My first fight in Dead or Alive 5: Last Round was against a female character wearing a bikini and high-heels. Some things never change.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the "final" version of the original Dead or Alive 5, which was released in 2012 for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Tecmo has taken all of the downloadable content that's been added to the game, from the first release through the Plus and Ultimate versions. This means you're working with a mind-bogglingly large amount of stuff: 5 new characters and 33 new costumes bring the roster up to 34 characters in total and 400 total costumes according to Tecmo (seriously, I wasn't going to count every costume).
That roster includes series mainstays like Kasumi, Tina Armstrong, Zack, Ayane, and Ein; Ninja Gaiden transplants like Rachel and Momiji; Virtua Fighter characters including Akira, Pai, Jackie, and Sarah; Raidou from the first DOA and the all-new Love Plus refugee, Honoka (she is not actually from Love Plus). There's a bit of something for everyone, even if you're not a huge fan of the Dead or Alive's version of "sexy".
This is a DOA game. Since Dead or Alive 3, the series has traded heavily on its female characters in various states of undress, backed by the power of boob physics. Dead or Alive 5 continues the trend. In addition to the attention paid to the physical properties of the female characters' breasts, Tecmo Koei has introduced the Soft Engine. This leverages the power of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 to improve the breast physics and make the skin look more realistic. That's about where Tecmo's efforts stopped.
Last Round is working off some older assets, so the models, environment detail, and textures lack improvement. The characters don't look that different compared to their last-gen counterparts, with the Soft Engine focusing more on subtle changes. The stages still impressive multi-scene, multi-level affairs, letting you knock your opponents off ledges and through walls for additional damage, but Tecmo hasn't done much to beef them up over their last-gen counterparts. The bright side is that Last Round runs at 1080p and 60 fps, since the developer doesn't have to worry about all the graphical bells and whistles. It's a smooth experience, regardless of whether you're playing in single-player or online modes.
This focus on "attributes" is backed up by most of the costumes. A few are serious: looks for each character within the game's paper-thin plot. The rest are fanservice. There's really no other way to say it. The male characters do get their own swimwear-style outfits, but most of the DLC costumes are focused squarely on the women. Dead or Alive 5 with all of the costume sets feels more voyeuristic than past games. It feels like it's less about the fighting and more about dressing up each character to suit your fetish.
Fetish is the key word. There are bikinis, Santa outfits, overalls, bunny girl outfits, t-shirts, nurse costumes, police uniforms, schoolgirl looks, gym outfits, maid suits; you name it, Tecmo Koei probably has you covered. The costumes are augmented with additional hairstyles, glasses, and underwear choices. There's also the Private Paradise modes you can purchase. Pulled from DOA Beach Volleyball, this mode lets you look at any of the female characters in a beach setting in any of the costumes you own. There is no gameplay in this mode at all and it further supports my thoughts on where Tecmo's overall focus is.
All of this is spread across an absolute ton of DLC. The game can be downloaded for free with the Core Fighters pack, which lets you play as Ayane, Kasumi, Hayate, and Ryu Hayabusa in the game's various modes, including Arcade, Versus, Tutorial, Online, Online Ranked, and the endless Survival Mode. If you go this route, additional characters cost $3.99 each, Private Paradise modes cost $2.99 per character, and costumes cost $1.99. The next step up is the Full Version, which costs $39.99 and offers all of the characters and stages, but not the extensive array of costumes. Costume sets costs anywhere from $14.99 to $27.99. The Season Pass and the Ultimate Costume set cost a whopping $92 each! All told the PlayStation Store has 335 items of DLC for Dead or Alive 5 Last Round. It's staggering.
Despite this DLC focus, Dead or Alive 5 is still a solid fighting game. You're still working with 5 attack buttons, a throw button, and the series differentiator, the Guard-Hold. By tapping the Guard-Hold button at the right time and in the right direction, you can immediately counter your opponents. DOA 5 matches move very quickly and its overall style of play tends towards with a back-and-forth trades of countering and combos. Tecmo hasn't done anything to particularly improve the formula since the first release of 5, which did stand as a high point of the series' gameplay. DOA5 has its own high-end strategy, but I don't find it as satisfying as other rivals; I slot it into the same category as Super Smash Bros. Dead or Alive has always been the game I put in to show off my non-fighting game friends what the fuss is about, and Dead or Alive 5: Last Round doesn't change that, even if I can't show as many friends.
Getting everything up and running is painless and the online tends to run well. Unfortunately, the game is currently marred by a poor port. I've been playing the Xbox One version of Dead or Alive 5: Last Round and I've experienced a number of lockups and crashes. It's not prevalent enough to prevent me from playing the game for long stretches, but it did happen enough that I'm noting it here. There's also the occasional hiccup where the game will freeze for a hot second before moving on. The Last Round FAQ even warns players about other bugs, like finishing specific missions in the Tutorial Mode. All told, it seems like Tecmo Koei's QC slipped up when it comes to the Xbox One version; I'm unsure if the PS4 version has the same issues. It seems like the publisher was more concerned with fanservice and DLC as opposed to making sure everything runs without a hitch.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the final hurrah for this iteration in the series. It's the culmination of 3 years of slight upgrades and DLC releases, with a graphical boost to boot. If you love Dead or Alive 5, this is the best version, even if it lacks extensive overhauls to the graphics and gameplay. I still found enjoyment here, despite the crazy DLC, the excessive fanservice, and the game-breaking bugs in Xbox One version. If you're all about Dead or Alive's specific brand, I'd recommend trying Last Round Core Fighters on PS4 to see if the series' latest is right for you.
The visuals are improved over the PS3/360 version of DOA5 Ultimate, but it's mostly subtle changes.
All the grunts, screams, hiyas, and canned voice acting are still here.
The interface works, especially when it comes to getting you into online matches.
If you love Dead or Alive, there's a lot to love here. So much DLC.
Dead or Alive 5: Last Round is the final version of a game released in 2012. That means it includes three years worth of available DLC, but it also means the graphical improvements weren't as grand as they could've been. DOA5 is still a solid fighter, but a lack of ambition, focus on DLC, and severe bugs in the Xbox One version means it's not amazing.