violence is never in short supply in the video game world.
While American senators publish lists of the 10 most mind-warping games that parents should avoid like the plague, games like the utterly moral-free Grand Theft Auto 3 and Virtua Fighter 4 continue to do brisk business at the toy store. Clearly, there's something to be said for random acts of mayhem.
Virtua Fighter 4 is nothing but violence. Two people face off in a ring and try to beat each other unconscious using martial-arts-style moves. Nothing much else happens.
The Virtua Fighter series got its start as a hugely popular arcade game that let kids crowd around a screen, jab wildly at buttons and try to do in their friends. That it's lasted for four instalments is little short of amazing, especially when you consider that beyond better graphics and a few new characters not much has changed.
There are different modes to the game, including training levels, an old-school arcade-style sim and the option to create your own character, but these are just add-ons. The real attraction is the fighting.
The brawls are unquestionably exhilarating and stunningly realistic, but the experience is also surprisingly dull. With no plot to speak of and nothing beyond the fighting, the adrenaline rush fades fairly quickly. If, like me, you can't remember that left-right-punch-grab-left-punch-grab-left-punch-grab is the secret code for a triple head-butt, you also end up spending most of the game stabbing blindly at the keypad hoping something will work.
For those addicted to the series, that will be well worth the cash. Those looking for more than a beating might want more.
VIRTUA FIGHTER 4 for PlayStation 2, $80. Rating: NNN
GRAPHICS: Blood-free but shockingly realistic.
ADDICTIVENESS: Low, unless you're willing to put a lot of time into learning the moves.
ANTI-SOCIAL FACTOR: Who hasn't wanted to lay a beating on a close friend now and then?
PROXIMITY TO THE REAL THING: Have you ever fought a 300-pound giant?p>