Virtua Fighter 5
includes all of the modes you would expect. Arcade mode lets you fight through a lineup of characters until you reach a boss. Dojo mode is the training area, and you can free train or use a command training option where the game basically teaches you how to do everything. If you want to get good at this game, the Dojo is vitally important. Quest mode is meant to mimic real life arcade competition where there are different arcades available, each filled with players of varying skill levels, and your objectives is to beat everyone, win tournaments, and prove you are the best. Other modes include VF.TV mode where you can watch attract mode movies, saved replays, or set up exhibition matches between two CPU players. Customize mode lets you change colors, or outfits, or add accessories to your characters.
Of course, the main attraction on the Xbox 360 version is the VS. mode. You can play against another player locally, or jump onto Xbox Live to find an opponent. The Xbox Live setup is pretty easy to navigate, and finding a ranked or player match is fast and easy. It must be noted that there is some occasional lag online, but most matches are at worst passable and at best pretty darn smooth, but almost always very playable.
On top of a solid fighting engine, Virtua Fighter 5 Online has at least one truly amazing single-player mode. Even the most hardcore fighting game fanatic would agree that the single-player mode is where most fighters fall down. But Virtua Fighter 5 is different; it offers a "Quest" mode that gives you a compelling reason to fight hundreds (if not thousands) of battles without complaining.
In Quest mode you get to choose one character and then play as a guy going from arcade to arcade playing virtual Virtua Fighter 5 fans, entering tournaments, customizing your character and going from the bottom ranked player to the top. It's not as deep as a full-fledged adventure game or the campaign in a first-person shooter game, but Virtua Fighter's quest mode is oddly addicting.
Each of the city's arcades is represented by a little icon on a large map; in each arcade are a series of Virtua Fighter regulars who are looking for a new challenger. Each of the arcades has three different Virtua Fighter cabinets, so pick the one closest to your rank and see how many opponents you can beat in a row. From time to time you'll win prizes for playing certain fans and, if your experience is high enough, you may even rank up to another level. Part of what makes this game so addictive is leveling up your character, it's always exciting to know that you're making progress and are ready to fight the arcade's more experienced players.
Of course, none of this would work if you were just playing the same 18 characters over and over. The reason that this quest mode can exist at all is because of how customizable each of the characters is. Between the different clothes, accessories and hairstyles, every character can look as goofy or deadly serious as you want them to look. While none of this changes the way they fight, it is awfully fun to dress your character up in a lot of different weird ways. In the quest mode you will be running into a lot of other people's Virtua Fighter characters, that is, the dressed-up fighter that each real person has come up with. The reason this works so well is because each fighter is given a name and you start to recognize certain virtual fighters based on the way their Virtua Fighter looked.
The quest mode is about more than just fighting strangers at one of the city's many arcades; you can also enter major tournaments and see if you can hit the top spot. What's more, the game also tracks your wins and losses, as well as let you add your own icons next to your name/handle. While there isn't a story in the quest mode, this does offer a compelling reason to fight when you're by yourself.
But as great as the quest mode is (and trust me, I've lost plenty of hours just sitting there ranking up my character), Virtua Fighter 5 is meant to be played against other people. If this was any other version of Virtua Fighter that would involve you finding another real person who was into video games (and good at Virtua Fighter), but thankfully that's not the case with this Xbox 360 game. As I mentioned before, this is the first time Virtua Fighter has been online, and Sega has done a remarkably good job of giving us a smooth running 3D fighter that works with the Xbox Live service.
Of course, no online game is perfect and Virtua Fighter 5 does have a few problems. The obvious concern for a game like this is internet lag; fighting games just don't work right if there's lag while playing the game. Unfortunately Virtua Fighter 5 runs into this lag concern, but it's not nearly as bad as other attempts at online 3D fighting (see: Dead or Alive 4). I have played rounds of Virtua Fighter 5 online that have been lag-free, while other rounds have devolved into a framey mess. The good definitely outweighs the bad here, but I can only hope that somebody will be able to perfect online fighting.
For casual fans, or people trying to transition over from the Tekken or Dead or Alive camps, VF5 can be pretty overwhelming. In most fighting games, a novice player can beat a veteran player from time to time by mashing buttons or spamming certain attacks over and over or sometimes they just get lucky. That doesn’t happen in VF5. The vast majority of the time, a skilled or even mediocre player is going to beat a novice player. That is why the online mode is so vital in this game. Human competition is vital to the longevity of a fighting game, but when you can easily beat the snot out of your friends, they don’t want to play anymore. With VF5, you can just jump online and find skilled people to fight whenever you want. Good times.
Visually, players looking for some evidence of a distinguishing factor in system power will be disappointed, as the Xbox 360 version looks more or less identical to the PS3 version, although Sega claims "improved antialiasing" as a noteworthy feature. While the graphics do look slightly more polished, especially in the match-ending victory poses, the most notable difference we saw was in how vibrant the colors were on 360. The sound, issued forth in 5.1 channels, is excellent as well. The different modes offer, in varying degrees, new customization options, in case things like the Dojo weren't deep enough. Perhaps the major conundrum for 360 buyers is in the control options. The 360 version doesn't handle nearly as poorly using the 360 controller as you might have thought, but it's not great, either. The D-pad (Dear Microsoft: Can you please fix this thing, stat?) is stiff and unreliable, and it's virtually impossible to pull off some of Virtua Fighter's most difficult moves using this controller. The Hori Fighting Stick that's being released seperately alongside VF5 is a much better option, although it pales in comparison to the Virtua Stick High Grade (which uses authentic, arcade-quality Sanwa parts) released by Sega in Japan for PS3. Don't be fooled, though. The Hori Fighting Stick is fine for inputs and responsiveness and "clickiness." The only question is the longevity of the stick, as the rigors of repeated play wear down consumer-grade arcade sticks faster than higher-quality arcade sticks.
For me Virtua Fighter 5 is a great fighting game that is at its absolute best on the Xbox 360. It is absolutely gorgeous looking, and the gameplay is some of the best the genre has seen yet. For hardcore fighting fans, or at least gamers with the patience to really put in the effort to learn the incredibly deep fighting system, Virtua Fighter 5 is highly recommended. It is not a perfect game, however, and I can’t recommend it to everyone. The characters just plain aren’t as interesting as what you’ll find in other fighters, and the tiny shreds of story here and there won’t do much for casual players
Virtua Fighter 5 is absolutely a great game that is worth owning for
real fight fans, but it isn’t for everyone.