May 22, 2002
Virtua Fighter 4 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen

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Check out the snowflakes.
When Sega announced that they were dropping the Dreamcast and developing on multiple platforms the gaming industry was in shock. Then they announced Virtua Fighter 4 would not be hitting Dreamcast, which was still selling at the time, but rather the Playstation 2. The industry stops. Sega is serious. A year later and Virtua Figher 4 has just hit the Playstation 2 in PAL territories, and unlike another legendary beat 'em up company - well two really - Sega have gone all out keep PAL gamers happy by including a 60Hz mode. Finally PAL gamers can play a fighting game in full screen, and full speed. But let's step back a little first.

The original Virtua Fighter was released in 1993 and was a massive hit in the arcades. It was only the second game after Virtua Racing, also by Sega, to use a polygon based graphics engine. A couple of years later Virtua Fighter 2 wowed gamers with some gorgeous texture mapped fighters and backgrounds. Virtua Fighter 3 (and the subsequent Team Battle version) were generally applauded, but not as revered as the previous games. The rushed port to the Dreamcast did little to help matters with some terrible shadow effects. The third title also faced serious competition in the form of Namco's Tekken games and the magnificent Soul Blade and Soul Calibur. While debate still rages as to which series is the best, there can be little doubt as to the quality of each.

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Birds fly around the levels.
Unlike most other fighting games Virtua Fighter 4 is by no means a button basher. You will almost always be better off by learning a wide variety of moves and counter attacks for each character and then applying them during battle. This is by far the most technical and detailed of all fighting games with many different fighing styles modelled on the real actions. Sega have included 13 fighters in total, which may not sound too impressive, but is due to the variety. Jacky and Sarah, for instance, have very straight forward and less flashy street fighting styles while characters such as Lei-Fei or Shun Di have more flashy techniques. Each fighter has his/her own strengths and weaknesses and you will have to learn these in order to exploit them.

When designing this game Yu Suzuki decided to return to the Virtua Fighter 2 system by removing the evade/escape button and returning to the three button (punch, kick, guard) controls. Virtua Fighter 4 also includes a new parrying system, which should keep the fights brisk, as well as an 8-way directional control. These changes combine to make Virtua Fighter 4 one of the most fluid, frantic and yet technical fighters on the market. There is nothing like two experienced gamers using reverses on each other in a battle to the death.

Virtua Fighter 4's game modes are also quite impressive. Not only do Playstation 2 owners get the arcade game, but Sega have also include a training mode which includes three options - command training to learn the moves, free training to enhance your skills and a trial mode which tests. However, it's the kumite mode that will provide the most challenge. This mode allows you to fight and store your fighter data. If you win enough fights, and we are talking dozens of them, you will start to unlock new features for use in the game such as new haircuts and clothing for the fighters. Apparently, to unlock all the features you must complete 800 odd fights.

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Texture mapping is very impressive.
Although powered by Sega's Naomi 2 chipset in the arcade the Playstation 2 does an extremely impressive job of coping with the detailed graphics. It's not quite arcade perfect, but unless you're a regular Virtua Fighter 4 player in the arcade you'll be hard pressed to notice the difference. As a game on the Playstation 2 it's one of the most impressive yet. The fighters are wonderfully detailed with many small animations such as clothing and hair to make them as realistic as possible. The levels themselves are also wonderfully detailed with snow falling or leaves rustling on the ground as you move over them. Perhaps the best level detail is in Lei-Fei's Chinese temple stage where birds fly around overhead. Spectacular.

Texture mapping in Virtua Fighter 4 is second to none. Everything in the foregrounds, and background, is mapped with wonderfully detailed textures. The levels are also partially destructible with tiles under feet breaking when a fighter falls on them, sand on the beaches being disturbed as you walk over it, and barriers breaking when the fighters are slammed into them. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Virtua Fighter 4 is the speed. Sega were kind enough to include a 60Hz mode, which provides a much more fluid experience, something which more games need to include.

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And that's gotta hurt.
Sound is one of the more questionable areas of this game. The sound effects are quite realistic while never becoming over the top and repetitive. Unfortunately, while the music is upbeat and exciting it's still not all the brilliant. The game is littered with typical Yu Suzuki styled rock, which is never particulary impressive. Perhaps the most disappointing aspect is the character voices. Why must they all sound so corny. Surely they could get some lines like Samuel L. Jackson's "The party's over" in Star Wars: Episode II. Still, Virtua Fighter 4 is still above most other fighters in the sound department.

If you want to play Virtua Fighter 4 you are going to need a PS2, as Yu Suzuki has stated that Virtua Fighter 4 will be a PS2 exclusive. Fortunately, the port to Sony's system is top notch, and it's unlikely that a Gamecube or Xbox version would have looked much, if any, better. Virtua Fighter 4 is a game that can be played in minutes, but will take weeks to master. At any rate, the variety of fighting styles, gorgeous graphics and addictive gameplay all add up to make this yet another must have title on Playstation 2.

GRAPHICSNot arcade perfect, but you will struggle to notice the differences.
SOUNDSome solid music and the usual corny beat 'em up styled speech.
GAMEPLAYPossibly the best gameplay in a beat 'em up, if you spend the time.
VALUEOnly 13 fighters in total but each has a very different style to master.
OVERALLEasily the best Virtua Fighter game in the series, and the best home conversion as well. Namco have their work cut out for them to make their fighters this impressive. Thankfully Sega included a 60Hz mode!

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