Street Fighter V (PS4 Review)
There’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of a fighting game, since 2009 Street Fighter 4 was considered the peak and most successful in the genre. Sitting next to an opponent and fighting on your preferred format, until one emerges the victor is the epitome of what these games represent. Over the years SFIV has grown arms and legs to a point in which the roster is insurmountable and the depth unfathomable. So with a new generation of consoles and a new breed of gamers, Capcom has saw fit to level the playing field with Street Fighter V. Now anyone can get right in on the ground floor and forge their own path in the competitive scene with the new instalment.
When it comes to Street Fighter there is a vast and rich history, spanning decades and even genres on the odd occasions – yes, I am talking about puzzle fighter. So it would be understandable that those looking towards Street Fighter V would have rather high expectations for the series, after all it has reigned king for 25 years. Capcom definitely had a lot of expectations to contend with and thankfully they have kept the same unique formula that has been so successful all of these years and added a new twist.
Just as important as understanding the pedigree of the game, is understanding the type of player. So it might be best to explain myself, my preferences, and most importantly the fighting games I gravitate to for my enjoyment. I started back in the days of 09ers, a once derogatory term used for players that “jumped on the bandwagon” with the release of Street Fighter 4. Over the years I developed as a player and found my footing in Marvel VS. Capcom 3, which in less than 9 months evolved to Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. So although my origins lie in Street Fighter 4 my heart has always been with the faster pace of Ultimate Marvel VS. Capcom 3 and the variety of Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Although that’s not to say I didn’t appreciate SFIV, just that there was always something that didn’t quite click, it could have been the ever growing cast or how safe Focus Attack Dash Cancels(FADCs) were originally but it lacked the ability to grip me and keep me fixated. It might have even been that I was awful at the game and never found the same satisfaction with SF IV than I did in other games, largely because of pace and variety. Up until the Street Fighter V beta I felt maybe the games weren’t not for me. Although this is all just fluff so you don’t assume that I approached the game like this, well I don’t play Street Fighter like that – it’s a pretty accurate representation of how I play UMvC3.
Street Fighter V takes everything you already know about the Street Fighter series; the 6 button layouts, hadoukens and shoryukens, the eclectic cast of world warriors, the tension in the heart of the battle that you look for in every fighting game and wraps it up in a easily digestible package. Long gone are the questionably long combos that started off with something as simple as a jab, the dragon punches made safe by the FADC follow up, and most importantly the expansive cast that required more match up knowledge than you could squeeze in to that little brain box of yours. Capcom have created a game in which anyone can pick up a pad or arcade stick and perform combos with a little amount of practise, but managed to keep enough depth and variety to allow you to invest yourself in what they have set up to be the next big game in e-sports.
Capcom have accomplished the depth by the way of the new “V” mechanic. At the very crux of every character there lies the unique abilities that set them apart. In terms of button mapping the “V-skills” replace where the focus buttons once sat, but instead of these skills being an easy way to make an unsafe move safer they provide variety to every character. V-Skills can range from Ryu’s ability to parry to F.A.N.G.’s poison projectile and even extends to Nash’s ability to absorb fireballs. Through the use of these new skills players are able to build their “V-Gauge” for the use of “V-Reversals “which consume one block for a sort of get off me move similar to alpha counters of previous titles, and “V-Triggers” that consume the full gauge to enable a trait exclusive to the character selected. Just like the V-skills, the V-Triggers are all unique to every character. They can come in the form of damage boosts, teleports, giant whirlwinds for set ups, to unlock different moves sets, and even a poisonous aura. The entire mechanic is a work of genius as it adds to the feeling of the characters far beyond the older systems, complimenting the play style of each.
Although for those of you concerned with the changes that Street Fighter V brings you can rest assured that the structure and basics fundamentals still apply. You still have super meter, although it is now known as the EX gauge and can be used for Street Fighter V’s “Critical Arts” – that’s supers with a more badass name- and portions can be used to enhance your regular specials to turn them in to EX specials. So meter management and flashy finishes still exist. One massive change to the system is that “chip” kills no longer exist, in previous games a player could die while blocking if they were to eat a special move, and players can only be killed while blocking through the use of Critical Arts to ensure a kill, taking meter management to a new level. With no comeback mechanic like the revenge gauge every victory earned from the grips of defeats is 1,000 times more satisfying and truly adds real tension to those moments where your opponent fails to kill, allowing you to slowly claw it back with near impeccable play.
But with all the good that Street Fighter V has brought with it there are always has to be some bad. With SF V Capcom have sought to make everything easier, and that includes combos. Now a player could spend a barebones amount of time with a character and will more than likely be able to perform the vast majority of what is expected of them, which in itself is not truly a bad thing. What is bad, however, is the truly limited variety of combos on show. As Street Fighter V’s focus has shifted from the elaborate combos of previous titles, so has the creativity found in them. Many characters will throw out their combo, it will do a chunk of damage, and very few people will ever be able to deviate from that as the game does not allow for this level of creativity. As a spectator I fear that this repetition may be the downfall as there is a limit to how many times you can watch the same confirm in to a special or super, but it could be argued that these limitations boil the game down to pure mind games and fundamentally sound play – completely free of most of the more technical execution barriers previously in the way.
Thankfully Street Fighter V is more than easy on the eyes, the background scenes are gorgeous and bustling with activity. Fighting in these scenes far surpass the elegance of some of the previous stages found in SFIV and draw focus to some interesting interactions between characters in the background. On top of that there are even special animations for defeating an opponent in certain areas of the screen that can send them flying on to buses, or through restaurants with a bowl of noodles on the defeated player’s head. It’s really a delight to execute something like that and goes to show that Capcom have thought more about the fights and the charm that is presented beyond the locations and backgrounds. I even like the almost cartoon-like style of the character design, yes anyone with blonde hair might look like they have had a fresh banana skin dropped on their head but it fits the vibrant aesthetic of Street Fighter V and the vision of the developers.
More important than the backgrounds and art style is obviously the cast, something a considerable amount of thought has went in to with Street fighter V. It’s easy enough to lift characters we already know from previous series and give them the same old mechanics and moves, but Capcom have went above and beyond with the redesigns. Returning characters have been given unique abilities in accordance with the V mechanics that take a new perspective on the characters as well as a redesign of some their moves, be it the button inputs or the intended use. Then you have the new characters who have been designed from the ground up for Street Fighter V. Each one looks and feels unlike any character we have found in the series before. With returning series staples, old favourites resurrected, and a whole host of new characters there is a great deal of diversity in the cast with one of them bound to catch your eye as well as bring a marvellously brilliant character theme to bop along to. And that’s before the up and coming DLC scheduled to start in March.
Now there are bound to be a few eyebrows raised at this point, yes there is intended DLC for the month after release. Although Capcom’s new approach to DLC is a first for the company and seems truly inspired. Unlike previous iterations, in which the consumer was required to buy a new disc or pay for content including the balance patches for future instalments, Capcom have promised that all the balances patches will be free and you can earn the currency for unlocking DLC characters. It has been stated that by completing the current story modes for all the characters would net you enough to buy the first intend character, Alex, upon his release. Essentially giving the first piece of DLC away for free. From then on out you will have to earn your “Fight Money” through online play and competing in the various modes on offer in Street Fighter V. And don’t worry if you are too lazy to earn your characters there is a season pass available and if you happen to fall short of Fight Money for one character you can purchase “Zenny”, Street Fighter V’s paid currency, on the store.
By now you will be questioning what modes are available in Street Fighter V and how long this review intends to be. Currently the offline servings are very paltry with only; Story Mode, Casual Matches, versus, training and survival mode available. Story mode consists of two or three fights for each character and some wonderfully drawn stills for every character. Although short and sweet the story mode is a little bit of a let down. There is more story on the horizon however, in fact Capcom has stated that a fully cinematic story is on the horizon at no cost, which will hopefully redeem the rather pitiful servings for those more casual players. The more interesting single player mode is undoubtedly survival mode, a long and gruelling series of 30 fights that you wade through to unlock colours for your chosen character. Survival isn’t anything new in a fighting game, in fact it has been a staple for many years, but not many can boast the same appeal as Street Fighter V. With every round you earn score and this score can be used to place wagers, recover health, or add modifiers to the next round. By placing a wager you can either set your character on the precipice of stun, halve your health, or increase the amount of damage your opponent dishes out in the bids to earn more score and topple the leader boards. But then again, most players picking up Street Fighter V aren’t picking it up to lose themselves in an immersive story or smash a car to pieces, they are there to beat other dudes up in every way possible (a function which is thankfully present).
And if you are unable to find some “local mans to buss up” with the selection of offline modes there is thankfully an almost full functioning online section, I say almost as currently there is no ability to host a lobby with more than one person. The online process has changed somewhat from previous games by removing the character select screen and allowing players to set all their preferences through their battle options so downtime between fights is greatly reduced, a fantastic addition if I ever have seen one, while queuing for casual or ranked matches. Although no 8 player lobbies are currently available you can still partner up with a friend with a whole host of options in the lobby system, showing the capability of what is to come, with options to stop character selection, run first to “X” sets, and even password protect your lobby. it is certainly enough to get to grips with while Capcom start to roll out the patches and updates to add more functionality. And if you are that desperate to get a peek at who’s playing who and what matches look like, you can take to the Capcom Fighting Network and peruse all the automatically stored matches until your heart is content.
That’s all you really need in a fighting game isn’t it? The means to see your friends fight, fight with them, and have a good time along the way. Sure Capcom have provided a rather barebones ship for us to traverse the online battlefields, but it has everything you could ever really need in a fighting game, it just lacks the bells and whistles we have grown accustomed to. Bells and whistles that will be added later and regularly at no extra cost. If Street Fighter IV were to be described as looking to the past to understand what made the series so great, Street Fighter V could be described as looking to the future to ensure it stays on top for the years to come, welcoming all the new comers along the way. So I look forward to whatever plans Capcom has for the future and can’t wait to start earning the fight money.
Editors Note: The copy of Street Fighter V reviewed was not provided by Capcom, it was purchased via an online retailer and arrived in the post. As of posting the review the latest patches were all applied. With Capcom’s continued approach to Street Fighter V we will be revisiting/reviewing the game at a later date once more content has been added.