Easy on the eye
Team Ninja has pulled out all the stops for DEAD OR ALIVE 5, making this one of the best-looking fighting games on PlayStation 3. Character movements are extremely fluid and the fighters have a more realistic look compared to the anime style of previous games. Subtle details such as clothes getting dirty or transparent with sweat, characters dripping with water and fighters showing signs of fatigue draw you in further and give neat clues as to how you and your opponent are faring.
Away from the main gameplay modes, Watch mode lets you view a replay of your match and to take photographs from any position or angle. This is useful for picking up tips on a character's fighting style as well as being an ideal way to take brilliant action shots that are stored for later viewing in the Album mode.
The Story mode is where the game's presentation really shines, being fully voiced and stuffed with high-quality, action-packed cutscenes. Fighting game purists even have the option to turn on the original Japanese voiceovers.
Kings of the ring
With a huge line-up of 24 characters to choose from, no one can complain about the variety of brawlers on offer. They're all competing in the fifth DOATEC tournament for different reasons, and you'll have to pay close attention to the Story mode to keep track of their motives, personalities and relationships to one another. There are more plot twists and tangled webs here than in your average soap opera episode!
Of the 24 brawlers, Mila and Rig are brand new. Mila is an up-and-coming fighter with one eye on taking on her idol, retired wrestler Bass Armstrong. Rig is an offshore oil platform foreman with no memory of his real name or his family. There are also five unlockable characters, including the elderly and still dangerous Gen Fu and the powerful, inhuman Alpha-152.
Best of all are the guest appearances of Akira Yuki, Sarah Bryant and Pai Chan, whose names will be familiar to fans of the Virtua Fighter series. They're the three remaining unlockable characters and slot seamlessly into DEAD OR ALIVE 5's lethal line-up. Fight fans will get a real buzz from this surprising but hugely welcome crossover between the two series.
The fight of your life
DEAD OR ALIVE 5 uses the series' trademark rock-paper-scissors fighting system. In a nutshell, normal attacks (called strikes) beat throws, throws beat holds and holds beat normal attacks. This means success is down to predicting what your opponent is going to do and then attacking with whatever beats it. The best players can spend hours and hours perfecting their timing and reactions, and there's enormous fun to be had whatever your ability.
Two new moves you'll need to get to grips with are the Critical Burst and the Power Blow. The former inflicts a temporary stun that can't be broken by the usual counter hold, giving you precious time to deal maximum damage by finishing your combo unchallenged. The latter is a charged attack that slams your hapless foe into the environment, but you can perform it only once per round and only when you're below 50 per cent health.
On multi-level stages, a Cliffhanger Quick Time Event happens whenever a character hangs off the edge of a platform after being knocked off it; choosing to hang on is risky but gives the chance to block, escape or reverse the attack. You can even knock your rivals into Danger Zone deathtraps including train wrecks, oil fires and even tigers! Yes, tigers.
Friend or foe?
Up to 16 players can battle it out in DEAD OR ALIVE 5's tournaments which you can arrange and host via PlayStation Network. You can take part in a simple match, a rank match or a lobby match, while a handy fighter list lets you view the records of other online brawlers and challenge them to a battle at any time. Obviously it pays to pick a player who's roughly around your level to give you the best chance of coming out on top.
Perhaps the best way to take in the action is a visit to the Online Dojo, where you can practise and hone your skills with other players in a training mode before taking the plunge in a competitive match. Bringing fight fans even closer together is a Spectator mode that allows you to chat with other players while watching fights.
If you want to brag about your online achievements, you can post your titles and share your fighting statistics with mates on Facebook. Just remember: there'll always be someone looking to take your records and take you down.