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Dead or Alive 5 review: Slick, brutal and bouncy - but unambitious

Packs a punch - and not many clothes

Dead or Alive 5 is a game for people who don't like fighting games. If the idea of counting frames, juggling through health bars, and endlessly complex multi-move throws leaves you cold, and you just want to knock the crap out of your friends, this is for you.

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It starts badly. Dig straight into the bizarre story mode and you'd be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled into the worst Japanese sitcom ever written. Lavish cutscenes link roughly 70 sporadic brawls together, trying desperately to make you care about each of the characters and their frankly ridiculous backstories. Each line of dialogue sounds like it's been written by an alien who's had human behaviour explained by a half-cut bloke in a pub.

Bravo to the developers for trying to make us care, but what kept us playing during several 'five minute sessions' (which actually lasted close to four hours at a time) is the spectacle and feel of fighting. Bottom line: hitting someone in Dead or Alive 5 feels great. Pulling off a counter-throw to end a tight match, with a lavish move that sees your character literally treading her opponent's head into the dirt, feels even better.

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RHYTHM OF THE FIGHT

And as accessible as DOA5 feels to beginners, it's not until you truly understand the rhythm of combat that things really start to click. Newcomers will be delighted with the fact that mashing buttons, or one-input throws, produces spectacular results. You can charge in aimlessly and have a great time, and that's why DOA5 caters so well for people who hate other fighters. Conversely, hardcore beat-'em-up players will likely sneer at the simplicity and seemingly (but not actually) random collision detection in this game, citing the apparent (again, not actual) lack of precision as sloppy and unrefined.

The game's training modes are absolutely superb...

However, Dead Or Alive has always been about the flow of combat; about tactical back and forth between move and counter-move. When you're starting out, counter simply stops your opponent spamming the same move. Time it right, and you can turn a rival's sharp kick into a devastating leg-breaker. Get to know a character better, by going through the game's superb training modes, and counters become part of your arsenal as you bait your opponent with half-cancelled combos, power moves and well-timed throws.

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