Virtua Fighter 4 Review
You can't tell right off the bat, but Virtua Fighter 4 is the best fighting game in years.
The blocky, flat-shaded 3D fighters first seen in 1993's Virtua Fighter have sure come a long way. Nearly 10 years after the original arcade game was released, Sega's Virtua Fighter series now spans four games, not to mention a number of weird spin-offs like Virtua Fighter Kids and the outrageous Fighters Megamix. Virtua Fighter games have appeared on virtually every Sega system ever made. Last year, Sega bowed out of the hardware business, so the latest installment of Virtua Fighter is the first that isn't exclusive to Sega's own hardware. And PlayStation 2 owners couldn't be luckier, because Virtua Fighter 4 is the best fighting game to debut since Namco's superlative Dreamcast version of Soul Calibur back in 1999. Virtua Fighter 4 is also the best game in the series to date: It offers even more of the depth that fans of the series have enjoyed for years, yet it also quickens the pacing, streamlines the controls, and fixes the problems found in previous installments. Furthermore, the PS2 version of Virtua Fighter 4 packs some interesting bonus features and the best artificial intelligence hands down of any fighting game. Superficially, Virtua Fighter 4 may resemble any number of other graphically impressive 3D fighters. But the real beauty of it is definitely in the gameplay.
Virtua Fighter 4 has 13 characters you can choose from, two of which are new to the series. Only Virtua Fighter 3's conspicuous sumo wrestler Taka-Arashi didn't make the cut--all the other fighters from the series are back with new moves and new looks, including such favorites as the Japanese martial arts expert Akira, the massive Canadian pro wrestler Wolf, and the blonde-haired high-kicking siblings Jacky and Sarah Bryant. As in all previous Virtua Fighter games, the last bout in Virtua Fighter 4's arcade mode is against Dural, basically a very mean female mannequin made of metal (there's a way to unlock her as a playable character for use in the versus mode). The first of the game's new fighters is Lei Fei, a shaolin monk whose dizzying kung fu skills are as effective as they are spectacular. The second is Vanessa Lewis, who looks like X-Men's Storm and specializes in both defensive counterthrows and in kickboxing. Lei Fei looks better in action than Vanessa, though both of the new characters have dozens of interesting moves. Actually, the same can be said for all the characters, not just the new ones. Each returning fighter boasts a number of new abilities, many of which become important additions to their repertoires. Many of the new moves aren't just punches or kicks--they're complex techniques like deflections, reversals, and alternate fighting stances.
Virtua Fighter 4 isn't just for hard-core fighting-game fans--the game is only as complex as you want it to be. While it will definitely appeal to you if you enjoy poring over long-winded character FAQs or spending an evening just practicing the same tough move or combo over and over, you'll also enjoy it if you just want to play for fun. The majority of the game's playable characters are very easy to pick up--by the manual's own admission, more than half of them are well suited for beginners, even for those who've never played a fighting game before. All of the fighters are competitive, yet all of them are substantially different. There's much more differentiation now between some of the characters who seemed similar to each other in previous installments.
What all the characters do have in common is that they respond equally well to the game's flat-out perfect controls. Virtua Fighter 4 reverts back to the deceptively simple control scheme found in the first two games in the series: There's a punch button, a kick button, and a guard button. The evade button introduced in Virtua Fighter 3 is gone, yet lateral movement and evading attacks are still easily accomplished just by tapping up or down on the directional pad, to shift your character away from or toward the screen. You don't necessarily need to know that--using some of the characters, you can have a good time just mashing on buttons, watching as they perform various great-looking strings of attacks. But sooner or later you'll notice that Virtua Fighter 4 rewards skill and precision. The pacing of a typical match is just right--very fast and intense, but not frantic. Most of the moves in the game are easy to execute, but there's still a lot to remember if you want to get good. And some of the more advanced techniques and combos are as challenging, and rewarding, as fighting game moves get.
- Player Reviews: 40
- Game Universe:
- Virtua Fighter 4 (PS2, ARC),
- Virtua Quest (PS2, GC),
- Virtua Fighter (PC, SAT, ARC, 32X),
- Virtua Fighter 2 (PC, SAT, ARC, GEN, IP, X360, PS3),
- Virtua Fighter Kids (SAT, ARC),
- Virtua Fighter 5 (X360, ARC, PS3),
- Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown (ARC, PS3, X360),
- Virtua Fighter 10th Anniversary (PS2),
- Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution (PS2, ARC),
- Virtua Fighter 3tb (DC, ARC)
- Offline Modes:
- Number of Players: