Review by King Zeal

"The SECOND-best fighting game ever made."

Alright, I'll admit it:

VF4 is one of the best fighters ever made. I've never been a real fan of the series, but this game has won me over. It's a solid fighter that only ranks ONE notch lower than that fighting monarch known as Soul Calibur on my fighting hierarchy.

Now, to go over the game more closely. First off, the graphics are good. Not as good as DOA3, but good nonetheless. The one thing that kinda throws me off are the character designs. There's just something...off about them. Let me say that I like Soul Calibur's designs better only because they're more imaginative. It's not really a fault of the game. However, what IS a fault of the game is the way the characters look like animated barbie dolls.

Take a look at Vanessa (my favorite character). Nothing on her looks ''convincing'' in my opinion. Her ab muscles look painted on, her hair looks like a dirty rag, and her thighs are just.....wrong. Not to mention that when she bounces up and down in her default fighting stance, it's extremely unconvincing. I doubt that Sega actually motion captured that stance, because her feet barely even look like they're touching the ground.

Next, I'll touch upon the sound. The music isn't really all that great. In fact, in some places, it downright sucks. I mostly tune it out when I play, though. However, I kinda like the Harbor (Vanessa's stage) for the simple fact that Vanessa's bouncing seems to make it seem like she's dancing to the beat. As for the voices.....oh dear God do they suck. Vanessa (yes, I will CONSTANTLY mention her in this review for good or for ill) sounds totally unnatural. I can't even soak in the satisfaction of her victory pose after I win because her voice just ruins the whole effect. In addition to that, every time I hear Jacky scream out ''YEAH!!!!'' when he kicks me against a wall, I feel like throwing my PS2 out of a window.

Speaking of Jacky and his wall-kicking, it's time for the moment you've all been waiting for: How does the game PLAY?

Well, let me first go into the modes. They can easily be described in one sentence: ''All that other stuff'' and Kumite mode.

While the game does contain a substantial amount of modes such as the standard Arcade, Versus, and Training, every other mode in the game doesn't hold a candle to Kumite. AI mode is kinda fun if you're into raising an AI fighter for sparring or showing off to buds. And versus (when playing against friends of equal skill) is where the game REALLY shines.

However, for 99.9% of your solo fighting experience, you'll be in Kumite mode. This is sorta like playing in an arcade in which you constantly take on random CPU opponents of different backgrounds and skill rankings. You yourself can also go up in rank, but the game doesn't make it very clear what the criteria for doing so are. It's kinda frustrating to want to move up to the next rank and have NO idea how many people, or WHICH people, you have to beat in order to do it.

As for Kumite mode itself, it gets progessively harder as you go higher and higher in rank. It gets SO hard in the later levels that I constantly found myself cursing at the screen whenever a CPU opponent (who is near defeat) conveniently counters/evades/blocks ALL of my attacks in order to make a massive comeback and win the round. In every review I've read so far, most of them have said that the AI doesn't read your moves. Are we playing the same GAME here?!!? Sure, the computer isn't PERFECT, but it's too damn close. Even if you mix up your attacks, the computer can figure out how to get around what you do.

Now, let me move along to the fighting mechanics. While I like the game more than Tekken and DOA, I can honestly say that I prefer Soul Calibur. The reason for that is that Soul Calibur doesn't force you to rush through a match. Matches in VF4 are extremely short, and that's mostly due to the fact that you have to CONSTANTLY be on the move. In SC, some instances require that you take a split second to strategize which move you pull out and when. In Virtua Fighter 4, there IS some strategy involved, but against the computer especially, you pretty much just pick one and hope for the best. It's so easy to be jabbed or kicked out of a move, it's almost enough to make you cry. And sidestepping doesn't work NEARLY as good as it should.

Due to the spotty animation in the game, characters don't really draw back from an attack before they can block or attack again. For example, if Jacky misses a kick, you have to hit him at the exact moment the kick misses. If you don't, he'll be blocking a second later. Even my beloved Vanessa's tackle move can be recovered from almost instantly. Even though it works to my advantage, I can feel a friend's pain when they block the tackle only to find me blocking before they can retaliate. This also adds to frustration in ANOTHER area: the arenas.

I have to honestly say that Ring Outs in this game are much better than in Soul Calibur. In SC, your character seemed to defy gravity and often bounced his or her way out of the ring. In VF4, matches will RARELY be decided from a Ring Out. And if it happens, it's mostly your fault. In the enclosed, walled arenas, the walls add a level of strategy to the game. (There are breakable walls, but by the time one is broken, it'll be so late in the match that there'll be minimal threat of a Ring Out.) You can punish a character if you throw/knock them into a wall. Also, this benefits SOME characters more than others. Earlier, I mentioned being kicked against a wall by Jacky. Due to Jacky's speed, you'll be bounced off the wall so much from his kicks that you can count on almost half your life bar disappearing. You won't be able to do a damn thing about it, which makes it another frustrating thing to endure.

Well, that just about says it all for the game. In all fairness, I love it, but I still think it could have been MUCH better.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/02, Updated 03/25/02


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