E3 06: Virtua Fighter 5 - hands-on

After announcing that Virtua Fighter 5 will be a PS3 exclusive when it ships next year, Sega let the crowds at E3 get a preview with the arcade version of its martial-arts powerhouse.

Even though it's not running on the PS3 hardware (yet), Virtua Fighter 5 looks amazing, with big, detailed stages and realistic lighting. The characters look incredibly smooth and well-animated, with one move leading seamlessly into the next. But while they're better-looking than ever, they're mostly the same characters fans will remember from Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution.

So in the short time we got with the game, we tried out the two new scrappers: A masked Luchador named El Blaze, and a tiny monkey-style kung-fu artist named Eileen. Being a wrestler, Blaze uses a lot of throws, but his hand-to-hand fighting style is less wrestling than it is brawling. He's able to pull off devastating body blows, smacks to the face and snap kicks that can quickly lay out his opponent. But he's especially cool if you can get close enough for a throw; pull off the right move, and he'll launch into one of the acrobatic takedowns that Mexican wrestling is known for, flipping his body around his opponent's before yanking them down. He also looks really cool in that textured cloth mask.

But while Blaze's more interesting moves take a little bit of skill to pull off, Eileen is geared more toward beginners and button-mashers. With relatively little effort, most players will be able to dish out major damage and chain together some really graceful-looking combos. Her throws - which involve her running up her opponent and jumping backwards off their shoulders - are jaw-dropping as well.

New faces aside, what we've played of Virtua Fighter 5 appears to be the same action fans have gotten used to - three buttons, 3D movement and ring-outs included. It was just a small taste, sure, but it's left us eager to see how the game shapes up on the PS3 hardware leading up to its spring 2007 release.

May 11, 2006