Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is a streamlined experience geared towards online competitive play. For anyone looking for a fighter where all efforts seem to be dedicated to clashing against real-world players, that no doubt sounds like a great thing. But if you’re looking for something to play on your own, there’s little to be had, here. If you like the idea of getting competitive, but aren’t already,you’ve got a sheer climb ahead.
While I’m more of a casual fighting game fan, I can appreciate the dedication to focusing on player vs player competition. With many shooters focusing on the online as well, it seems like a clever direction to take, allowing the development team to streamline creation and focus all of their talents on letting players duke it out with one another. Sure, you will lose some folks who play fighters for the story or to mess around, but you’ll keep your core, competitive audience happy.
This means that you’re going to want strong connections for your matches, especially when timing and positioning are as important as they are. For the most part, my fights in Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown played well on a wired connection. The match would chug periodically depending on the connection speed, though, as it’s largely dependent on whatever you and the other player are running. If you’re both running a good wired connection, things went well. If not, you’d get odd stuttering. The hard part is that it’s difficult to tell what you’re getting into, as so much stuff can factor into your internet speed. There’s very little reason to pick this game up if you can’t provide a good wired connection to your system.
When you get into a match and everything is going smoothly, you’re probably going to run into some vicious competition. Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown’s three-button combat system is definitely friendly to the new player. Many of its moves rely on context, timing, and positioning, so you can do really neat stuff without having to learn complex inputs. The challenge is that I felt you really have to know your character inside and out to know what will work based on the flow of combat.
It’s a fantastic system to watch in motion, especially among high-level players. It seems less like a video game and more like a real-world fight, to an extent. There is a flow to the actions and movements that feel less like you’re calling up special moves and more like you’re using your body in a (semi) realistic way.
Because of that, though, it feels like high level players are monstrously skilled. So if you’re new, expect to get utterly decimated. This lead me to want to crawl back to Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown’s single player modes to recover and try to practice. Here, you get the standard Arcade Mode, local VS, and practice, but these modes feel pretty lean. Each offered little to make me want to play them for long.
It’s no surprise that the Arcade Mode has no story, as it didn’t before, but with so many other fighters offering intricate tales in between matches, it made this mode feel barren and empty. In a way, it was little more than practice against an AI with varying degrees of skill since you can tinker with things like difficulty and wins needed. The actual Practice Mode wasn’t too great either, offering some poor explanations of the game’s vital mechanics. It also doesn’t offer a particularly good view of the inputs or commands, forcing constant pausing to reopen the move list.
There was little wrong with the two modes, and you are capable of learning the moves and having some solid matches here. It just felt like Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown had nothing much to offer players who don’t want to reach that high level of competitive play. For someone who just likes to mess around with a fighter for a few hours, watch some stories unfold, or tinker with friends, it’s very bare bones. It’s still a solid fighting game, but it feels curiously empty when pit against other games in the genre.
It’s even a bit bare bones when compared against itself. Quest Mode, which was in the original console releases of the game, let players wander around a series of arcades, facing off against AI players. If you did well here, you’d steadily be able to unlock neat clothing pieces and accessories for your characters. It gave players some fun diversions if they just wanted to play on their own, and a decent reward for doing so. It’s sorely missing from this game, although with its focus on online competitive play, I can see why it wasn’t important. For a player like me, though, it means there’s not much here for me to do.
I feel like some of this could have been helped by tying costume and item unlocks to playing various modes, giving me more of a motivation to play, but a lot of the fun additions to the game are tied to the Legendary Pack DLC. Here, you can get a bunch of costumes, classic BGM tracks, and even the old character models to play in the game, but you have to pay for them rather than unlock them. I love playing with the old character models, but it would have been nice to be able to unlock some of this through regular play to provide some incentive to try other things.
If you’re into competitive online play, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown offers great, tense action (when you’ve both got good connections). If you’re the type of person who’s more interested in dabbling with a fighter for fun, there’s just not much to justify getting the game. However, with its flowing combat style, I still feel that it’s well worth experiencing as something special in the genre. Just don’t expect it to hold your attention for long until you’re ready to climb that online match mountain.
Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown is available now on the PlayStation 4/5.