Virtua Fighter 5

The Virtua Fighter games have always been the most hardcore of all beat-'em-ups. The complexity of the fighting system is leagues beyond the likes of Tekken, Soul Calibur or Dead or Alive, but - a little ironically - that complexity has long been a weakness outside of Japan's arcades. Virtua Fighter 5 goes beyond "depth;" where Soul Calibur is almost immediately accessible and fun even for button-mashers, Virtua Fighter is simply too complicated for the average gamer to ever sink in to. In catering to the hardcore, Sega excludes every other type of fan around.

Still, the 360 release is now mere months away, and identical to the PS3 version in every way. That means the same 17 characters, the same stacks of costumes to dress your fighters up in, the same fight system and the same range of play modes. Conspicuous by its absence is any hint of online play, a strange omission in light of some of the 360's other fighters - Dead or Alive 4, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat 3 - all of which support Live play. It's not as bad as it sounds, though.

The hardest of hardcore games, Virtua Fighter 5 is so utterly timing-intensive that even the merest hint of latency or lag will strip the game of the pacing that makes it so great. Timing isn't so critical in, say, the Dead or Alive games, but in VF, where strikes can be as quick as a single frame of animation, online conditions can quickly render the game pretty much unplayable.