‘Virtua Fighter 5’ OK, but it lacks an online option

“Virtua Fighter 5” is the latest installment of the fighting series from Sega.

The first game of its kind for Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3, the basic gist of this Teen-rated, $59.99 title is pretty simple: punch, kick and body-slam your way past one opponent after another.

There are several game modes to choose from, including arcade mode where you face an increasingly tough lineup of fighters. In quest mode, you can gain prizes and customize your fighter as you advance through a series of arenas of varying difficulty.

What kept things interesting for me was the diverse selection of more than a dozen fighters I could choose from. Each has a unique fighting style, from Drunken Kung-Fu to American-style professional wrestling.

Like many fighting games, “Virtua Fighter 5” is pretty tough, especially if you’ve never played one before.

Button mashers, stay away: You’ll have to memorize countless attacks – where you tap specific buttons on the controller in a very specific order – to perform high-damage, over-the-top killing maneuvers.

Fortunately, there’s a good training mode where you can hone your skills without having to worry about being attacked.

“Virtua Fighter 5” has good looks to go with its demanding, and sometimes repetitious, gameplay.

Intricately designed fabrics on clothing flutter in the breeze, pools of water ripple and the combatants are complete with rippling muscles, beads of sweat and expressive faces.

The fights happen in a variety of visually interesting settings, from busy city intersections to snowy mountainside villas.

Not everything about “Virtua Fighter 5” is going to knock your socks off, though.

The commentary feature, for example, feels more at home at a golf tournament than a fighting game.

The bland male commentators often talk over each other and get really annoying as they spout off stupid remarks like, “This is one where the players went all out.”

Oh really? How insightful.

Perhaps the most glaring absence though is any sort of online mode for playing against other gamers around the world.

In 2007, it’s pretty bad when a video game doesn’t offer some sort of online functionality – especially one like “Virtua Fighter 5,” where head-to-head competition and bragging rights are everything.

As it stands, “Virtua Fighter 5” is the only game of its kind for the PS3 right now. That alone makes it a must-have for any PS3 owner who has the urge to fight it out.

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