There's some impressions of the VF4 playtest on IGN Insider w/ a few pieces of new info. "Virtua Fighter is back! After a most uncomfortable lull in all things VF for the past three years, AM2Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s star franchise has come out swinging once again Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and if the test version is any indication, VF Mania is ready to put Japan back in its Kung Fu grip. A healthy number of fans showed up at the gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first highly-publicized location test, at the Ikebukuro GIGO arcade. The line to play headed out of the basement test area, up the stairs, and out the door Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and the area surrounding the four test machines was an ocean of beautiful Sega fanboyism (several gamers showed up in orange shirts with the traditional Sega swirl, and the words Dream Over). As expected, security was tighter than ever, and one audacious fan with a digital camera was beaten down with boken by the GIGO staff. After queuing up for an hour, we snagged our special Virtua Fighter Data Cards (a paltry 500 yen), and sat down to get our game on. As expected, VF4 looks Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and plays Ã¢â‚¬â€œ like a turbocharged version of VF2. In recent interviews, creator Yu Suzuki has mentioned the quicker speed of the second game, and a desire to get back to the seriesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ roots. The handful of matches we got to play were faster and more cutthroat than any VF2 match IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever seen, and were rollicking good fun Ã¢â‚¬â€œ I tried playing as the new monk character, who offered a variety of stance-changes. When your character is hit, he or she get a slight case of the Ã¢â‚¬Å“dizzies,Ã¢â‚¬Â and an on-screen icon prompts the player to wiggle the stick for faster recovery times. The Ã¢â‚¬Å“EvadeÃ¢â‚¬Â button from VF3 has gotten the axe for simplicityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sake, and 3D movement is now accomplished with the stick. However, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not much need for evasive movement this time around, as all of the environments are flat, square-shaped arenas. Despite enormous backgrounds, all of the action is concentrated in a 20-meter ring, some of which are surrounded by fences. Some fences are unbreakable (Fighting Vipers-style), while others crumble away segment by segment, allowing a traditional ring-out. This sequel returns to the basic square arenas of part 2. Though you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t actually explore the backgrounds, they do look awfully pretty. Each stage begins with a handful of cinematic cuts and fly-throughs showing off the arena, allowing the playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s jaw to drop. New areas include a night-time Venice stage, which features some of the loveliest water effects since Panzer Dragoon. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also an incredible coliseum stage, which is like SarahÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s VF2 stage on crack. Lightning blasts through the sky, and in some instances, actually hits stuff outside the ring Ã¢â‚¬â€œ in one sequence, a five-story-tall pillar tipped over and smashed through a healthy chunk of ring-side geometry. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll also find neat deformation effects on sandy and snowy surfaces Ã¢â‚¬â€œ players make honest-to-god indentations whenever they move their feet or fall down. AM2 has also seen fit to add completely insane particle effects. There are hundreds of fishies swimming about in the aquarium area, hundreds of birds flitting through the air, and thousands of leaves getting kicked about in the autumn forest area. And just wait until you lay eyes on JackyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rooftop, where a helicopter circles the arena and shows off the NAOMI 2Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s support for eight hardware lights. It gets even better Ã¢â‚¬â€œ one basement arena is enclosed in a cage, and there are several hundred spectators jumping up and down and carrying on in the background as you fight. The graphics are excellent. Can the PS2 handle it? Most of the characters are garbed in bright colors, just like the vibrant VF2 outfits. All of the clothes segments are perfectly articulated Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the hood of LionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sweatshirt flops about, AoiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s silk pants blow in the wind, and AkiraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gi moves to give us tantalizing glimpses of his manly, chiseled stomach (our boy has bulked up to Wolf-like proportions for this tournament). The characters avoid the quasi-freaky Ã¢â‚¬Å“albinoÃ¢â‚¬Â look of VF3, and now have plenty of flush to their high-polygon faces. Aoi actually looks cute this time around (the character select screen lists her new hobby as Ã¢â‚¬Å“Reggae DancingÃ¢â‚¬Â), and Pai has a little bit of DoA2-style bounce to her; Jacky now wears an Ã¢â‚¬Å“EngrishÃ¢â‚¬Â leather jacket with Ã¢â‚¬Å“BREAK MASTERÃ¢â‚¬Â written on the front. The only strike against the characters is a bordering-on-unnecessary amount of Ã¢â‚¬Å“shininessÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œ thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no need for such metallic specular highlighting on skin and cloth textures. Also questionable is the usage of Tekken-style hit sparks, which light up each attack with a flash of yellow. Match replays are also a bit more interesting to watch, thanks to realistic, Ã¢â‚¬Å“fuzzyÃ¢â‚¬Â-style camera movements (think Moto GP), and super-intense close-ups. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll also get intense camerawork during throws, bringing you even further into the bone-crushing action. There was a lot of new moves for each of the characters that we only caught glimpses of Ã¢â‚¬â€œ it looked like Sarah could cock back her leg for several seconds before unleashing TKD-style kicks, and the New Monk GuyÃ¢â€žÂ¢ seemed to have a number of different mid-game style-shifts. There were one or two animation glitches Ã¢â‚¬â€œ JeffryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s left leg had been improperly boned and was looking a bit dislocated, and AoiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s DF G+P arm-breaker had her shifting unnaturally to the side of the opponent. The VF.net system should cause a craze in Japan And then we have VFNet. Each player can purchase a VF Player Card for a paltry 500 yen, which contains all of your ranking data. Win a match, and you get a certain number of experience points, which are dumped onto the card. The arcade machine saves your win/loss record, and uploads your info to the main global ranking server. Whenever you play the game, your ranking (from ten to one) appears directly underneath your life-bar, allowing you to intimidate your opponent with your crazy Virtua Skillz. Players with i-mode phones were able to get online at the location test site, and input their names and preliminary ranking data for the networkÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s beta test. VFNet can also email you when your rivals play, and give you the location of where theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re playing. Who will be the worldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top VF4 player? Will it be the elusive Ikebukuro Sarah? The aptly-named Bun-Bun Maru? Or will it be Anoop? With VFNet, you will finally know. While VF4 looks to be an admirable addition to a classic series, we still have a few worries, such as the total lack of environment interaction and height changes. In any case, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d better be ready for some fierce competition Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and with VFNet, the world will be your battleground."