Jaw-dropping graphics and animation coupled with challenging, balanced gameplay make for a hard-hitting combo.

User Rating: 9.3 | Virtua Fighter 5 PS3
Virtua Fighter 5 comes home on the PS3 looking pretty much pixel-perfect to it's arcade counterpart. With the patented fighting system that has been play-tested for over a year in Japan and several home-only single player incentives, VF5 looks to give fighting enthusiasts a thorough beating on their shiny black consoles. What can be said about VF5's looks? On a regular TV, VF5 will impress you. But check this out on a good HD-TV, and you'll be scrambling to grab your jaw off the floor. Character models simply astound with some of the most life-like detail yet, rivalling that of characters in CG movies. In comparison, DOA4's fighters look cartoony and simple. The VF5 fighters also animate perfectly, with beautiful martial arts moves and pained reactions to hits that look so real, you'll wince yourself despite the Sixaxis' lack of force feedback.

The backgrounds are varied and detailed as well, showing off wonderful effects like reflective floors and water rippllng (though it would have been perfect to see reflections in the water as well). In motion, handled by competent players, a VF5 match rivals the fight choreography of real martial arts films. As always, the VF5 system is simple to get into, but challenging to master. A compliment to the latest game is the way it makes the fighting a lot more playable and accessible for newcomers than previous installments. The pace of combat is faster and rewards offensive players, but still remains amazingly intuitive, letting even novices with marginal knowledge have a chance. Still, this game is about knowing your moves, that of your enemy, and thinking from second to second. Training and practice is rewarded not only with improved play but cool items aplenty to customize your character.

The modes, unfortunately, are a bit on the bare side, with the main Arcade and Quest Mode being probably the mode of choice for single play. The Dojo Mode is adequate for training newbies, but could have done better with more detailed options. The VF TV mode, which is little more than a glorified Replay or Watch Mode, has limited appeal. Customize will surely interest those wanting to give their favorite characters a personal touch, and VF5's customization feature is probably the best yet in a fighting game (and surely will be copied or emulated by fighting games that follow). VF5's array of tunes fit each of the stages and characters they represent perfectly, though I'm pretty sure there will be as many players who like the music as those who don't. At least all the tunes do well to accompany the fighting action onscreen without being obtrusive. The character voices are usually well-acted, but have the occasional cheezy delivery (usually in english) which is actually endearing if not just hilarious. The hard-hitting sound effects for major hits and blows are characteristic of the VF series, and do well to make you feel better or worse depending on who's on the losing end of the blows.

The most painful sounds though in the game are the bored, inadequate tones of the english commentary voiceovers, who are best left turned off- I wish there was a way to just have the Japanese commentators for my game instead without turning everything Japanese. On just arcade-perfect looks and great animation alone, VF5 should be on top of any fighting game fan's Must Have list. The gameplay is challenging, fun and addictive, rewarding repeated play with improved performance and unlockable items aplenty to customize your favorite fighters. If there are any gripes though, it's with the game's lack of any online functionality. While Sega's adamant stance on online play not being possible is understandable, it is quite glaring for the game to lack any way of updating character items and customizations, to post rankings and fight data or to show off match videos online. By itself, VF5 is a pure fighter, near perfect in looks and gameplay. Having a little bit more could have made it perfect, period. Despite the few but glaring nitpicks, it still remains that Virtua Fighter 5 is a fighting gamer's reason to get a PS3- one of the best, if not the best, home fighting games you can get. This game is a work of art, though you will have to pay a hefty price to enjoy it to the fullest. If you can afford it though, this is the Roll's Royce of fighting games.