Virtua Fighter 5 Online Hands-On

What happens when Sega's premier fighter meets the Internet? We got an exclusive hands-on to discover the answer.

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Ever since we heard that Sega's Virtua Fighter 5 was hitting the Xbox 360 with online support, we've been eager to see how the fighter handles over the Internet. Thankfully, our waiting ended today when we had the chance to head over to Sega and get our hands on the first work-in-progress version of the game. We had a go at the single-player and online multiplayer modes to see how this revered brawler is shaping up on the 360.

And they said Virtua Fighter would never make it online...
And they said Virtua Fighter would never make it online...

VF5's single-player modes are intact from the PS3 game and feature various tweaks and refinements based on user feedback and developer AM2's own desire to update the game. The game now supports rumble and the 360 controller's left analog stick for movement, as well as voice chat when online. You'll now find more items initially available in the item shop, as well as more cash to start with when getting your customization on. Arcade mode now has normal and score attack options. You'll find leaderboards for this mode you can filter across game types, and characters that will show off your rank and let you check out movies of the ranked matches. Score attack features three different routes to choose from, each with a different array of foes. The dojo mode has had some functionality tweaks, allowing you to lock the moves you're practicing so that you're not automatically advanced to the next one after you successfully perform it. A command time attack leaderboard tracks how fast you can plow through all the different moves. Another online perk is the addition of a specific online-only rank. Finally, the quest mode features a new expert difficulty, more CPU characters, and more hateful artificial intelligence. Wait, "hateful"? We mean "challenging."

One of the coolest overall perks in the game is the ability to slap your profile on an Xbox 360 memory card and roll over to a friend's house with your custom character and throw down. Other tweaks include additional commentary being recorded, as well as the addition of this commentary to the European game. Antialiasing has been beefed up to smooth out details in the background. The game will also feature a full suite of achievements and support for downloadable content from Xbox Live Marketplace. Though that content is still in the planning stages, at the moment the talk is leaning toward items that enhance character customization rather than any kind of update to gameplay that would keep the game current with the latest version in the arcades. For those keeping score at home, VF5 on the 360 should be based on the most current version of the arcade game currently making the rounds in Japan. Sega reps on hand couldn't tell us exactly which revision of the game it is, though.

We touched on the visuals a bit earlier, but overall we have to say the game runs well and looks pretty close to the arcade and PS3 games. We weren't able to spend a ton of time scrutinizing everything, but our impressions right now are that it compares favorably. The tweaked antialiasing works better on some levels than others, but overall the visual quality is sharp. It seems as though the game handles color a bit differently in a few spots, but it's nothing dramatic.

As far as gameplay goes, the core fighting is true to VF5. The three-button system and variations for different moves works fine. The analog stick support offers options, which is good considering the Xbox 360 controller's D pad doesn't quite do it for us. Of course the big question is: How does this all work out online? Well, for the most part, we have to say pretty well. The system is standard for 360 online matches. You'll just go to the versus option and choose a ranked or player match. You can tweak the standard match options, such as length, public or private match, and so on. From there, you go to the character select screen and choose your fighter, via character select or saved data, and then you're in a match.

Plenty of tweaks have been made to tailor VF5 to the Xbox 360 and the online experience.
Plenty of tweaks have been made to tailor VF5 to the Xbox 360 and the online experience.

We tried a few matches, and, with our total hypersensitivity to lag, of course we noticed it. However, what we experienced wasn't game-breaking. It's definitely there, but it's possible to compensate for it. We had some issues initially timing our counters with Aoi, but after a bit it was possible to get used to the latency. We reckon players who favor Akira will be having some fun times pulling of SPOD combos, but it also seems like a doable thing once you get used to how the game plays online. Your mileage will of course vary with lag, depending on your proximity to your opponents and the quality of everyone's connections.

Based on what we played, Virtua Fighter 5 seems to be making the transition online and to the 360 pretty well. The visuals are a solid approximation of the PS3 and arcade games, and the gameplay is coming along nicely, though it might take some adjustment for players used to the PlayStation controllers. The analog support is a nice touch and makes handling a bit easier. Of course, the best way to go is an arcade stick, and thankfully, Hori (the fighting game's friend) is bringing out a fighting stick controller for the Xbox 360 when the game hits this fall. Look for more on Virtua Fighter 5 for the Xbox 360 in the months running up to its October release.

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