuance to the combos, blocks, counters, grabs, and variety of other moves you can do. Despite its simple learnability, there’s still a complexity to the moveset, and mashing the easy button wasn’t enough for me to beat Game Director Yohei Shimbori in a one on one versus match.

More than the fighters, I like fighting games with great level design, and the two stages I played in Dead or Alive 6 had interesting mechanics to play with. One featured an electric fence that could do additional damage, while the other was a street fight. Pushing the opponent into one of the people surrounding the fight would cause them to push the fighter back into the stage, allowing me to do a follow up attack. There were also some breakable boxes in this area that I could throw my opponent through. Either stage, I wanted to keep away from the edge of the ring.

While I’m still wouldn’t consider myself much of a fighting game player, it’s great to see one of the long running series in the genre reinventing itself. The new Fatal Rush system is a great way for beginners to hop on board, and the game has a new grittier tone, while still retaining the bright and colorful cast and level design. By taking Dead or Alive 6 a little bit more seriously and offering an intensity to the battles, the series may be able to escape the generalization of “sexy fighter” that it has earned itself.

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