Videogame Reviews

Killer Games

Sega's new kung-fu fighting game gives great eye-candy but little else. Plus: Leap over tall buildings in a single bound as a super super-agent in the Xbox 360's ''Crackdown''

Virtua Fighter 5
Virtua Fighter 5

''Virtua Fighter 5'': Looks great, but where's the kick?

VIRTUA FIGHTER 5
(Sega, PS3, Teen)
Long ago, when videogame arcades still dotted the landscape, Virtua Fighter revolutionized the fighting-game genre by rendering characters and environments in three glorious dimensions. Since then, the series has earned a reputation as one of the top kung-fu fighting franchises with a deep, multi-layered fighting engine that rewards rigorous study with fluid, lightning-quick fisticuffs.

The PS3 debut arrives in glorious 1080p, so HD fanatics will marvel at the rich textures and vibrant graphics that make up the violent tableaus. Still, a core deficiency remains unaddressed in Sega's venerable series: There isn't enough story or personality for players to really get behind any of the characters (who spout terrible and utterly forgettable one-liners), while the game itself lacks the expository framing sequences that motivates fans of the rival Tekken franchise to finish those games.

We love the new characters (especially Mexican wrestler El Blaze and Chinese monkey fighter girl Eileen), as well as some new features (like the sidestep-and-attack Offensive Move) that add welcome new wrinkles to the brawling. And the next-gen graphics provide zero-calorie eye candy. Still, we can't help think how truly great future Virtua Fighter games could be with an infusion of fresh narrative blood. B+Evan Narcisse

CRACKDOWN
(Microsoft; Xbox 360; Mature)

As a super-powered law enforcer in this new title from Microsoft Game Studios, you roam around an immense metropolis where everyone, it seems, is armed with guns, grenades, and a less-than-respectful attitude towards authority figures. Gang members are legion and it's up to you to pacify the city. And while it's nearly impossible to wipe out every lowlife thug, you can make progress as long as you take down (read: kill) each organization's kingpin.

Chances are, you won't fall in love with this open-ended game at first. You start out a pretty wimpy hero with barely enough tools to do your job. Over the course of the game, you have to build up abilities in five main areas (strength, agility, weapons, explosives, and driving). These skills increase exponentially — and so will your enjoyment of the game. Invest a few hours in Crackdown and you'll be well on your way to throwing cars as easily as baseballs and bouncing off skyscrapers Spider-Man-style. Online, friends can join you on your crime-fighting crusade, though it's during these times when we wish there were ways to customize the appearance of your super-agent (there are only a handful of characters whose appearances you can assume; more will be added through future downloads). It's far from a masterpiece, but Crackdown is worth a shot if you harbor a desire to become the best gang-stomping, building-leaping, automobile-hurling super agent around. BGary Eng Walk

Originally posted Feb 28, 2007