The original Xbox owed a lot of games to its successful launch as Microsoft’s first home console, Halo being the obvious one. But there were other games too and the one which attracted the Japanese gaming fanbase was Dead or Alive 3. Later on, it would be Dead or Alive Ultimate which would provide Xbox owners with quite literally the ultimate 3D fighting experience of that era, and then Dead or Alive 4 as the premier fighting game for Xbox 360. Microsoft scored a great exclusive and it was largely due to founder Tomonobu Itagaki’s undying loyalty to the Xbox brand, but when he left Team Ninja the Dead or Alive series saw a significant gap until the release of Dead or Alive 5, which understandably became multi-platform. Although the game was as great as any prior entry, it was missing Itagaki’s signature touch which some may argue that the series was better off without.
A couple of expansions to Dead or Alive 5 would follow, and by the time the PS4 and Xbox One versions rolled out it looked like we were getting an enhanced edition of Dead or Alive 5 subtitled “Last Round”. Sadly this wasn’t quite the case as it ended up following the free-to-play model with an endless supply of DLC. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Dead or Alive 5 Last Round, in fact it is the best version of Dead or Alive with a huge roster (plus pricey DLC additions…) and it looks and performs quite brilliantly on Xbox One. But its lasting legacy is a running joke due to its sheer amount of DLC, most of it being costume packs as well as a few pricey guest character DLCs. The combined value of the DLC by the time they moved on to Dead or Alive 6? You’re looking well into triple digits.
Dead or Alive 5 was originally released in 2012, with the 2015 Last Round offering being the last effort to keep the game relevant. For better or for worse it succeeded in doing just that as new DLC packs were being released for it just months before the launch of Dead or Alive 6. In a way, Dead or Alive 6 picks up where Last Round left off by maintaining the free-to-play model and continuing to release just as many costume DLC packs and premium season passes with exclusive costumes and characters. To say it has gotten worse with Dead or Alive 6 would be an understatement, and at the rate things are currently being churned out it may even break Last Round’s record in terms of combined DLC value. And that is nothing to be chuffed about.
Awful DLC practices aside, Dead or Alive 5 Last Round was a really enjoyable fighting game which helped extend the life of Dead or Alive 5 long enough for the publisher to work on other projects and slowly bring Dead or Alive 6 to life. Even the latest entry in the series, despite being marred with excessive DLC, is a brilliant and enjoyable fighting game in its own right.
A free-to-play model doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing, as Killer Instinct is a great example of how this can work out favourably for both players and developers alike. Where Killer Instinct is probably a good benchmark (it’s not perfect by any means, but is definitely a better direction for our all digital gaming future), Dead or Alive 5 Last Round is an example of what not to do when distributing a free-to-play fighting game in this day and age.
If you haven’t yet experienced Dead or Alive 5 Last Round, you can grab it from the Xbox Store this very minute. Either as the core game for free, or for £31.99 with some of the DLC bundled in.