Virtua Fighter 5 Exclusive Hands-On

We throw down with a near-final version of Sega's premiere fighter on the PlayStation 3.

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Sega's Virtua Fighter series has remained one of the staples of the 3D fighting genre since it hit arcades in 1993. In the years that have passed, the crudely mo-capped polygons of the original game have evolved into refined, near-photo-realistic fighters that have set the bar for visuals in arcades and home consoles. At the same time, the game's fighting system has also matured from its modest beginnings and seen significant changes over the years.

Though the console conversions of the game had to get creative in re-creating the arcade experience at home, 2002's Virtua Fighter 4 and its follow up, Virtua Fighter 4 Evo, finally saw the series match the visuals of its arcade counterpart. The two PlayStation 2 games saw the bleeding-edge visuals of the arcade come home successfully and even offered new features not seen before. For Virtua Fighter 5, Sega has taken the same approach to bringing the latest installment of the series to the PlayStation 3. We logged in a good chunk of time with a work-in-progress version of the upcoming fighter to see how it fits on Sony's sleek new box.

The game's roster has grown to 17 fighters entering the fifth World Fighting Tournament. Those who have followed the Virtua Fighter series will recognize most of the fighters: Kung Fu teacher Akira Yuki, action star Pai Chan, cook Lau Chan, wrestler Wolf Hawkfield, fisherman Jeffry McWild, ninja Kage Maru, student Sarah Bryant, Indy car racer Jacky Bryant, herbal doctor Shun Di, college student Lion Rafale, college student Aoi Umenokouji, security officer Vanessa Lewis, monk Lei Fei, assassin Goh Hinogami, and ladies man Brad Burns. As with the last few entries in the series, the roster has grown by two, with opera troupe leader, and Pai Chan enthusiast, Eileen and Mexican wrestler El Blaze, who enters the tournament out of jealousy toward Wolf Hawkfield.

The Virtua fighters return, with a snazzy 720p look.

As with the previous games, Virtua Fighter 5 is superficially light on the story, with next to no inkling of the drama behind each character's entrance into the tournament. However, if you have a gander at the game's manual and the brief bios laid out for each character, you'll be able to catch up on what's been going on with your favorite fighters since the last game. At the center of the tournament is a global organization named Judgement 6 (J6 for short), made up of six corporations with a hand in everything from weapons development to international politics. Though it's a little tough to follow, the organization is working on a subtle form of world domination that apparently involves the World Fighting Tournament. We're not entirely sure how that actually works, but it's as good an excuse as any to fight a bunch of people, so we're rolling with it.

It seems J6 is eager to test a new model of its cybernetic fighter--the game's traditional end boss, Dural--who has been loaded up with combat data taken from Vanessa. The evil corporation had designs on making Vanessa a cyborg, but she escaped before she suffered the same fight as Kage Maru's mother, who had been Borg-ified into Dural for the last few games in the series. Sadly, all this backstory continues to be lost from any prominent mention as you play through the game's various modes, requiring you to read about it, which is a shame.

Speaking of modes, Virtua Fighter 5 sticks close to the formula introduced in VF4 and VF4 Evo. You'll find four gameplay modes--arcade, versus, quest, and dojo--as well as a new VF.TV option. At the core of the experience is the save file you'll create for your custom fighter that mimics the magnetic card system that's been in use in Japanese arcades since VF4. The card tracks your play data throughout the game and saves various stats and items. Arcade is an accurate re-creation of the actual arcade experience and pits you against a series of fighters on your way toward a confrontation with Dural. Versus mode is exactly what you'd expect--a fight against a friend. As with the last two entries in the series, you'll be able to use custom characters in addition to the basic roster of fighters, so it's a good place to show off your customized character (more on that in a bit).

You can seriously trick out your fighter with all manner of items and outfits.

Quest mode is an extension of the Kumite and quest modes introduced in VF4 and VF4 Evo, respectively. The mode is essentially a role-playing game-like experience that lets you travel to different locations and face off against artificial-intelligence opponents of varying skill levels. Success in battle will let you advance your character's rank, earn money you can use to buy items in the game's shop, unlock emblems, and win items ranging from costumes to accessories you can equip on your fighter. As with the previous games in the series, the items and outfits you earn will range from the cool to the outlandish. The level of customization has been bumped up some and lets you give your fighter a radical makeover if you choose to.

The dojo mode offers two types of training for you to try: command and free. Command lets you go through every move in your fighter's repertoire successively. Once you get comfortable with a fighter's moves, you can select a time-attack option to see how fast you can zip through them all. The free option basically lets you practice against an AI opponent whose behavior you can set in minute detail. For hardcore fans looking to hone their skills to razor sharpness, the modes will let you customize your display to show input, frame, and hit data. While all of the above is a great collection of learning tools, the dojo mode is missing one of the smartest features included in the previous games: the ability to watch the computer do a move. Though it was pretty simple, the feature helped novices get a handle on VF's nuanced fighting system. Given the tweaks that the system has undergone in VF5, especially the timing tweaks, the omission of the demo option will likely be missed.

Even though he looks like he let himself go, Lau will still kick your butt.

Finally, VF5's VF.TV option will likely be a bit of a letdown to those familiar with the feature from the Japanese arcade version of the game. In Japan, VF.TV was an online feature that taped into Sega's VF.NET online service, which broadcast high-profile matches with blow-by-blow commentary live to arcades. The service also offered programs that gave fighting tips, Virtua Fighter news, and general hints on using arcade terminals. Unfortunately, due to VF5's lack of online support of any kind on the PlayStation 3, the mode merely offers you the opportunity to watch replays you'll save of your matches, exhibition matches you can set up between any of the game's characters, and a handful of movies and demos that were used to promote the arcade game. Besides the proper gameplay modes, you'll also find a customization mode that lets you fine-tune your character's look. Virtua Fighter 5's control is as tight as ever and works well with the tweaks to the fighting system. The system again relies on a simple three-button layout--punch, kick, and block. As with the PS2 game, different dual-button combinations--such as punch and kick; punch and guard; and punch, kick, and guard--are mapped to the shoulder buttons to make pulling off counters and some of the more intricate moves a little easier. The default layout feels right, though you'll find several options to customize it to your liking, ranging from different configurations to the ability to customize the action of every button. Though the Sixaxis is perfectly fine, purists will likely be using the arcade sticks that are set to hit Japanese retail early February, in time with the game's Japanese release, which are begging to be imported.

El Blaze enters the fray to prove Mexican wrestlers aren't afraid of ninjas.

As for the specifics of VF5's fighting system, the game doesn't sport the dramatic leap the series made from VF2 to VF3 or VF3 to VF4. Instead, the game is more a refinement of the VF4 system that offers a variety of tweaks, both big and small. Fans will notice that moves have been added and tweaked to all the returning fighters, timing is slightly different across the board, and damage has been adjusted. The most noticeable new element to the game is the emphasis on faster, more aggressive fighting. The system isn't too far off from VF4 to make it impossible for people to pick up, but there will definitely be a learning curve for players as they adjust to the tweaks done to their fighters. A dynamic element to the experience is the 16 arenas you'll duke it out in. This time out you'll find a significant variety that will definitely affect your game. The game features a mix of walled, open, small, and large arenas that will require you to change your tactics accordingly. For example, in small, confined arenas like Wolf's stage, you had best be ready to block and evade in close quarters, keeping an eye out for a good time to throw. On the other hand, the larger, open arenas give you room to breathe but also pose the danger of a ring out if you're not careful.

The action in the game will play out in gorgeous fashion, thanks to stunning visuals that move smoothly and match the impressive arcade game nearly perfectly. Though the arcade version of VF5 runs on Sega's Lindbergh arcade hardware, the arcade board's similarity to the PlayStation 3 has allowed developer AM2 to replicate the experience nearly flawlessly. The fighters look stunning and continue to evolve toward a more realistic look that still maintains a unique style. Skin, lighting, and cloth are all nicely done and feature distinct variations on every fighter, giving them all character. Whether it's Akira's weather-beaten skin, Lau's stern wrinkles, Shun Di's dehydrated leathery pallor, or Sarah's luminescent complexion, all the fighters look great.

Dural is back, packing some serious curves.

Better still is the more defined sense of scale that goes along with this higher level of detail. Newcomer Eileen is petite and lithe, whereas Jeffry is a mountain of dreadlocks and bulging muscle and towers over nearly every fighter. Dural serves, as she has for the last few games, as the showcase for graphical hotness. This time out, her metallic form is curvier, shinier, and features showy gradients of color. Animation in the game is extremely fluid and makes fights between players at higher levels graceful and painful dances that are fun to just watch.

Though the fighters set the bar high in the game, VF5's arenas are hardly slouches. The varied collection of battlegrounds covers a wide range of territory that includes a claustrophobic cage out on a snowy mountain, a water-soaked cityscape, a misty temple high in the mountains, a cherry-blossom-laden garden, a sandy beach, and a wrestling ring surrounded by a cheering crowd, to name just a few. Each stage features a high level of detail and a varying amount of ambient activity, depending on the setting. In addition, you'll notice assorted lighting and other effects on hand to help sell the locales, such as the light bloom from the sun cutting through the mist around the mountain temple and the flashy light show of the aforementioned wrestling ring. The only blemishes on the game's sheen we've seen so far are the odd texture here and there and the occasionally noticeable loads. If we get nitpicky, we'll wring our hands and bemoan the fact that the game doesn't support 1080p. Other than those odds and ends, the game looks fantastic and is the closest the series has come to matching its arcade counterpart polygon for polygon.

The audio matches the arcade's sound perfectly. You'll hear all the fighters in full voice, as well as the pleasing array of punches, kicks, slams, and assorted effects for counters, sweeps, and the like. The game's soundtrack is the standard mix of genres--heavy on the rock--and provides good accompaniment to the action. A new wrinkle (that's awesome in the old-school "Sega!" kind of way) is commentary during fights, which you can toggle. Though the announcer commentary doesn't always synch up with the action due to the speed of battles, it still makes for some awesome moments thanks to the slightly off-kilter inflection.

Beating people up never looked so good.

Based on what we've played, Virtua Fighter 5 is shaping up to be a pitch-perfect re-creation of the arcade game that's been fleshed out with a fair amount of extras. The game plays great on the PlayStation 3 and is gorgeous to look at, especially running at 720p through HDMI. The only issues we have right now are the somewhat by-the-numbers array of extras and the lack of online support. While AM2's misgivings about taking the franchise online are well documented, there are a number of ways that online support could have been worked in via online leaderboards or downloadable ghost data. Still, you'll be hard pressed to find a more stunning game for the PS3 or a better fighter. If you're a fan of fighters, you should most definitely look out for Virtua Fighter 5 when it ships next month for the PlayStation 3. In the meantime, we've still got our version of the game handy, so if you have any specific questions, feel free to hit us up in the Virtua Fighter 5 forum, and we'll do our best to answer them.

Discussion

183 comments
alkaline_DnB
alkaline_DnB

this game is pretty sweet, the graphics and attention to detail are phenomenal once you really get into the game and play with it a few times. the only thing that sucks is the load times...a bit too long. great fighter nonetheless.

rgobantes3
rgobantes3

I love the VF series. For the price I just paid for the PS3, I expect at least superior graphics on every mainstream game. About VF5, aside from the characters everything else looks dull. I hope the pictures on the website are low pixel pictures. My year old DOA4 looks much better on my TV. Tekken needs work. They shouldn't have shown a video of the game where it is still in the early stages.

Arch-Villain
Arch-Villain

Oh my, Virtual Fighter 5 looks so good that it scares me! If the gameplay is just HALF as good as the graphics, then the Tekken franchise better get busy on developing a counter-punch!

DarkNeji14
DarkNeji14

VF5>Tekken5 DR>Tekken 6=Fighting Game of the Year

pnobbe
pnobbe

okay guys take a look on this.. another game magazine have given this game a 9.5 out of 10.. i should remind you guys this has not been given to any game in 6 months even.... Gears Of War :-)) her is the link to the artical http://www.n4g.com/ps3/News-24910.aspx

truly_demonic
truly_demonic

Reply to "timothyt" They aren't reaching limitations yet. It's simply an arcade port. They aren't going to add a whole bunch of visual effects to the game.

mattnicholes
mattnicholes

I see no point in buying into this game title when there is such a thing as TEKKEN!!! WHOO, GO TEKKEN!!

vampiredust99
vampiredust99

this is good but Soul Calibur 4 is going to make everything else look rubbish

timothyt
timothyt

I expected more from the physics engine here. The cloth effects are good but minimal compared to what you see in DoA4 - the game really seems to be lacking the polish of Tecmo's flagship brawler. There's also something distinctly non-lifelike in the gravity simulation. The characters seem to fall too quickly in particular (when thrown for example). My only other gripe is the commentators. Did they actually say "they step back!" when the player took a step back? Yes they did... Some of the worst over-commentating I've heard ever. The graphics do look great - the shadows and lighting especially. I can't help wondering why they're not pushing the PS3 a little more though, with lots of 3D background activity (like the animals in the jungle scenes of DoA4). I hope they're not already reaching the hardware limits with such a small amount moving on-screen (after seeing how much can go on simultaneously in Resistance:FoM I doubt it though - probably just lazy development). Heavenly Sword may be our best bet for a truly next-gen fighting game on the PS3... So once again we wait...

anarchicgoth
anarchicgoth

still think that DOA 4 is better... but i'll still play it for my 360 cuz of achievments

Quintly
Quintly

I love all fighting games, so this game is fabulous to, definitly

dtfann003
dtfann003

I seen a side by side pic of this game. one for 360, and one for the PS3. They look the same. Thats a good thing. I need this game.... For my 360.

cdripper
cdripper

Best fighter ever. Until VF6, that is.

airboygt
airboygt

The game is pure hotness, and for you guys who think that Tekken is superior now would be a good time to grow a brain. Tekken has resembled VF more and more through its iterations since TK4. VF is accurately been described as a "Martial Arts Simulator" meaning it has no pre-canned combos that you can simply mash buttons to perform so it takes a bit more skill and timing to play. I enjoy Tekken and DOA and think they are fine fighting games in their own respect, yet neither can touch the fighting game nirvana that is Virtua Fighter. So just because you can't play VF well, don't hate on it.

chibirevolution
chibirevolution

Much like the PS3 machine, This game is way over-rated (as usual).

VegetaFr20
VegetaFr20

this looks KILLER! This, other than resistance, is the first game im actually excited about for PS3.... Next is motorstorm tho... Then Heavanly Sword!

shafner
shafner

Looks killer in the screenshots, but like all the PS3 games it's simply the same game with a new face lift. Virtua Fighter is still mega badass tho, I bought a 32X alone for the original. I know... a 32X...

Dragon17013
Dragon17013

"Wow, uhhh can you show us any proof that the 360 title is going to be superior to the PS3 title? I would love to see where you got this information Dragon17013, cuz I think you're a 360 fan boy that's full of **** " Well, someone got defensive! It's perfectly logical to believe that a game that gets re-released later on could include updates. That isn't a console-favoring view. The PS3 gets Version B. The 360 gets Version C. Google it. Everyone's got to call everyone a fanboy to feel like they're onto something. Guess that's just how it works.

jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

oh and can we get rid of the shiny skin on characters before it becomes an epidemic like characters clipping thru walls, floors, each other etc...

jaefrmbk2k
jaefrmbk2k

i'm pretty amazing in Tekken so for that reason i'd like to remind you guys that Virtua Fighter is inferior

stricot
stricot

I'm eagerly waiting for the PS3 to be launched here in France but regardless of the machine used, this game looks so stupidly unrealistic in terms of animation charcter/motion and completely deprived of any feeling of power when opponents hit each other... that's sooo sad and unimpressive. The only improvements from VF1 are texture quality, nb of polygons and unrealistic speed. I'd never trade my PSP version of Tekken for this. Any version of Tekken remotely close to the latter made for the PS3 would simply make any copy of VF5 utterly useless.

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

on gamespy this game was posted as a 360 release, wtf.

Siffion
Siffion

yeah i feel you supersonic125...i was going to buy a 360 for ghost recon 2,oblivion,ninja gaiden etc but there all coming to ps3 now so now i wont......fair enough

mtofu
mtofu

I recall an interview with Yu Sazuki in Next Generation mag (if any of you can remember it) that VF would only go up to number 5. So this might be the last VF we'll get to play... and it looks nice

supersonic125
supersonic125

I was going to buy a ps3 just for that game but now that it is coming to Xbox 360 the hell with the ps3

xxSupermanSGSxx
xxSupermanSGSxx

Im a huge Tekken player and I'm not sure if Tekken 6 will own this game. VF has been one of the most solid fighters out there besides Soul Caliber, Tekken, Street Fighter, and Guilty Gear. Oh add SSBM to that list.

Digital_DJ_00
Digital_DJ_00

Dragon17013 "VF5 for the 360 is actually supposed to be better. It's version C while the PS3 gets version B. So not only has the PS3 lost another high-tier exclusive, but its version of the game is expected to be inferior. And this is true whether the one for the 360 goes online or not." Wow, uhhh can you show us any proof that the 360 title is going to be superior to the PS3 title? I would love to see where you got this information Dragon17013, cuz I think you're a 360 fan boy that's full of ****

Djammal86
Djammal86

It's about time they mad another Virtua Fighter games

hikari33
hikari33

yo i dun care if its online or not this game is gonna be bomb!!!!!!!!

Tonito2004
Tonito2004

hey akumous, its sega not sony. i love it how 360 fanboys always find some stupid way to attack sony " oh this has no online unlike my kick** 360 SONY SUCKs! " THE COMMENTARY DURING THE GAMEPLAY IS SONY GIVING US THE ILLUSION THAT WERE ONLINE OR SOMETHING, JUST CUS THEY DONT HAVE XBOX LIVE. Dude get ur facts right unless u wanna sound like an idiot .

akumous
akumous

why there is commentary during game play? That's annoying, distracting, and unfitting for this game....Is sony's joke by adding this giving us the illusion that we are online or something? I'm not buying this game.....lack online and now this commentary ****

BajenVaNamnet
BajenVaNamnet

Hope VF5 will be a releasegame when PS3 is released in Europe. That would be wonderful!

Gundam_Fan
Gundam_Fan

I'll pick this up as I wait for Tekken. I like both series' a lot.

Prophet1980
Prophet1980

OMG now thats bad commentary, im avoiding this one. Its like the pro-evo of fighting games (from a commentary point of view)!

DV92Camaro
DV92Camaro

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

gmayronne
gmayronne

last one i played was virtua fighter 2 on sega saturn, looooong time ago.......ill probably pick this one up, been a while since ive played a good fighting game. tekken is kinda getting old to me, dead or alive is fun for a while but its fighting system gets stale since it really hasnt changed too much from game to game

vu12345678
vu12345678

VF4evo is my favorite 3d fighter. Its the most ocmplex fighter out there. Will this one take the throne? The complexity of VF4 + a faster fighting engine could = pure craziness! I don't get why they took the move demo off the practice mode... Its like taking a step back from VF4EVo. Maybe due to time constraints? oh well I can't wait for this game!

rl_41
rl_41

If the game engine is as complex and interactive as it sounds, then this could be the first virtua fighter game i actually really like...

funhabbit
funhabbit

The arcade hardware is basically the same as the PS3 so i'd take it it's been ported easier to PS3 judging by that.I don't think the 360 version will be any better or worse to be honest.Also no online for either version.Same with Tekken.The developers of these games don't trust online

Dragon17013
Dragon17013

VF5 for the 360 is actually supposed to be better. It's version C while the PS3 gets version B. So not only has the PS3 lost another high-tier exclusive, but its version of the game is expected to be inferior. And this is true whether the one for the 360 goes online or not. And yes, this article says on page 3 that commentary can be toggled. I think it's a cool new idea, though.

Mindchamber
Mindchamber

Some one PLEASE tell me those rediculious play by play commentaries are able to be shut off. please... and why wasnt it mentioned in the preview? its a new feature.. one that looks to be an incredibly annoying one.

dudlyarse
dudlyarse

I am very excited about this title possibly coming to the 360. I can't justify spending enough money on a PS3 for just one fighting game, but I really wanna play it. Shame there won't be any sort of online play, though. Maybe in VF 6 or Tekken 6.....

M-Yu
M-Yu

Looks really cool

mslocum
mslocum

Even though this is just a better looking version of the first four, it's kinda cool to see where the creators wanted to be 10 years ago. I won't buy a PS3 just for this, though. I'll wait for the 360 version.

jhcho2
jhcho2

"VF is done its gonna suck tekken and DOA will reign" DOA..for sure, Tekken..no. In my opinion, Tekken always had better graphics and motion. I don't think VF uses motion capture, at least not from the way VF4 looked. VF4 looked great on ps2 until Tekken 4&5 came out. Maybe VF5 will only look good until Tekken 6 comes out.