I played a version of Dead or Alive 5 Last Round back in October, and more recently had the chance to spend more time with a pretty much complete version of the game. Based on both those encounters, I'm liking what I'm seeing.
Bringing true 3D fighting action to the current generation, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is intended to be the final, definitive version of the game. It certainly feels like it, since it contains an extraordinary amount of content culled from Dead or Alive 5, Dead or Alive 5+, Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate, and Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate Arcade. What that ultimately means is 34 characters (including two new ones, Raidu and Honoka), every arena so far seen (31 in all, including two new stages – Danger Zone and The Crimson), and a mind-boggling amount of costumes – some 300 open and unlockable outfits all told.
However, this isn't just a straight-up port of the old content. Some new tweaks and additions have been made to the game specifically for the current generation. First and foremost, player characters have been reworked and given more detail. Compared to the prior-gen versions, characters look crisper and far more lifelike. Macro detailing like players getting dusty and dirty when they're thrown to the ground, their skin becoming flushed, and beads of sweat rolling from their faces as they exert themselves is more apparent. It's a cool effect, and works really well to help dial up the realism.
Backgrounds have been similarly reworked, and now look far crisper and more detailed. Lighting has been toned down, giving the darker locales a more moody atmosphere. The more colorful settings come across as less saturated and slightly starker, giving them a little less "hyper-real" appearance than their prior versions. As well as the graphics being massaged, the locations themselves have also been reworked and expanded, with new danger zones and breakable areas to exploit.
Most importantly, however, is that the controls and general gameplay have both been given a buff. The fundamental fight mechanics still follow the throw-hold-strike, rock-paper-scissors system of yore, and while Last Round is still immediately recognizable as a DoA game, it just feels tighter and more polished than before. It's still quite possible to play through the game on the lower difficulties by basic button mashing, but on higher AI levels, and if you’re playing with skilled players, timing is now more critical than ever, especially when you take into consideration the critical burst combo system that can render opponents completely vulnerable if they don't read your moves correctly.
Something new that's been added to the game are cliffhangers. When a player knocks another to a lower level, the player tumbling down can grab for the ledge. If they are successful in their attempt, the aggressor can try for a follow-up attack, which the defender can try to thwart. It's basically a quick on-the-fly, rock-paper-scissors game that can result in the falling player escaping any damage – or being smashed by their opponent from a special move if they fail to make the right choice. It's a simple, but neat little addition that adds an extra dimension to the fighting action.
In terms of the game itself, there's the usual wide array of DoA play modes, which are matched by a broad difficulty spread. This helps make the game particularly accessible, whether you're a newbie fighting the passive dummies in rookie mode, or an expert taking on the exceptionally challenging fighters at the top difficulty setting. And just in case you need help, there's an excellent set of tutorial modes to help you get up to speed, helping you learn basic moves and combos through a series of challenges and missions.
As I reported back in October, Dead or Alive 5: Last Round definitely looks like the definitive version of the game, and it feels more refined and buttoned-down than ever before. Its expected price is $39.99 on PS4 and Xbox One, and if you're not quite sure about the game, you'll be able to download a free demo of the game with four characters. If you like what you see, you'll be able to add four more characters to it for $4.99 - or upgrade to the full version if you like it enough. Can't say fairer than that.