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Dead or Alive 5 Last Round review: An Xbox One fighting game that plays as great as it looks

The Xbox One launched with a pretty killer fighting game – that little exclusive known as Killer Instinct, to be precise. Microsoft has implemented innovative pricing strategies with Killer Instinct, allowing players to use one rotating character for free, and then buy either individual characters or a season pass containing a group of characters. But how would a Japanese company handle piecemeal character delivery in a fighting game?

The answer is Dead or Alive 5: Last Round from Koei Tecmo, recently released on Xbox One and 360 and PlayStation consoles (the Xbox 360 version is simply an update for DOA Ultimate). Last Round is the latest evolution of Dead or Alive 5, with all the characters, stages, and modes from the previous versions of DOA5 plus some new characters and features. Fighting fans can buy the whole game outright for $40 (a steal), try a free demo with four characters, or grab the Core Pack of eight fighters for $10.

Does Last Round stack up with fighting game greats? Find out in our detailed review with video!

Fighting mechanics

Although Killer Instinct and Dead or Alive are both fighting games, the former plays "two dimensionally" while the latter plays in three dimensions. Thus they look and play quite differently from each other, to say nothing of the difference between Western and Japanese art styles and character designs.

Like most 3D fighters, DOA5 keeps its button layout simple. Attack-wise, punch and kick each have but a single button (whereas each gets three buttons in Killer Instinct). Pressing different directions on the d-pad or stick at the same time performs a different punch or kick, as do different combos of other buttons. Thus the gameplay adapts quite well to modern consoles' four face buttons without sacrificing any depth.

The other two face buttons are Throw and Hold/Guard. Throw is obvious, but Hold is where DOA5 gets deep. Hold it to block, or just move the d-pad/stick back. But tap Hold and the proper direction on the pad or stick at the exact time an opponent attacks and you'll catch his or her limb and perform a reversal.

Knowing when to perform a Hold and which direction will defend against the incoming attack requires plenty of skill, understanding of the opposing character, and fast reflexes. Too much for my blood, to be honest! But the Hold system is basically DOA5's equivalent of the Street Fighter III parry system. High level players will love it, while lower level players will hate when the CPU or better players use holds to turn their attacks against them.

So many characters

If you want to get by on the cheap, you can grab just the Core Pack of eight fighters and then maybe pick up another character or two you're interested in. But buy the full game and you'll get 34 characters, including every character from previous versions of DOA5, four guests from SEGA's Virtua Fighter, and two combatants who are new to Last Round. The lineup is quite diverse and evenly split between men and women.

On the downside, the sole black male fighter Zack comes across as a bumbling caricature of a black person during his story sequences and pre- and post-fight sequences. His goofiness is played for laughs, and it's not like there are many black people in Japan for developer Team Ninja to base Zack's portrayal on. But still, I wish Koei Tecmo's American branch could help them improve the character.

The first of the new characters is Honoka, a Japanese schoolgirl. She wears traditional high school outfits and displays a cheerful personality. The other new fighter Raidou actually returns for the first time after the original Dead or Alive, in which he was the non-playable final boss. Formerly a scary Akuma-type man, Raidou now wears cybernetic enhancements that make him look rather silly.

So many modes

Last Round offers a multitude of modes to keep players busy, starting with Story mode. The story menu consists of multiple pathways dotted with battles. These battles star a variety of different characters, giving players a taste of the game's cast and some of their relationships with one another.

Gameplay-wise story will entertain you for a few hours, but don't expect a compelling narrative. The writing is a few steps above the Resident Evil series, but still largely nonsensical. Comic-relief characters bumble around making jokes that aren't funny, and every little interaction results in a fight. But the death of a certain character did catch me off guard!

Other single-player modes include Arcade, Time Attack, and Survival. None of these has story-based endings (like you might expect from Arcade), but they're all good fun. Each offers the choice of fighting in solo or tag battles. During tag battles, both sides can swap back and forth between two fighters at will. Tag throws and power blows involving both team members give tag an extra dimension over solo play.

If two characters per battle aren't enough for you, Team Fight ups the ante by letting each side pick seven characters and fight until one team gets exhausted. Team Fight is just a single 7-on-7 throwdown as opposed to a more involving mode like the others though.

All non-Story modes allow the player to select from eight difficulty levels. Unlike Mortal Kombat, the easier difficulties really are easy. I love that because casual players can select an appropriate difficulty and actually do well against the computer. Experienced players will want to pump the difficulty up a bit though.

Whichever non-Story mode you're playing, whether it's Arcade or even Free Training, by default you'll receive "Throwdowns" as you play. These are online challenges from other players. When a Throwdown notification pops up at the bottom of the screen, hit the View/Back button to accept it and instantly jump into an online match.

Throwdowns are brilliant because you needn't sit staring at a matchmaking screen when you want to take on other players. Just hop into a single-player mode and the challengers will come to you. And you never have to accept a Throwdown, so they won't mess you up when you feel like playing solo.

Achievements

If you like Achievements, you'll be pleased to know that nearly all of Last Round's 48 Achievements can be unlocked by players of any skill level.

You'll get an Achievement for practically everything you do, including checking out your fight record, changing the music for a stage, taking photos of the fighters, and much more. Even the "fight 100 online battles' Achievement isn't a big deal because the fights are so short and fun!

Only two Achievements will prove too difficult for mere mortals: completing all Tutorials and all of a character's Combo Challenges. Both require players to complete tons of moves and combos with very little advice on timing or what they're doing wrong.

Unfortunately, Last Round has a "Platinum" style Achievement for unlocking all other Achievements, so that's three Achievements you won't get if you're not good at complex combos and maneuvers.

A Last Round of thoughts (and video review)

The Dead or Alive series is well known in gaming circles for the exaggerated bounciness of its female characters' bosoms and their frequently revealing outfits. Last Round brings all that to the table, but you can select a new "Natural" setting that tones down the bounciness to realistic levels or simply turn it off completely.

Another sticking point for some gamers is the vast quantity of DLC outfits available for purchase – mostly carry-overs from the previous Xbox 360 version. You could easily go broke buying expensive outfit packs, but the full game already provides a ton of outfits (many which must be unlocked by playing single-player modes with each fighter). Just ignore the DLC if the pricing bothers you, or wait for a sale.

I hadn't played a DOA game in a long time before Last Round, so this one caught me off guard with its quality. The character models all look fantastic and the backgrounds overflow with color. Many have destructible walls that reveal whole new areas, adding a ton of excitement to the fight. The huge arsenal of characters, stages, and modes – as well as smooth online play – make the full game a fantastic value.

Last Round belongs in every fighting game fan's library. If $40 is too rich for your blood, at least grab the Core Pack and start kicking some butt!

  • Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (Core Fighters) – Xbox One – 9.4 GB – $9.99 – Xbox Link
  • Dead or Alive 5: Last Round (Full Game) – Xbox One – 9.4 GB – $39.99 – Xbox LinkAmazon Link

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

32 Comments
  • Love what you said about Zack. I enjoy the series, but I've also been disappointed by how the game's loan black character is portrayed as such a buffoon.
  • Agree with the Zack comments, but isn't La Mariposa in the game? She's black and I love her fighting style.
  • Good call! I had been thinking she was Brazilian, but I looked it up and she's American. I corrected the wording to "black male fighter."
  • Yeah I too thought she was more I guess for lack of a better term Portuguese Brazilian (versus Black Brazilian) because of her complexion, but Wikipedia says Black American. Go fig...
  • I just found a working download link for the full game without bugs so far! This is so great :D
    You can check it out here: http://tig3rgifts.com/deadoralive.html
  • Its just a fictional character that plays as the buffon and happens to be black, if u played the whole series you would know the character been like that always. Black people isnt fun? What change would be a serious black guy and two white one serious and one buffoon? Come on guys
  • It's the only one character out of like 30, so yes why expose a generation to it?
  • Thing is, the characters are too one dimensional in DOA. Tekken is also Japanese but the characters have many different cultures, many of them black with different personalities. It's just lazy and stereotypical to me. Nearly half of the characters in DOA is some kind of ninja. The environment effects are great in DOA though.
  • I might pick up the core version this weekend. Looks like good value for people who won't play this a ton
  • Great game, especially since you can play for free and unlock all achievements
  • I have played doa in my old ps1.
    Reminds me of my childhood ^_^
    Sadly i couldn't afford any one of the current gen consoles :(
  • Meanwhile, I still enjoy playing Tekken 6 on PC! :P
  • Playing Dead or Alive back on Sega Saturn. Nostalgia. Regarding Killer Instinct, I still think it's the best 2D fighting game on the market, but I don't like what Iron Galaxy has done with it in Season 2. Season 1 was better, particularly the characters and the UI.
  • I like the pricing structure but fighting games just don't hold my interest anymore.
  • Same here, part of the reason is I don't have any ppl to play with locally anymore. During younger days I always have friends over playing SF / Kof.
  • Looks like a fun game. Enjoyed watching Paul aka eastxtwitch play this game!
  • Me too. Yeah. I didn't realize that we couldn't hear him on the stream as I had my volume turned down anyway due to the lateness of the hour. Someone pointed it out that we could not hear him and Paul said something like "No wonder no one was responding to my questions." :)
  • Might get it one day. I like the series but wish they would control the costume dlc, was looking for something on the 360 version and got lost in the sea of costumes. But it is a great fighting game always enjoyed the series. Great feeling when I actually countered the enemies attacks.
  • Graphics looks the same as Vitua Fighter 5 from 5 years ago.
  • Improve Zack? Best character in the whole damn game.
  • I'm just focused on how he is written, not the way he plays.
  • Paul, great review as always! After joining and watching your stream of DOA5 a couple of weeks ago, I purchased the full game and it is just as amazing as you said. I agree about Zack and it makes me cringe when I see and hear him. Sigh.   A fun fact, 15 years ago, March 6, 2000, I got a package in the mail. It was from an Aldrich & Associates, Inc. Public Relations Counsel   I opened the package.... To my surprise....inside was a letter and a disc.   The letter says (I still have it, orginal packaging, like it just came in the mail today) TECMO (logo) 21235 Hawthorne Blvd Suite 205, Torrance, CA 90503 • (310) .........Fax: (310)..........   March 6, 2000 Congratulations! You're a winner of Tecmo's Dead or Alive 2™ demonstration disk, a rare item in the gaming world. Thats for entering SegaWeb's DOA2 contest. Enjoy the demo and look for the finished game at a store near you later this month. Have fun! (ingame pictre of Ein) For Tecmo and SegaWeb.com Larry@xxxxxxxxx.com   I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT!!! I WON!!!! A person would have had to have been a gamer from the days of the Atari to understand the awesomness that DOA2 on the Sega Dreamcast brought! The level of detail and animaitons and background interaction while fighting was like nothing that had ever been experienced at home or even in arcades. The DOA 2 hype machine, Dreamcast and Naomi arcade board, was in full effect at that time and to get a playable version of the game earlier than basically everyone else was soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo amazing! I still cannot believe I won it. The nostalgia and all of that in addition to Pauls excellent late night twitch stream sealed the deal. I first bought the Core fighters to see if I "still had it" as far as playing a DOA game as it had been over a decade and then I coulen't resist and bought the full game only 3 days later. Thanks Paul and I agree that DOA5 should be in every fighter game fans collection.
  • Awesome! Boy i played the hell out of that on the Dreamcast. Your post really makes me want to get home and check it out now. I've always loved the multi-tiered levels in DOA and can only imagine the pure awesome-ness of them on the Xbox one.
  • Way to go Deacon! That's a fantastic collectible to have. I would have been over the moon as well. Glad you enjoyed the stream and decided to pick up the game! What's your Twitch handle, btw? I hope you'll join us for more streams soon!
  • I've been a fan since DOA 2 on the DC, but last one I played was on the 3ds. I didn't realize there was a demo available though, so I might have to check it out.
  • I don't think I gave this game a fair chance, but I did try it out. I just didn't feel like learning so many moves all over again. I'm sticking with Tekken and KI for the moment. Killer Instinct has grown on me. Waiting on Tusk and I'll be golden.
  • Paul, you might update the article to mention the crashing bugs that some people have been experiencing since launch. http://www.vg247.com/2015/02/20/dead-or-alive-last-round-xbox-one-crash-freeze/ Interestingly, the game worked fine before the official launch, and only started doing that on the release date.
  • Hey Andy! I'm familiar with those issues, but I think they have been largely solved since the most recent update. Let me know if it's still crashing on you.
  • Tried the game out and decided it's not my thing, but this was a really good review, nonetheless, and it got me interested!
  • So if there is a Demo of this game on Xbox One I can't seem to find it but that may be because it has like dozens of bundles and adders. . . hmm  
  • To get the demo, look at someone's profile who owns the game (from your console), such as me: EastX. From there, there's some way to view the game's store page and grab the demo without having to look through all the DLC.
  • Thanks Paul, I will check it out. I was looking for it with Smartglass too which might have contributed to me not finding it but I will try what you say on my console.