Review – Dead or Alive 6

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Dead or Alive is actually a fighting game franchise given how famous the series became for its volleyball spinoffs and the focus on its female fighters’ err, “assets”. Not only that, it is a very good fighting franchise which features a unique gameplay style; the typical “easy to learn, hard to master” aspect that lots of games attempt but fail to do.

In an era full of great fighting games such as Tekken 7, FighterZSoul Calibur VI and the upcoming Mortal Kombat 11, it was just a matter of time until Koei Tecmo decided to grace us with a brand new iteration of its staple franchise, given how its last entry was released almost six years ago. Now that Dead or Alive 6 is finally here, does it have what it takes to stand out against its competition?

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Now that’s how you upset a stomach.

In short: yes. Dead or Alive 6 is a really good fighting game and I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did. Dead or Alive 5‘s ridiculousness and excessive monetization schemes had left a bitter taste in my mouth, but this is less cumbersome in Dead or Alive 6. It’s a game with an acceptable roster size, a good chunk of modes, and the main star of the show: its excellent gameplay. But it’s not without its fair share of flaws.

I thought the main focus of Dead or Alive 6 would be its occasionally cringeworthy roster (more on that later), but I was surprised to see how excellent the controls were and how fluid its combat system was. It didn’t take long for me to learn the basics and even manage to come up with some brutal combos taking more than half of the opponent’s total HP. It also didn’t take long for me to get brutally beaten by an even more complex combo created by the CPU, showing me how much more complex and deep Dead or Alive 6‘s combat system really is. A main addition to the game is the inclusion of the Break Gauge. Think of it as your typical special meter from a fighting game; the more you beat up someone or get beaten by someone, the faster this meter fills up. Once it’s filled, you can press R1 in order to unleash the fighter’s strongest move, usually punching the opponent’s face in slow motion, with blood, sweat, and teeth flying around.

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I guess the word “subtle” doesn’t exist in Japanese.

The developers have stated that Dead or Alive 6 was supposed to be less focused on the series’ staple sexuality and more on trying to become a staple fighting title on the competitive scene. To that, I have to say that they did what they promised, but not as much as I thought. Half of the roster is still comprised of extremely young chicks with spine-crushing breasts, a good chunk of them looking like they had just left seventh grade. That’s not going to change and criticizing this aspect of the series is like criticizing the Alien movies for being too gory. The “jiggle physics” are still here and ridiculously unnatural as ever, as if each individual breast has a life of its own, as well as its own case of Tourette’s. Thankfully, those physics can be toned down on the options menu. They’re called “softness” in it. Subtlety at its finest.

Dead or Alive 6 features a wide assortment of modes right from the get-go. You have your typical arcade mode, as well as time attack, survival, online, tutorial, a challenge mode comprised of tons of different scenarios for each character, as well as a story mode complete with cutscenes and a lot of voice acting. This is no Mortal Kombat levels of script quality, as most of the dialogue is actually pretty dumb, but it’s still neat to see yet another fighting franchise adhering to this acceptable trend.

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One of the few certainties in life is that every single fighting game franchise has a Bruce Lee lookalike.

All in all, Dead or Alive 6 does a great job when it comes to its visuals. I’ve already said this about the design choices of their characters, but they are all well-built with a ton of polygons and extremely realistic animations (except the “jiggling” bit). Facial animations are standouts. The arenas are varied and detailed, some of them even including absurd things such as pterodactyls and huge tentacles, because this is Japan we’re talking about. The game also allows for you to choose between focusing on better visuals or a constant 60fps framerate, just like Nioh, another game developed by Team Ninja and published by Koei Tecmo.

I have two main gripes with Dead or Alive 6, however. One of them is related to its audio mixing. While the sound department isn’t bad at all, as the soundtrack is surprisingly good and the voice acting is less embarrassing than expected (with the exception of Zack’s and Tina’s accents), the game suffers when it comes to mixing. It’s not unusual for background NPCs to sound louder than the fighters, for instance.

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Why are you cosplaying as Deadpool?

My second main gripe revolves around the game’s progression system. Dead or Alive 6 has tons of unlockables. The amount of unlockable outfits and accessories is staggering and the amount of customization you can do with each character is huge, but unlocking said items is easier said than done. Unlocking accessories is pretty straightforward; you get a ton of in-game currency with each fight you win and you use that to buy them. Unlocking outfits requires a different kind of currency and you can’t freely spend them on the costume of your desire. You’ll randomly earn a random amount of “ribbons” for a random outfit from a random character. I have no idea what’s the idea behind this progression system, as nothing was mentioned regarding monetization practices once the game actually comes out. Thankfully, this is restricted to costumes and I honestly haven’t felt the need to come up with different outfit combinations for my fighters, as I mainly stick to the one and only Ryu Hayabusa. It’s still a puzzling decision to say the least.

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Jail bait time.

Dead or Alive 6‘s main intention is to be seen less as a hypersexualized fanservice title and more like an actually well-crafted competitive fighter, and I have to admit that the developers have managed to achieve their main objective. It’s a game with good graphics, a lot of content, and above all, excellent gameplay. Dumb jiggle physics and weird progression system aside, this is yet another excellent addition to the already magnificent pantheon of fighting games released this gen. You can never get tired of those.


Graphics: 8.0

The characters are well-modeled and there is a great option between focusing on better visuals or a better framerate. The “jiggle” physics are still beyond dumb though.

Gameplay: 9.5

The controls are easy to grasp and hard to master. It is very fluid and responsive. I’d recommend changing the button mapping, however.

Sound: 7.0

The soundtrack is excellent, the English voice acting is surprisingly acceptable, but the audio mixing and sound effects could have been done a bit better.

Fun Factor: 7.5

It’s got a lot of different modes, a varied roster, a great fighting system, a kraken and a pterodactyl… It will keep you busy for a while. The game’s progression system is beyond confusing, however. It will take a while to unlock new outfits.

Final Verdict: 8.0

Dead or Alive 6 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Dead or Alive 6 was provided by the publisher.