In the fighting game genre there are many high-level video games, but only a few series can boast the title of “backbone”. These are heavy names, capable of laying foundations impossible to ignore for everything that came after, and so iconic that they are easily recognizable even for those who have no knowledge of this field.
On the other hand, even a total gaming rookie must have at least once heard of Street Fighter somewhere, especially considering that the Capcom saga is still active and highly played all over the world. Yet, when you go from 2D fighting games to three-dimensional ones, the same thing cannot be said for an equally significant series, which even disappeared since 2010 … We are obviously talking about Virtua Fighter, whose fate has been rumored for years type, now materialized in the form of a revival of the acclaimed Virtua Fighter 5.
In fact, SEGA has not yet dared to try their hand at an official sequel, but convinced (rightly) of the goodness of the fifth episode, has decided to put it back on sale in a version with a renewed graphics called Ultimate Showdown. Except that here it is not a question of re-proposing all the contents of the Final Showdown dating back to 11 years ago, but a game designed almost exclusively for the competitive online, temporarily offered on Playstation Plus and with any other extra reduced to the bone. Was it a brilliant move, or was it a step too timidly and too late?
Let’s find out in ours Virtua Fighter 5: Ultimate Showdown review.
The importance of fundamentals
Let’s start from the basics: Virtua Fighter 5 is a exceptional fighting game and not just for the name it bears. Among those in 3D it is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most technical and difficult titles to master, but at the same time also among the most satisfying ones if you take the time to learn the mechanics properly. Equipped with an incredibly diverse roster, which makes use of martial arts largely based on real counterparts, the work of SEGA forces you to adapt to different styles to win matches, to perfectly manage positioning and movement – rounds can be lost if you are thrown out of the ring and crashing into some arenas means suffering devastating combinations – and carefully selecting your fighters given their peculiarities (some are extremely unsuitable for beginners and require practically perfect execution).
All of this has not predictably changed in this version, and a game of Virtua Fighter 5 remains a pleasure at every level, both at the higher ones where the challenges are a riot of perfect side dodges and readings of the opposing tactics, and at the low ones where there he often limits himself to repeatedly using the quicker (and safer) lower and middle hits in the hope that they will hit the mark. Except that there is practically nothing here for those who want to fight against artificial intelligence.
In Ultimate Showdown, in fact, you will have only the tutorial, the training mode – if nothing else very complete, complete with frame data for the moves and various useful options – and a boned arcade mode suitable only for doing a little practice first. to jump on the net. SEGA has focused, in a nutshell, on the 100% online, with an elaborate lobby system that allows you to face other players in multiple ways, and the inevitable ranked matches (whose matchmaking is conveniently managed during training).
To enrich the package, in short, there are only the customizations (however, to be purchased separately if you get the title thanks to Playstation Plus): a good list of options that allow you to make your alter ego quite unique online, but add little else .
A straight punch in the netcode
The problem with SEGA’s diabolical plan therefore lies in only one element. It netcode. In practice, the factor that regulates the effective stability of a fighting game’s online, which unfortunately has not modernized by embracing the rollback that is now acclaimed by a large part of the “picchiaduristi” community. Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown netcode is therefore still delay based, and if on the one hand it is understandable for a team that hasn’t churned out fighting games for a lifetime, on the other hand to face a similar product after getting used to Mortal Kombat 11 or Guilty Gear – Strive – can be traumatic, especially in Europe.
With exceptional connections, after all, the delay can still offer valid matches without too much latency in the commands, but the same cannot be said when your line is not very fast, and the new version of Virtua Fighter does not seem to be even among the best games. in this unfortunate subset. Said as delicately as possible: at least 50% of your games will be plagued by a slowed response of commands, if not by unwarranted scatterelli or real disconnections and completely forget that you can play worthily with someone who is overseas.
As you can well understand, such a situation cuts the legs at the start of a title that makes the online experience its fulcrum and the complexity of the combat system of Virtua Fighter 5 – with all its subtleties and sudden reactions to opponent attacks – only further amplifies this flaw. A real shame, because such a “noble” game deserved a little more effort in this aspect, and the shortcomings of the netcode risk limiting its diffusion and popularity in a few months, despite the initial nudge of the Plus.
Appreciate, if nothing else, SEGA’s desire not to offer a lazy remaster, but at least a version based on the Dragon Engine (that of the latest Yakuza, to understand), more modern and pleasant to see. For heaven’s sake, this is not an exceptional job and capable of putting Ultimate Showdown on a par with other modern fighting games, but they have not noticed problems with fluidity, many characters remain iconic and various arenas still make their dirty figure.