Virtua Fighter 5 PS3 Review

There are only two games in this world that I have won (and lost) money on while playing. The first of those is the Pro Evo series and as you would most likely guess, the second is of course the Virtua Fighter series. Currently these are the only two games I trust to reward skill level and not constantly reward button bashing. Sure, every now and then people will win a game out of shear luck but pit two people against each other in a best of 7 series and the more skilled always comes out on top. As such when a new edition of either of these titles is released I am always iffy about giving it the same trust as I gave its predecessor. Thankfully, it seems my uncertainty was unwarranted this time as it seems the best just got better.

The first port of call for most when they pick up a new – or perhaps their first – Virtua Fighter game will probably be arcade mode. This mode is basically the same as it always has been. You fight through a collection of different fighters from the selection available and as you keep going, each fighter puts up a bit of a stronger challenge. You then keep going until you reach the final fighter Dural – who should now be regarded as one of the most well-worn bosses in gaming history.

For VF5 there are seventeen characters to fight as – with two of these being brand new. The first new character, Eileen, is a young girl who uses a fighting style known Monkey Kung Fu. The second character is El Blaze, a lucha libre wrestler. If you are not familiar with how VF works then it should be noted that the series’ biggest selling point is that all of the characters are vastly different from each other but somehow – perhaps through black magic – seem to remain well balanced with none of the line-up having a highly notable weakness over the other sixteen.

Following on from that is the Dojo where you can work your way through each character and teach yourselves various moves for use in different situations. In fact your best bet here is to pick just one character and try and master him/her as there are so many moves available for each fighter, even someone with the most photographic of memories would have problems remembering everything. Gameplay remains pretty much the same as it has always been with everything about the game having been built around the guard, punch, and kick buttons. Unlike VF4 it seems a few extra flamboyant moves have now been allocated to simple button combinations but many of the more powerful moves still need much more practice to get right – which is the way it should be.

The next welcome addition is a new Quest Mode which is stuffed to the brim with options and unlockables that easily trumps Heinz beans and their 57 varieties. The idea behind it is that you’re presented with a map with a selection of locations which resemble arcades. In these arcades there are AI characters which mimic real life people who supposedly love VF and have spent time working on their own game and have a win/loss record, use a customized fighter and have a collection of other stats. You then fight these people in the pseudo-arcades to improve your rank and as you get better you can also fight them in tournaments. As you fight through this mode you meet players of different skill, with many of the first encounters being very easy but as you venture forward you meet up with players that rival some of the best real-life players out there. In this mode you can unlock a long list of items for your fighter that include clothes and other accessories. Unfortunately, no matter how much AI panache you have, playing against the CPU is never going to be the same as taking on a human opponent in a one on one battle. Thankfully, this is where VF5 shines as the controls remain as sublime as they always have been – in fact I would dare say they seem even more responsive than they were in VF4: Evolution.

Even if the sublime gameplay does not take your fancy; and in all honesty there would have to be something very wrong with you for it not to, then the graphical masterclass on show will put a smile on most faces. Ok, I’ll admit the environments could be labelled ‘somewhat basic’ when compared to some other recent beat ’em ups as the fighters have little-to-no interaction with objects – other than the series’ trademark sling out barriers – but after a quick look at the fighters themselves, any thought about the supposed blandness of the environments is quickly forgotten. All the characters on show move and look highly convincing with behemoths such as Wolf and Jeffry having a drastically different feel to them than the likes of Sarah and El-Blaze. In fact that would be almost underselling the game as each of the characters seem to have their own animation eccentricities to make them stand out from each other. Flowing garments and well-animated hair all help add to the effect of making the game a realistic as possible. Seeing all this running at 720p on the PlayStation 3 makes it a joy to behold.

However the same can’t be said for sound effect as they remain eerily similar to the V4Evo on the PS2. It should be noted that there was nothing wrong with most of the PS2 sound effects to begin with so there really was no need to fix something that was not broken. There still seems to be lots of oomph behind all the kicks, punches, throws and falls so there really was not much more they could have done for the move to next-gen. In terms of music it’s all a bit random. One second you’re listening to nice relaxing ambient jazz music and then you are thrown into high tempo, grating guitar rock – series regulars should be used to all of this by now though! Character voice work in the game is also of a high quality with none of the snippets being particularly offensive. For me El Blaze’s “I’ll be invincible beyond all imagination” was the only really annoying one of the bunch. The optional commentary is best left turned off though as it’s badly implemented and quite honestly seems like a last minute afterthought.

Virtua Fighter 5 is one of the most thought-provoking, in-depth, all singing and all dancing, beat ’em ups ever to grace a console. It is still as fair as it ever was and even the addition of two fantastic new characters does not sway the balance in any way. Of course the game will not work miracles, if you were not a beat ’em up fan already the game will not open up a whole new world for you to enjoy but for those that that can’t get enough fisticuffs then there has never been a better game available for you to get your kicks from. The only real problem with the game is that the multiplayer aspects are stuck in the 90’s with no online options available whatsoever; seriously Sega what were you thinking?!

Actually on second thoughts I should be thanking you as I would have probably gone broke playing online – I should really train more.

The finest rendition of the series yet – online options would have made it almost perfect.

8.9 out of 10

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