Replay Value: 10
Those of you who kept up with PSX Extreme throughout 2002, would remember that Virtua Fighter 4 ended up winning the "game of the year" award from me. As surprising as it is, I chose a fighting game to represent my choice as 2002's best game. But if you really thought about it, it shouldn't be that surprising. Virtua Fighter 4 was a gift from the videogaming heavens. The depth it featured was unparalleled, but AM2 felt they could do more – and they did. What AM2 did was a rather gutsy, though at the same time, brilliant move. They gave VF4 the "2 Turbo" treatment and subtitled it "Evolution". Evolution, indeed.
AM2 didn't just use the subtitle "Evolution" for no reason. VF4: Evo takes the original VF4 and kicks it up a couple of notches. If you've worn down your Dual Shock 2 playing Virtua Fighter 4, chances are you're pretty familiar with the move set of the game. Well, here comes Evolution with an updated and enhanced move set, plus two new characters for you to master, and on top of that an all new core feature called "Quest mode". The two new characters, Brad and Goh, were made for both the Virtua Fighter "newbie" and the Virtua Fighter elitist. Goh is aimed towards the elitists, as he is a fighter aimed for those who have mastered a character such as Akira. Meanwhile, Brad is a more lenient fighter who is aimed towards the more novice to intermediate crowd. So it's nice to see that AM2 offered two diverse and balanced fighters, rather than two boring behemoths.
The Quest mode is much like Kumite mode was in the original, but with a twist. Quest mode has you fighting against the AI of actual VF4: Evo players from Japan. What AM2 did was base the Quest mode AI around some of the best Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution arcade gamers in Japan. When you first start out in Quest mode you will fight in less popular arcades where a good challenge is hard to come by. But every time you win a venue, you will move on to another arcade location and with every new venue the challenge increases. Evolution's Quest mode is the key to unlocking everything VF4: Evo has to offer - and that’s quite a bit. In addition to the Quest mode, an updated move set, and two new characters, Sega has also tightened up the balance of the game - so matches will play out more fairly and evenly. Lastly, the controls in Evolution are rock solid, just as they were last year. And if you have a joystick of some sort, put it to use with VF4: Evo.
Visually, VF4: Evo is a cleaned up version of the original, which is great. The visuals in the original, while superb, were being kept down by a lack of optimization on AM2's part. In which case, I am referring to the shimmering and aliasing issues. Evolution deals away with all of that. It [VF4: Evo] looks remarkably clean and remarkably detailed. With the plaguing issues now gone, VF4: Evolution manages to stand out as one of the most detailed fighters on the market. It still features all of the gorgeous environmental effects from the original, and in addition to that, the character detail has seen a slight increase. The lighting, while a bit off in the original compared to the arcade version, looks a lot better, and closer to the arcade version, now. The sound effects, soundtrack and whatever portions of dialogue still sound the same as they did previously, but that's not a complaint. On a technical level, Evolution is filet mignon; it sounds great, and looks even better.
In the end, perhaps the most important thing to know is that Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution is a superb playing fighting game - better than last year's, obviously. It's visually stunning, as the graphics are sharper than ever before. The character detail stands out more, and the lively environments are still present. It still plays like its predecessor, which is great, and the new enhancements made to the game make it worth playing all over again. Evolution's new fighters are very versatile and have been made with both the elitist and novice in mind. The depth has only gotten deeper as the game's Quest mode pushes the word “depth” to a new height. Last, but not least, if you haven't known by now, Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution costs a mere $19.99. Instead of issuing the game as a brand new title, Sega is issuing it under the "greatest hits" line, thus the price tag. By all means, whatever you do, you absolutely have to pick up Evolution. The price is practically a five-finger discount.
To learn more about Virtua Fighter 4: Evolution, read the Virtual Fighter 4 review here.