Dead or Alive is back! Is it weird that I'm so excited about this? Dead or Alive was my jam, my fighting game, where others had Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tekken or Virtua Fighter. I played the crap out of Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 1 and 2, on top of mastering DOA 3 and 4. So for me, Dead or Alive 5 is huge.

This fifth installment features two modes, professional and casual. Professional has no bells and whistles, allowing more hardcore players to focus on technique. Casual is set on a dynamic stage where the environment (Circus, War Zone, and around 13 more) around you can be destroyed and interacted with. This is best demonstrated with the Power Blow Attack, a new feature that can be used in both single combat and tag team, that allows you to charge up and perform a massive attack when your health is below 50%, launching your opponent into some part of the surroundings.

Each move and command is specific to each character, following the same pattern set up by previous games, which helps to truly differentiate each fighter. I've always loved that you have to learn new commands for each character. You develop a special bond with whoever you worked best with, which varies from player to player.

The developers introduced a new Critical Burst Attack system to the combat. If you stun your opponent and hit them again at the exact right time, they get a bit woozy. This allows you to start another combo or head into a power blow without any blowback. It's just another way that players can turn the tide of the battle in their favor.

When I hopped on, I gave a few of the 14 characters a go. I pleasantly surprised to notice that I still did best with my favorite character from the previous games, Kasumi. It was as if if I instinctually understood her mechanics. Although my opponent - who had been playing for hours - took great pleasure in repeatedly knocking me out, I had a great time executing the large variety of moves and experiencing the dynamic scenery. Plus, Kasumi's black catsuit outfit is just about the greatest thing ever and I want to be her.

Overall, it seemed to me that Dead or Alive 5 will fill the void left open in fan's hearts for several years now. Its tweaks will be just enough to open the game up to even more of an audience, too. And of course, seven years of graphics innovation makes a major difference - all of the characters look a bit more realistic and the moves a little more refined.

Dead or Alive 5 will be released on September 25 of this year. It'll be the first DOA title released simultaneously on the 360 and PS3.
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