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REVIEW

VIRTUA FIGHTER 5: FINAL SHOWDOWN

Quality assurance.

A phrase more likely associated with an insurance advert, yet it's a completely accurate description for Sega's near two decade-old fighting series.

Trend setter, graphical powerhouse and most recently streamlined fighter as its moves into its latter years: AM2's distinguished veteran may not be leader of the pack in the industry's eyes anymore, may not carry the fizz and fireworks of the current interpretations of its peers, but it's never been anything less than technically proficient. The purity of its combat system never in doubt.

Final Showdown, a tweaked and reworked digital take on 2007's Virtua Fighter 5, offers the same list of options you'd come to expect from the genre: dojos, challenges, online battles. There are optional purchase character packs available too: but these costume-centric DLC pieces can be larger ignored, their absence only marked by a greyed-out customisation option on the main menu.

Virtua Fighter in most guises is worth the time: the lowered cost makes this the perfect entry into the this, or the wider fighting genre, for any that have been hesitant before.

It's also one of the most immediately-engaging fighters by virtue of its control scheme and system. No need to grapple with a plague of special move combos that dazzle the screen and defy the brain to remember by rote.

Virtua Fighter's got combos, but they come out of a three-button setup - P, K and G - that keeps things clean and neat. Half the buttons of Street Fighter, and one button each for kick and punch, rather than the multi-limbed control of Tekken.

It's as simple as you can get, and offers an immediacy even the reconfigured and simplified controls Capcom's Vs and X series have offered. Yet, and we're aware of the cliche embedded here, the move sets offered are complex, tactics deep, the fighters fluid.

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown

Virtua Fighter's fighting styles, by way of quality character animation, just pop off the screen. The feeling of mastering a fighting style, rather than character A, B or C, is absolute.

Try the Drunken Kung Fu of Shun Di, skip to Lion Rafale's Praying Mantis. Tackle El Blaze's Lucha Libre. Final Showdown makes you regain that excitement of every fighting game's central premise: seeing a world's worth of fighting disciplines clash to prove which is best.

The in-game tutorial is brief, clinically welcoming compared to the warmness and humour of Street Fighter X Tekken, and the shift between basic and complex moves isn't so smooth: technique in VF is built on speed, confidence. And a good controller.

Our PS3 pad was fine given PlayStation's continued dedication to digital; having experienced plenty of fighters with the Xbox 360 equivalent, we'd heartedly recommend a fighting-specific controller, or arcade stick.

Dojo challenges give you scope to try different combinations in real fights, while training lets you hammer away at combos. It's a game of precision, no fuss. No glamour.

In the 90s The Virtua Fighter series was the comtemporary visual darling of Sega's arcade division and to which all others tried to match. But even as this is a remixed version of a retail port only a few years old, it's starting to show its age - the backgrounds seem simplistic, the realisation slightly horrifying if you've followed the game through the years.

Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown

Yet its that fluidity of the fighting system that still amazes, still holds firm. You'll get by on the Arcade mode with a small range of combos; but once you start digging into the throw counter system, tinker with wall attacks, combatant speeds will be measured in blinks. Strategies are measured in the hours and months as practice continues without finish. Master it, and it's akin to watching The Raid, except you're controlling the action.

Ignore those extra DLC packs. Unlike Soul Calibur, theres little need for added visual flourish. At fifteen quid for download, you've got one of the best fighters ready to go whatever the social occasion at the press of a button.

It'll last on the online circuit. But don't fear the fighting community: embrace it. You're still going to be pounded meat, but the clean design and graceful animations mean you've an easier eye to study, to learn. And even if you stick to local play, this is still a blast.

08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
+ Rich and varied roster. + Tutorials and challenges give you plenty of practice to learn the systems + Fluid animations still as amazing as ever.
-
+ Visually showing its age - Shift between basic and complex moves too harsh.
BETA +