PlayStation 2
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Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution has been dubbed by many to be the pinnacle of Sega-AM2\'s long running series. With the ridiculously technical fighting system of VF4 (which the series has long been known for), Evolution built upon its foundation with subtle modifications and an expanded array of customization content. Though there is a loose plot in the background of VF4:Evolution, the developer\'s focus is entirely on the gameplay.

For the unaware, Virtua Fighter\'s history has been one of deep gameplay experiences riding on the back of technological advancement. In less wordy terms, Virtua Fighter\'s engines have always required players to learn their characters in order to win. With a couple of possible exceptions, the various fighters have never responded well to players that simply mash the buttons and hope for the best. Though this may deter many casual gamers, the more dedicated gamers have generally been Sega-AM2\'s target audience. Indeed, gamers that are willing to put the effort in to learn a fighter\'s various moves have always found a deeply rewarding engine underneath it all.

VF4:Evolution, in short, does the series justice. However, in spite of its seeming favoritism towards patient gamers, Evolution has a couple of characters that allow newcomers to perform cool looking attack combinations with relative ease. All the same, a fairly skilled player will still hold an advantage with a better grasp of how incoming attacks flow, allowing them to guard against, or even reverse, an opponent\'s efforts. To make things better yet, every character in the game (of which there are 16) is truly distinct. No two characters have the same feel or “canned combos” (attack combinations built into the game). For the less hardcore players, this means that there is likely to be a character well suited for a particular fighting style; however, for the more hardcore players, this means that there are 16 unique characters to learn and master.

Each of these 16 characters represents an entirely different fighting style based on a real-world martial art. These arts vary in background and function, and appreciators of the arts should be pleased. From the absolute brutality of Goh\'s Judo, to the lightning speed of Jacky\'s Jeet Kun Do (the fighting style developed by Bruce Lee), to the defensive elegance of Aoi\'s Aiki-Jujitsu, the various martial arts are fairly well represented in Evolution. Just as important as the realism of these arts is the fact that they are all fairly well balanced in regards to the gameplay; no discipline has a sure advantage over any other. Instead, like a game of chess, the winner will be the one who is most able to plan a strategy, set it in motion, and react well to opponent\'s actions.

VF4:Evolution provides a handful of game modes. The original Arcade mode is present in order to simulate the progression that an arcade cabinet would have. This is as simple as attempting to work through a ladder of opponents to gain ultimate victory with a high score. A second player can jump in at any time as a challenger. If a player loses a match in Arcade mode, he/she can continue from that point in the ladder with a loss in the score. In all reality, you probably won\'t be spending much time in the Arcade mode. The Versus mode, the very impressive Quest mode, and the great Training mode, will be where gamers are most likely to spend their time.

For many fighting game enthusiasts, the competition with real people is where all of the fun happens. That is largely the case in Evolution. The match options are fairly basic, consisting of simple settings for rounds per match and time per round. Still, the Virtua Fighter series has never really been about bells and whistles; in spite of its no-frills appearance, the Versus mode provides exactly what it ought to: quick access to excellent competition with friends. The balance and variety of the various fighters shines most brightly in the Versus matches. Matches are generally quick and intense. As mentioned previously, the fighting system really pushes players to not only learn how to control their characters of choice, but also learn how to read and respond to their opponents. Without doubt, this is the chess of fighting games. Thanks the the character variety and playing styles, Versus mode has practically infinite replay value so long as you can keep others around. As an added bonus, the customizations made to character appearances in the Quest mode can be brought into the Versus mode for players to give that personal touch to their favorite characters.

Quest mode is a surprisingly deep single-player experience that does a great job as a substitute for playing with other people; this is probably because the opponent AI in Quest mode is modeled after the fighting techniques used by some of the best players in Japan. Not only does the AI reflect playing in an arcade with skilled players, but the presentation also sucks gamers into a great simulation of an arcade experience. Players will face off against endless opponents while gaining ranks and unlocking a plethora of visual customizations for their characters of choice. While gaining respect in the various arcades in Quest mode, tournaments will become available throughout the region. Winning these competitions result in more fame, fortune, and customization items. Though this may sound like a barely modified form of the core Arcade mode, the actual presentation and progression of Quest mode sets it apart in fighting games.

The Training mode is also a most welcome part of the ensemble. Though it would be easy to make light of a training mode, assuming that it merely gives you a move list and a practice dummy, Evolution\'s Training mode is exceptional. The game offers hand-holding for every move and canned combo of every character. With a game as complex and deep as Evolution, this kind of training tool is practically necessary. In addition to this portion of Training mode, a typical do-what-you-want-to-a-dummy option is offered. This option allows for all of the common dummy-control options such as whether or not it attacks and so forth.

As if Evolution didn\'t offer gamers enough bang for their buck in the core package, Sega-AM2 decided to include a special 10th Anniversary mode. This mode tweaks the fighting engine to resemble the original Virtua Fighter (including the floating jumps) and replaces the character models with low-polygon models similar to those of the first game. Smaller and lacking walls, the original stages are in place. For the most part, the majority of the character movesets remain intact. Though the 10th Anniversary mode won\'t likely be the mainstay for most gamers, it is a most pleasant addition to Evolution.

Though Virtua Fighter has never put bells and whistles above the core gameplay experience, the series has rarely disappointed in technological progress. Evolution is no exception to this rule. The character models and animations are extremely well done and smooth for the PS2 hardware. Make no mistake, this is not the most beautiful game to ever be released on the PS2; however, it is still pleasing on the eyes. There is never a lack of fluidity in the animations. The models and their actions bear great expressions. The environments in Evolution may not be interactive (aside from the snow that covers the ground of one stage), but they are well designed and look good. This is even better thanks to the variety of lighting and weather effects in place on most of the stages. The only real disappointment in the visual department is the lack of support for 16:9 widescreen and progressive scan. However, given the release date of the game, this is acceptable.

In addition to the generally beautiful appearance of Evolution, the audio aspects of the game hold their own. The combat sounds are as hard-hitting as the fighting demands. The sound of air displacement as fists flash relays the speed and intesnity of the fights. The sound of a successful hit lets you know that contact was made. The sounds of a devastating blow are appropriately brutal. Every character has an array of voiceover commentary, as well. It is a pleasant surprise to find that these voice snippets are actually enjoyable when it is common for such voice work to be exceedingly annoying. From the memorable sound of hitting the start button on the title screen, to every bit of the interface, the sound effects work well. Though the game\'s soundtrack may not consist of the most memorable tunes around, the music is well suited for the game, as well.

Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding Evolution that gamers will have to face is the fact that Virtua Fighter 5 has recently been released on the PS3 and Xbox 360. Because of this, it is important to ask how well Evolution can hold its own against its successor. Make no mistake, in just about every regards, VF5 surpasses Evolution. The biggest changes are in the visuals, an increase in the fighter roster, and, in the case of the 360, online play. By all means, VF5 is beautiful. Though the new fighters make VF5 more accessible to less hardcore players than Evolution, the core experience is largely unchanged; it does, however, feel slightly faster and smoother than Evolution. The online play could be a large draw for enthusiasts, but the overall simplicity of the online play modes does weaken its draw.

Regarding the moral content of Evolution, it is a fairly simple matter. The violence can get fairly brutal (bones should be broken, and some moves literally kick opponents while they\'re down). However, there is no blood or gore. There is no profanity that can be recalled. The supernatural is also absent. There is no sexual content, per se, but some of the female character costumes can be revealing. Fortunately, it is entirely an optional matter to choose such costumes. The big exception to this is Dural, a semi-human that plays the role of the Training mode dummy. This model has a female form that is completely metallic in appearance, but she is naked; in direct terms, her breasts are fully visible in form, but, given the nature of the character appearance, it is hardly any different than a full-body wetsuit. Additionally, there is no exaggerated bouncing breast physics engine in place (though some bounce is visible in Dural).

Without doubt, Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution is the thinker\'s fighting game. The extremely deep and rewarding fighting system will either turn gamers away or turn them into lifelong fans that will never get enough of the game. Though the game is marketed towards the more hardcore fans of the genre, it is not completely inaccessible to the more mainstream gamers thanks to a handful of simpler characters. The almost overwhelming depth of Quest mode, and the always addicting nature of the Versus mode, will keep players hooked for a long time. Though great, everything else is just the icing on the cake. Given the violent nature of the game (and the few cases of revealing costumes that can be donned by female characters), Evolution is not for everyone. Still, it is one of the most morally acceptable fighting games around, and one of the best overall games in its class. VF5 may be on store shelves now, but Evolution is a fraction of the price. Though VF5 is better than Evolution in just about every way, with how similar the core experience is, Evolution can still hold its own for most gamers. If you\'re a fan of the genre, you pretty much owe it to yourself to pick this game up.


- Non Deadly Violence (Ex. Knockout Kings, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) (-2.5 pts)
- Characters wear very revealing clothing such as bikinis or lingerie (-3.5 pts)

Gameplay - 19/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 9/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls/Interface - 5/5
Total Game Score: 48/50

Violence - 7.5/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 6.5/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Ethical - 10/10
Total Moral Score: 44/50
Final Score 92%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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