Playing dress-up in VF5FS is lots of fun, but it comes at a cost.
Finally, Special Sparring is available to players who have purchased the downloadable content bundles and features fights against characters decked out in some wild, weird, and just plain awesome special gear. All of the computer-controlled characters in the single-player modes start off easy but become surprisingly smart and realistic-behaving as you progress. While the challenge is welcome, the lack of a story mode or a mode to earn accolades and items like the quest modes in Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution or the original Virtua Fighter 5 is disappointing.
What Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown lacks in a single-player experience, however, it makes up for in versus play. Offline versus play affords you the usual settings of the genre, but it's the online matching that really shines. High-level Virtua Fighter play is dependent on extremely fast movements, and even the slightest bit of lag can throw off a person's ability to fight well. To this end, players' connections are synced up before a match starts and in between rounds, which keeps lag to a minimum. While the lengthy delay before starting a match online can be annoying, when you're playing a buttery-smooth match against someone on the other side of the country, it's worth it.
Casual match online lobbies allow for up to eight players each and operate in a format similar to that of traditional arcades: winners keep playing until someone takes them down or they step off for a while, while others can wait to challenge them and spectate in the meantime. If you're serious about leveling up and proving your worth to the greater world of Virtua Fighter, you can climb the ranks in ranked matches against opponents from around the world.
While online works well, it isn't always perfect: distance and connection quality still play a huge factor in determining how well online play runs against another person. Most matches are very good, but you still run into a few bouts where the lag has a noticeable effect on gameplay. Very rarely does the game sputter and slow down completely. In our tests, Xbox Live play felt ever-so-slightly smoother than PSN play did, with higher-rated connections cropping up more often.
This isn't quite what Vanessa was expecting when Goh asked her if she'd like to hit the dance floor.
There's a huge amount of depth to VF5FS on its own, but you also have the option to purchase packs of DLC containing hundreds of items and colors to customize each character with. The customization itself isn't quite as in depth as something like Soul Calibur V's Create-a-Soul mode (which allowed you to alter things like body type and object placement), but the sheer amount of stuff you get in each $5 character pack (or $15 for one of two different multi-character packs) offers a tremendous value when compared to other games of this type that charge $2-3 for static costumes.
Unfortunately, the DLC is the only way to gain access to these items--they can't be earned in-game. Also, in order to see other players' costumes in versus mode or online, you need to own the customization packs for their characters. Customization data isn't portable, either, meaning that when you go to a gaming meet or to your friend's place, you're going to have to whip up that awesome robot-suited Jeffry with a giant afro and a tiki mask you made at home from scratch again.
But even if you don't get the DLC, VF5FS offers some of the finest, most balanced, and most in-depth fighting on the market for a price that's hard to argue with. Each character is worthwhile, and you can spend weeks perfecting the use of a single fighter--only to go online and be greeted by another skilled player who uses your chosen character in a new and unexpected fashion. If what you want most from a fighting game is a deep, technical, and incredibly rewarding competitive experience, you can't go wrong with Virtua Fighter 5 Final Showdown.
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