Virtua Fighter 5 PlayStation 3
Published by: SEGA
Developed by: SEGA AM2
Release Date: Out Now
When looking at the PlayStation 3 launch line up there are few games that can boast a heritage like Virtua Fighter 5. The series has been running for well over a decade now and has appeared not only on Sony's PlayStation consoles but has also enjoyed a number of successful appearances on other formats. Of course the series has always been huge in the arcades. In fact the game first appeared in the US arcades back in 1993. The series has always been tremendously popular and with every iteration it has been refined into a pretty formidable fighting game. Virtua Fighter 5 continues this process of refinement and can be considered one of the best PlayStation 3 launch titles. However, it's a game that's squarely aimed at fans of the series and doesn't go out of its way to accommodate those who haven't been introduced to the series before now.
Virtua Fighter 5 offers an unremarkable and familiar set of game modes. The modes on offer are Arcade, VS, Quest, and Dojo modes. The main mode in the game is the Quest mode and here you'll travel form Arcade to Arcade fighting a variety of rivals. The Arcade mode is pretty much what you'd expect as you fight through seven stages against AI opponents. VS mode allows you to fight against human opposition. Only two players are supported though. Dojo mode is essentially a practice mode and allows you to refine your technique and master the combos for each character outside of a competitive battle. There is also a VFTV mode that allows you to view replays and promotional movies. The game includes 17 characters in total, some of which include Akira Yuki, Pai Chan, Lei-Fei, Vanessa Lewis and Shun Di. Each of the characters has their own fighting style. Shun Di uses Drunken Kung-Fu for instance whilst Pai Chan uses Ensei-Ken and Akira Yuki prefers Hakkyoku-Ken. Virtua Fighter 5 introduces two new characters to the series, El Blaze whose fighting style is Lucha Libre and Eileen who prefers the Kou-Ken fighting style.
As we've already stated the main single-player mode in the game is the Quest mode. Here you'll pick a character to control and assign to a profile. After selecting your character you'll be taken to a map screen from which you either select your home (that allows you to customise your character and save your progress) or select one of the available arcades to fight in. You'll find that the arcades are tailored to suit different levels of ability. The SEGA Arena Coast arcade is suitable for beginner players for instance whilst the SEGA World North arcade is more geared towards advanced players. As well as the available arcades there is also a location known as Event Square and here you'll get to take part in all of the official Virtua Fighter tournaments. On selecting an arcade you'll see a list of available opponents (there are three video game units in each arcade) and any local tournaments that are taking place. For each opponent you'll see their kyu ranks so you'll have a fair idea of how challenging they are going to be. As you win more fights your character will gain experience and move to a higher kyu rank (it's also possible to drop a rank too by being defeated too often). You'll also earn items that can be worn and emblems to assign to your character. You can earn gold and with this gold you can purchase new hairstyles and clothing for your character. You can configure your character's appearance from your home on the Quest mode map or from the Customize section of the main menu. You can also use your character in the Arcade and VS mode to gain experience.
The fighting model in Virtua Fighter 5 is as impressive as ever. Unlike some fighting games you are not bamboozled with a wealth of controls. The circle button is used to kick, the X and triangle buttons are used to punch whilst the square button is used to guard. As with all fighting games there are a lot of combos to learn but Virtua Fighter 5 never feels like it's overburdening you in this department. There is a strong emphasis on counter attacks and in many ways it's not so much of a button basher as some of the other long running fighting games. The Sixaxis controller just doesn't feel good enough for extended play. Those who are serious about their fighting game don't need me to tell them that playing with a joystick is much better than using a controller but even so the Sixaxis just doesn't feel right and it definitely begins to hurt your hands with extended play.
Whilst Virtua Fighter 5 is undoubtedly a great fighting game, it does disappoint in some respects. The number one disappointment has to the absence of an online multiplayer mode. Whilst the PlayStation 2 offered poor online support, and it was never to be expected that many developers would bother including online support in their PlayStation 2 games, the PlayStation 3 is supposed to be a different story altogether and it was expected that games, where applicable, would come with support for online play. Without the ability to play against human opposition, unless they are physically in the same room, you're condemned to competing against the AI. Of course the AI is pretty good in Virtua Fighter 5 but there comes a point when you will tire of it and seek a more natural opponent. Those who are fortunate to have friends or relatives who also enjoy the game won't have so much of a problem but the rest of us won't have the opportunity to take on human opposition. I also wished you could have created your own character to use in the Arcade and Quest modes. As it stands you'll pick one of the 17 characters to represent your profile and you'll get to customize them in a variety of ways but why not let you design a character from scratch and choose your own fighting style?
They say a picture says a thousand words and one look at the screenshots for Virtua Fighter 5 says all that needs to be said about the graphical leap the series has taken in moving from the PlayStation 2 to the PlayStation 3. The character models look quite impressive and their animations have also been improved. The game is one of the few PlayStation 3 launch titles to support 1080p although the highest HD setting we played the game at was 1080i. Whilst the graphics look very good there are some mild disappointments here. While there are some destructible qualities about the arenas you'll fight in, they are more PlayStation 2 quality and in fact they look quite poor. I was also surprised to see the overall quality of the arenas and character models was not as good as those in Dead or Alive 4 on the 360. I strongly suspect that future Virtua Fighter titles on the PlayStation 3 will look a lot better. There are no frame rate issues and the action remains smooth throughout.
Virtua Fighter 5 isn't subtitled but it shouldn't cause deaf gamers any problems. All of the important information is shown in text and deaf gamers will have no problems in enjoying the game. Comments made by the characters before and after the fights are not subtitled. Whilst this is disappointing it's hardly much of a problem as the comments are of the throwaway variety and they are repeated ad nauseam. The game manual contains over forty pages and unlike most console game manuals, it's actually rather useful listing the moves for each of the characters.
Fans of the Virtua Fighter series will undoubtedly be pleased with Virtua Fighter 5 and it has to be said that the combat system is excellent. The Quest mode will keep you busy for a fair few hours and the customisation options are a nice touch. However, when the single-player game begins to get a little tiresome and the wow factor of the graphics has subsided you'll be left wishing that an online mode had been included. In fact the absence of an online mode is probably the only disappointment that most will have with the game. In fairness though, the game could have done with more single-player modes too because what's here is practically the same as in Virtua Fighter 4. Minor disappointments aside though, Virtua Fighter 5 is still one of the best fighting games we've played over the last few years and if you're a fan of the genre and own a PlayStation 3 then you're going to regard this as a must own title (unless you're holding out for the 360 version of course).
Virtua Fighter 5 is an impressive addition to the series but the absence of an online mode is very disappointing. There should have been more single-player modes too.