Virtua Fighter 5 was a PS3 exclusive. Notice I said “was”. As with every other third-party exclusive, Sony has lost out again. Originally slated as an exclusive for the PS3, Virtua Fighter 5 had arcade fans drooling at the mouth as they were able to buy the game and play it at home rather than spending a fortune in quarters at the arcades. The PS3 version was released earlier this year to great success, but throughout the summer, rumors started to fly around the internet that a 360 version was being made.
Then, to add insult to injury, SEGA announced that the 360 version would have improved AI, better graphics and online play. Yes. That’s right. Online play—the one thing that the PS3 version lacked. SEGA also announced it would use Version C of VF5 for the game, which was the arcade update. It would also feature vibration functions, an improved quest mode and the added Dojo mode.
Virtua Fighter 5 is the 5th game in the legendary fighting series. However, this is not a game for the button bashers, as I found out all too well after a few hours of playing. If you’re a veteran of Tekken and are used to pulling off almost impossible combos, you will lose matches in VF5 very badly and very often. VF and Tekken can be best compared to the skate and Tony Hawk skateboarding series—Tekken being similar to Tony Hawk, as it is incredibly easy to pull off impossible moves, and VF being similar to skate, as all moves need a lot of skill to pull off. If you’re not used to complex button presses and a lot of blocking, it will take a long time to master. As such—a quick word of warning. Do not go straight online when you first boot up the game like I did. You will lose your self-esteem, your soul, your honor and your self-worth as you will get beaten within an inch of your life.
That’s why I was very happy to see the inclusion of a Dojo mode, which lets you master each character’s moves and techniques so you can get the hang of things. As with any fighting game, the Dojo gives you the buttons to press on screen to make the combo. However, the buttons on the screen are not what are on your 360 pad. “That makes no sense” , I hear you cry, but it seems the game was built with the Xbox 360 fighting joystick in mind, which is a real let down for those not willing to shell out more money for a joystick.
VF5 features two new characters as well as the old favourites. Eileen, a young girl who specialises in monkey kung fu, is fast and agile. She is useful for taking out heavy characters with speed. Next is El Blaze, a Mexican wrestler, who specialises in, well, wrestling. Both characters have their strengths and weaknesses. This is where the characters of VF come into their own. An average fighting game will have a lot of characters, but the majority will just be the same character in a different skin, whereas in VF they are all different and well balanced.
The amount of modes in VF5 is very thin. As with any fighter, you have the obligatory Arcade mode, in which you pick a character and beat the snot out of every other character. Then there is Quest mode. SEGA, thankfully, didn’t bother to come up with a cheesy story line, like other fighting games. Instead, you are a travelling arcade player who goes on a mission to arcades in hopes of dominating all the other arcade players. You earn cash with every win which is then used to customise characters, which is pretty bland also. Overall, the single player is very clichéd and similar to every other fighting game.
Where VF5 shines, though, is in the online play. Without online, there is no way I would score VF5 as high as I did. The first thing you think of when you hear online fighting game is lag. Well, breathe a sigh of relief as VF5 is almost lag-free. I say almost because there are the occasional games which do have lag, where it’s just a game of luck to get a punch in and win. There is the obvious Player Match mode, where you select the criteria of game, host or hop in a game and then fight. This is very good for practising for Ranked Matches and, if you get a lag free match, it’s just like fighting offline on your console. Then there are Raked Matches where, like in Quest mode, you need to fight to earn points and to rank up. The disappointing thing here is the scores for Quest mode and Ranked online are totally different, so you end up with two sets of ranks for your character. It would have been better if they were linked, as you’d be able to practice and rank up offline, and then take your skills online. Another feature is VF TV which is highly disappointing. When I saw this on the menu, I thought it would be similar to Forza TV in Forza Motorsport 2. It isn’t. Instead it’s just some movies, your replays and some pre-loaded exhibition matches. You are unable to watch the best fighters fight it out live, which is a real shame.
Other than online play, the only stand out thing is the graphics, which are gorgeous. Some of the stages look extremely realistic, along with some fantastic character models that completely blow out the competition in almost every regard. At times, you feel like you’re watching two overly built, sweaty characters fight. On one stage, you even leave real time marks in the snow as you hit the floor, which looks extremely realistic. On the other hand, the sound is terrible. I was taking a phone call while I was in the menu of VF5 and, instead of just turning it down, I had to mute it. It was that terrible. Sadly, the voice acting is just as bad.
Overall, VF5 would’ve been a completely average fighter, but with the inclusion of a good online mode, it’s brilliant. The graphics are great, online is almost lag free. But the 360 pad doesn’t work as well as it should and there is a definite lack of modes. At the end of the day, though, if you’re at all predisposed to fighting games, you’d probably do well on yourself to give this one a look, if for nothing else than the online mode.