The first decision you have to make in Dead or Alive 5 isn't which of the jiggling lady heroes you want to leap around with, it's whether you want to play the game in 'Casual' or 'Professional' mode. The former is apparently for players who want to "enjoy the action", the latter for those interested in "testing their fighting skills".
Are the two mutually exclusive? Can't we have both? Are the pros expected to sit there, faces set in grim determination, not enjoying a minute of the experience?
Turns out, perhaps for the best, that there's little practical difference - whether the camera is in Classic or Action mode, the game itself is still an accessible fighter that makes up for its lack of technical credibility by refusing to take itself too seriously. Which is why series fave and Dennis Rodman look-alike Zack is now plying his trade as a camped-up, platform-wearing circus clown. It's also why one of the locations is the middle of an actual warzone, complete with tanks, RPG fire and soldiers telling you to get the hell out of there before you become a shrapnel-chip cookie.
The warzone's not even the most bonkers stage either. That honour goes to the fight that begins on a loosely tethered raft on a river rushing through a cavern. The first time someone's clattered into the ring fence the raft is dislodged and begins drifting towards a waterfall. It clunks against rocks, just shy of tumbling over, but a well-placed kick will send your foe over the edge and into a mid-air contretemps with a flock of macaws. It certainly makes an embarrassment of the resolutely non-interactive wrestling ring stage.
The selection of fighters is currently a who's who of classic DoA characters, but there is the odd surprise hidden in there. The DoA series has had its fair share of guest turns, including Master Chief himself in the last game. This time around a tie-up with Sega sees Akira and Sarah from Virtua Fighter make their DoA bow (see Crossover Appeal). Ryu Hayabusa returns too, albeit minus the demon sword that served him so well in Ninja Gaiden 3. New to the scene is Rig, an oil platform worker who doesn't know his real name but does know Taekwondo, which is probably more useful in the circumstances.
While it has a reasonable degree of depth, it's unlikely that DoA5 is going to dislodge any of the established hardcore fighting games on the tournament circuit. For people who don't see life as a Matrix-like cascading sequence of stick-rolls and button inputs, though, it could be a refreshingly accessible and suitably bombastic beat 'em up. If you're more likely to break into a grin when you hoof someone off the side of a skyscraper than when you perfect a 360 stick-roll, this could be the fighter you've been waiting for.