E3 2012: Dead or Alive 5 preview

E3 was filled with a bunch of great games and some really cool surprises. One of the last games we checked out was Dead or Alive 5, which happens to be the fighting franchise's big return to home consoles since 2006's Dead or Alive 4. We had the opportunity to play the game for a bit, and then we were told all about it, from the cool new features being introduced in this installment to the potential free DLC. Suffice it to say it was a great opportunity to get some major details on the upcoming game, and a lot of the changes that are coming to the series mesh well with the classic 3D fighting gameplay the series has become known for.

The first thing we did while at Tecmo Koei's booth was take on another player. I was facing a former Dead or Alive champion, so it's safe to say things didn't exactly bode well for me. What I noticed in between my ass-kicking was just how smooth the game felt. Moving my character around was nicely paced, and attacking, dodging, and pulling off special moves was rewarding and intuitive. The level of interaction with the environments was also great. I didn't last very long, so we soon moved on to a meeting behind closed doors to get a closer look at what the game will offer come launch.

A lot of the core elements in Dead or Alive 5 were discussed following our hands-on session, and it looks like Team Ninja is really trying to deliver the biggest and best Dead or Alive game to date. Not only will the game appeal to hardcore fans of the series, but the developers are really trying to craft something that anyone can jump into and enjoy. This was most evident when we were told about the huge emphasis on "fighting entertainment." This theme will be prevalent in Dead or Alive 5, and it's intended to give the game "a sense of presence and presentation that will appeal to a wider audience." To further push that crazy style, the game will feature stages with comedy and action film overtones.

Like previous games, Dead or Alive 5 will feature interactive danger zones, but this time they'll be "amped up." When we saw characters being tossed into cannons and bouncing off walls, we understood how crazy the game could get. It was a comical approach, and because fighting games should be crazy, it was really awesome. Additionally, Team Ninja is adding a move called the Power Blow, which is a snazzy move that deals some heavy damage. Another new addition is the Critical Burst, a sick-looking move that leaves the receiving player vulnerable and can be performed at any time. Don't think you'll be able to spam the move, though, because there's a charge time associated with it. That said, advanced players will be able to transition from Critical Bursts to Power Blows.

We were briefed on Tag Battle mode, which will allow players to select two-character teams and switch between fighters. Tag combos and double team moves will be available to players in Tag Battle, and we were told that if the duo makes sense in terms of the series' story — like the father and daughter team of Bass and Tina — the characters will have special attacks exclusive to their partnership.

Visually, Dead or Alive 5 is getting some awesome new attention to detail. Not only will certain characters be redesigned (while still remaining faithful to the appearances fans have come to appreciate), but there will also be some incredibly detailed touches. Flashing lights and debris are seen throughout the stages, and the characters themselves will change throughout battles. Facial expressions and detailed costumes are just a small part of the new art design. We got a close look at the game in action, and we saw that during battles, characters' clothes got dirty, and the fighters were covered in sweat. It added an authenticity to Dead or Alive 5 that blended well with the whole fighting entertainment theme.

Team Ninja is revisiting the balance of the series, and we were told that Dead or Alive 5 would be a "finely tuned game," offering several nuances to the gameplay, as well as bringing out each character's personality, strengths, and weaknesses more than ever before. Additionally, while there are about 20 planned characters for the game, we were told there's still a possibility of more fighters being released as DLC. Don't worry, though, because our Tecmo Koei rep was quick to explain that while final DLC plans weren't set just yet, any add-on characters would be free to download — a respectable approach to DLC, and really, one that more publishers should look into.

Dead or Alive 5 is set to launch on September 25 for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Players will be able to engage in high-action battles against other gamers locally or online, and there will also be a story mode that features all new elements. The new direction Team Ninja is taking the series in is certainly promising, and we look forward to seeing just how crazy the experience can get when Dead or Alive 5 brings its focus on fighting entertainment to consoles in just a few short months.

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