VF5 sheds a few pounds and learns some new moves

Somehow, Virtua Fighter is a franchise that’s not really included in casual conversations about the most popular fighting games of the current generation. No, those discussions are usually reserved for games like Super Street Fighter IV, Marvel vs. Capcom 3, or even weapons-based brawlers like Soul Calibur V and its odd cast of characters. But for its niche fanbase, Virtua Fighter 5 earned its keep by being an incredibly technical fighter with amazing graphics.

Five years after the fact, Virtua Fighter 5 isn’t the visual marvel that it was in 2007, now surpassed by a handful of newer titles—which will likely include the upcoming Dead or Alive 5. But Sega has a novel approach for the long-overdue update, Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown: Make the release download-only, chop the price down to $15, and leave it up to the players to buy $5 packs of DLC for the fighters they favor the most.

For the most part, it works incredibly well. Despite trimmed-down gameplay modes (sayonara, Quest Mode) and slightly glossier graphics, the downgrades aren’t nearly as bad as you’d expect. It was only when I put the original Virtua Fighter 5 right next to the downloadable update that I knew, without a doubt, that the textures were noticeably more bland.

Still, new moves and animations make VF5:FS a much smoother game—and an easier adjustment for players. Chaining combos together isn’t nearly as rigid as in the original version, while many more moves flow into each other naturally. Granted, it’s not a spinning, button-mashy mess like Tekken 6 or Soul Calibur V, and learning the moves of your best characters will still greatly benefit you in the long run.

Perhaps because Sega anticipates that many who’ll buy this downloadable Virtua Fighter will be new to the series (or haven’t played it in a while), both the training and tutorial modes are much more descriptive than usual. In most cases, the game painstakingly outlines tricks like “offensive moves” and throw escapes, even providing you with a “License Challenge” mode that tests you on the exact things you’re supposed to be learning.

The online code still needs some work, though, and due to the small pool of opponents, I’ll personally be looking forward to the actual June 5 launch date. When I wasn’t sitting for 30-to-45-minute stretches looking for matches, I was suffering through “worldwide region” matches that were choppier than rocks in a kitchen blender. At times, the lag got so terrible that I had to double up on my button commands just in case the initial input didn’t register.

When playing online in your local area (a range not clearly defined by the game), there’s no lag whatsoever, so make sure that you’re playing ranked matches against players in the same country as you. Sega’s also shown assets and features of the various hairstyles, clothing, and accessories you can equip for online and offline play, but for whatever reason, they just weren’t accessible during my three-day review window.

Though Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown isn’t nearly as fully featured and robust as the 2007 release, the quality isn’t bad for the budget price. It’s a little cheap that the character packs are separate DLC, but Sega says that each one holds hundreds and hundreds of pieces, which sounds like a lot more than the stingy handfuls you got in Virtua Fighter 5. If you’re the kind of player who packs a fightstick in your entertainment center, the low price definitely warrants giving Final Showdown a spot in your hard drive or cloud storage.

SUMMARY: Sega’s budget price and DLC structure make Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown an extremely attractive offer, especially if you didn’t play the original. Hopefully, the netcode improves, though, as playing worldwide opponents right now is an outright chore.

  • THE GOOD: Low budget price for a well-polished fighting game.
  • THE BAD: Horrible online lag may ruin your online matches with international players.
  • THE UGLY: Taka-Arashi’s skimpy sumo garb is not pleasant to behold in HD.

SCORE: 7.0

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown is available on Xbox 360 and PS3. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.


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