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Game Profile
FINAL SCORES
8.6
Visuals
9.0
Audio
8.5
Gameplay
9.5
Features
7.5
Replay
8.0
INFO BOX
PLATFORM:
PlayStation 3
PUBLISHER:
Sega
DEVELOPER:
Sega-AM2
GENRE: Fighting
PLAYERS:   1-2
RELEASE DATE:
February 20, 2007
ESRB RATING:
Teen


IN THE SERIES
Virtua Fighter 5

Virtua Fighter 2

Virtua Quest

Virtua Quest

Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution

More in this Series
 Written by Adam Woolcott  on March 02, 2007

Review: Come on Eileen... kick the crap out of Rey Mysterio!


Though it still doesn't have the name value of, say, Tekken, which Namco has nurtured into one of the few fighting franchises that's remained relevant, or even Dead or Alive which thrives more on its universe rather than the actual action itself, Sega's Virtua Fighter will always be the granddaddy of 3D fighting. It's known as a strict, rigid game that rarely lets its hair down, but that's why people enjoy it ? it's legitimately hardcore, and it's a science to master the many moves and characters. Its next-generation debut, Virtua Fighter 5, is more of the same, with an added touch of accessibility that demonstrates that while AM2 is still very serious about hand-to-hand combat, it knows that driving away the not-so-hardcore isn't good for the bottom line. It's still tough-as-nails and demanding, but now at least newbies can actually feel less threatened after getting crushed by Dural like a bug on a windshield.

Virtua Fighter 5's newfound accessibility is due to a total redesign in the balance of the fighting. In the past, the game tended to splinter characters into invisible tiers ? newbie-friendly characters that had simple combos and could sometimes 'cheese' their way into victories against accomplished players, but at the same time there were tough, hardcore characters such as Akira, for instance, who required practice and patience in order to succeed. Now, every character, including the two newbies in Eileen and El Blaze (who is a 619 away from being a WWE trademark violation thanks to his uncanny resemblance to Rey Mysterio), have been tuned so that anyone can choose them and learn how to play with them successfully. With 17 total characters in all, everyone can probably find someone they can use with ease and slowly develop into a competent player.

Still, VF5 doesn't lie down for anyone, meaning that while the balance has been adjusted, the game is still capable of kicking you around. Put the game on very easy, sure, and you can begin to lay waste to AI by cheesing, but even then the opponents will adjust and push you into a new strategy. Against an accomplished player, relying on simple moves and repetitive combos likely will result in a beat-down, though it's possible to sometimes squeak out a win with luck. Regardless, there is a way to play the game, and though it's been slightly dumbed-down for more accessibility, it's not a mindless fighter. By spending plenty of time in the Dojo (aka the Training mode), learning the moves, mastering effective combos and then applying them into fights results in getting good.

Sadly, there's not a lot of places to actually use your skills within the game. Obviously there's an arcade mode that lets you tackle 7 opponents and a bonus fight, in which you get... nothing but credits after beating it, but that's a Virtua Fighter norm. I think they could learn a lesson from Tekken and have some unlockable fighters for beating the game, but that's how it's done. The solo mode that will offer the most replay is the Quest setup, where you take a character and battle opponents, based on real VF player tendencies, in various arcades across the virtual city. An aside ? an arcade is a big building where people used to play really cool games for a quarter or so per play, but now they're dead. An entire generation now probably has no clue what a real, live arcade used to be like. Anyway, Quest mode works like the same setup from the previous game in the series, VF4 Evolution, which means you do battle with AI characters to rise in rank and unlock items to customize your character with. Then you can plug that character into the arcade mode for a touch of unique fighting.



Unfortunately the game lacks an online mode, though it might be a good thing. It seems like a no-brainer to have a fighting game come with online, but at the same time...it's probably not worth the time. A fast paced, precision game like this one would be crippled by even minimal lag, rendering the game a slow-motion affair. See Dead or Alive 4 for an example, or even Street Fighter II over the Xbox Live Arcade. And this isn't even mentioning the legions of geniuses who will just quit rather than accept a loss. Why bother? It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's never good to do something just for the sake of it ? if it's not going to work, it might just as well not be done ? people cry foul because it doesn't have online, but the noise would be even worse if it had the typical laggy online play almost every fighting game has had.

Regardless of features, Virtua Fighter 5 gets the job done in the gameplay department. The aforementioned balance is one thing, but it wouldn't be much without the excellent gameplay; full of fluid, graceful action, with an increased speed as well. We're talking DOA4 speed, requiring fast minds and reflexes to dish out those huge combos. It's quite surprising just how well these characters perform in the game, all of which hold their own unique traits and abilities. No character is alike, and that's something amazing. Though the action is fast, the beautiful graphics engine holds up, whether you're battling in a caged arena on a busy street or going to war in the middle of nowhere. Taking the authenticity to another level, all characters speak their native dialects, which is pretty cool and a rare trait for the genre. Sadly the ones who don't speak English aren't subtitled so who knows what they're saying.

Bottom Line
Virtua Fighter 5 may not go down as the most charismatic fighting game around, but it gets it done in the gameplay department, which is what matters most anyway. More accessible than in the past, but still requiring a substantial investment to get the most out of it, it tries to open itself to more casual players, which is a good thing, especially in this case where it's still more useful a game to those who dedicate themselves to it. This isn't a killer-app PS3 title even with its 6 month exclusive window, mostly due to the overall health of the fighting genre itself (if this was the year 1995 it would drive consoles, but not 2007), but it's a good game for a console in need of a larger library of them in this early stage of its life. That should be good enough for most.


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