When Sega released Virtua Fighter in 1993 - the world's first 3D beat-em-up - it changed gaming forever. VF1 was embryonic, but a vital step towards VF5 - perhaps the ultimate 3D fighting game. But before we start the fanfare, there are things you should know.
If you didn't like VF4 - and this plays identically - you won't like this. Secondly, although it oozes quality from every pixel, most people we've played have said "looks nice", messed about for five minutes and left without coming back. This is a problem for the game - and us - to say the least.
So what's going on? How can AM2's masterwork be leaving people so cold? One problem is that Virtua Fighter 2 was doing almost everything this game does (albeit with incredibly basic looks by comparison), ten years ago. The game hasn't moved on that much since - especially since VF3's innovations such as the 'evade' button and uneven stages have been dropped again.
The second problem is games like Dead Or Alive, which have brought unprecedented glamour to the genre. Some gamers will be switched off by the way VF5 looks because, although it's truly magnificent, it's just not that spectacular. Flowing clothes, rippling muscles - the game has reached a plateau of visual excellence that makes it look like fan art in motion without ever appearing explosive. But is that enough for you?
For us, yes. It's beautiful. Arcs of white powder fly up from roundhouse kicks in the snow, gorgeous puddles of water reflect the lamps in the rainy street, shadows fall over not only the floor and over the characters' bodies too, but over each other. And the fabrics would give a tailor raptures... we could go on, but just look at the screens. It's all pure Sega magic. And it's brilliantly 'videogamey' - the character models are the finest we've ever seen, because they still look like games characters, not some zombified monstrosities. VF5 drips with quality and, in that respect, PS3 has proved its worth.
Gameplay-wise, we can't find fault with it either. Everything flows so well - even the longer throw moves no longer stand out from the standard, traditionally staccato blow-by-blow fighting. The animation has been polished to such a degree that even awkward moments - like when stomps have to connect with a rising opponent - look believable. Only one move looks fake - one of Lau's, where his blow to the chest has no impact whatsoever - but in a list of thousands, that's forgiveable.