DOA5U is a lot of fun, a bit broken, and more than a little immature.

User Rating: 8 | Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate PS3
To say that the Dead or Alive franchise has a reputation would be quite the understatement. Unfortunately, the notoriety with the name rarely involves how excellent of a fighter it is. Instead, DOA is more well known for its roster of female characters and, if we're being honest here, the ever longing focus on their large breasts.

This is a franchise that not only showcases the female form in the most outlandish, out-of-proportion ways but also gives the player options to how they would like to ogle the cast. If one goes under the Options menu at start you'd find a varied list ranging from control options, camera, music, and so on that cater the experience to your liking in ways that other games should. Then, you'll stumble across a "Breast Physics" option which, as the name suggests, allows you to change just how the chest of each girl jiggles. There's "Normal" and then there's "DOA" and really, it speaks volumes that the name for ridiculously bouncy physics are named after the game itself. After ample amount of play, one can unlock another setting entitled "OMG" which, of course, means the breasts move and fly off in ways that are just, well, OMG is the best way to describe it. As you progress, earning victories and unlocking new outfits, you'll come to find that you're basically removing clothing from each of the females the better you become with them. While the first handful of outfits are interesting, design wise, virtually every female bares all at one point or another.

Regardless to how you feel about this, be it vulgar and offensive or just in good fun, it really is a shame that Team Ninja presents DOA with such an immaturity as it overshadows the fact that this is really an excellent, well rounded fighter.

From a technical stand point, DOA5U is one of the best looking fighters on the market. Character models are great, animations are fluid, and each map offers something unique. You'll be fighting in jungles, industrial plants, Japanese temples, and several other areas and each one is a pleasure to look at. The online mode also runs very smoothly, given that you battle an opponent with a good enough internet connection. Fighting against someone with a single bar results in lag, but 3+ or on par with your own settings means the game runs at a silky smooth framerate throughout. However, visuals don't mean a thing if the game isn't fun to play, but it is.

Each individual character has a specific move set and play style that feels unique to them. Tina is an aggressive wrestler type that throws and kicks with ferocious brutality where Kasumi is quick and relies on multiple strikes in order to win. Taking their counterparts into consideration: Tina's father Bass, who also relies on throws, isn't quite as fast as his daughter, hits a little harder, and doesn't control in the same way. Ryu Hayabusa, Ayane, or Hayate, other ninja characters similar to Kasumi, each control, move, and handle differently than Kasumi, truly rounding out each character and giving them their own, instantly identifiable play styles and personalities. It makes experimenting with the roster of characters a joy as each one feels different from the last. Learning their little quirks and advantages and finding the one perfect for your own play style is a lot of fun.

Every character is available from the start, and this might be considered a bad thing. Alpha 152, the super powered, broken character unlockable only by those obtaining so many accolades in the previous game, remains over powered and broken here but given to everyone. There are also a few other characters that fall under the category of "broken". Newcomer Rachel is virtually impossible to juggle, meaning fast characters relying on such a skill are all but useless against her, and her moves are so easy to pull off there's little skill involved with using her at all. However, this can change with a patch and there hasn't been an overabundance of either Rachel or Alpha 152 players online, luckily.

The game focuses on a triangle battle system, which handles something like rock, paper, scissors. A strike (punch, kick) beats a throw, and a throw beats a hold. This simple gameplay mechanic means that a new comer can get involved with the game rather quickly. Although there's much more to it than that (counter strikes, hi/low/mid counter holds, frame advantages, etc) so that experienced fighters will still dominate the online mode, new players can still find a lot to enjoy with Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate. You can cater the online experience to your liking and find players of similar skill to have battles with. If you had fun with a particular opponent, you can register them in your fighter list to play again. You can also save replays from every match you play online, and see what you did wrong. Or, if you want to learn with a bit more leisure, the game offers Free Training, which allows you to beat up a lifeless AI bot as the game tells you what you're doing and gets you more involved with the lingo. If you want to practice against the AI bot, you can change his aggression level. There are many more options as well.

There are also various other training modes, too. There's a Tutorial mode which lays down the lingo in an easy to understand way, and it lets you practice at your own pace. Once you master the Tutorial there's also Combo Challenges which teach you moves more seasoned players will likely be using against you online. These can be hard to pull off, but satisfying once you get down the mechanics and master your favorite character.

DOA5U also offers modes for those uninterested in multiplayer. Though the meat of the game is the online competitive mode, single player games can find fun in the Story, Arcade, Time Attack, or Survival modes. Each mode comes with a set options ranging from 8 different difficulty settings, solo/tag mode, round duration, damage threshold, and so on. This continues the trend that DOA is filled to the brim with customization.

If you are a newcomer and you're unsure if DOA5U is something is for, you can try the Free to Play version called "Core Fighters". Unlike other Free to Play fighters, Core Fighters allows you to play online unrestricted. You can also play Arcade, Survival, and the various Training modes as well. The only difference between Core Fighters and the Full Game is that you only have four fighters to choose from: Ayane, Kasumi, Ryu, and Hayate. These are some of the most popular characters in the game, however, so it's a pretty nice Free to Play model. Also, while you can't select every map, you aren't restricted from playing on them against someone that owns the full game. Core Fighters allows you to see the rest of the game so long as you're playing against someone that has it. If you don't want to spend the $40 for the full game, you can also buy characters individually. If you want to play DOA5U but you know you're just going to use Lisa the entire time, get Core Fighters and just buy Lisa and nothing is limited to your.

This excellent free to play model, and the great gameplay mechanics mixed with the many, many customization options highlight how solid of a game Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate is. It's just too bad Team Ninja doesn't advertise how great of a game they've made and instead focus on selling "Ultimate Sexy Costume" DLC.