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No generation would be complete without its own entry in the venerable Street Fighter series, and right on cue, Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and the rest of the motley crew are back to Shoryuken each other into hamburger. This time around, Capcom is promising a more accessible fighting system and varied roster, but is Street Fighter V really as welcoming as it claims? Does the game pull off the tricky balancing act of being inviting to new and lapsed players, while still satisfying devoted Hadoken addicts?
Is Street Fighter V the best around? Is anything ever gonna keep it down? Let’s find out…
Street Fighter V (PC & PS4)
Street Fighter V is more crazy, colorful and, well, more Street Fighter than ever. The male characters have muscles growing out of their muscles, and the ladies are all buxom butt-kicking bombshells. I’m sure Street Fighter V will receive its share of blowback for its gleeful cheesecake-iness, but honestly, the game’s whole aesthetic is so exaggerated it almost doesn’t register that 80 percent of the game’s female characters have at least one costume that exposes their bare backside. At least Street Fighter V‘s female fighters are all confident, distinctive characters. Criticize their outfits, and prepare to be pummeled into oblivion. Almost every Street Fighter V character is packed with personality, brought to life by fantastic, expressive animation, but sadly the game doesn’t do much with these fun personalities.
Street Fighter V‘s underbaked story mode serves up a series of short vignettes illustrated by static art that looks like it was dashed off during somebody’s lunch break. Most of the characters’ stories consist of maybe three or four single-round fights, interspersed with plots that never get more complicated than “I want to FIGHT to GET STRONGER! Oh hey, look, there Ryu! LET’S FIGHT!” Capcom has promised to deliver a more involved story mode in June, which feels a long way off given the scraps we’re expected to subsist on.
The story mode’s art is lacking in polish…and subtlety.
Street Fighter V‘s music is about what you’d expect – lots of wailing ’80s guitars, and not much else. As for the game’s voice work, it’s surprisingly mediocre considering a) there’s really not that much of it, and b) Street Fighter is at least supposed to be a major triple-A franchise. If you were to close your eyes, you’d think you were listening to some random, low-budget JRPG.
Street Fighter V comes with the regular handful of mechanical tweaks, and not much else. The game does add some new online options, and some of the new characters require some unique strategies, but aside from that, this is pretty much just a very nice-looking version of the game you were pumping quarters into back in the ’90s.
On a basic level, Street Fighter V doesn’t reinvent the wheel. As always, you’ll be blocking, parrying, throwing, and performing quarter- and half-circles until your thumb is raw. That said, Capcom has made some effort to give Street Fighter a bit of that accessible Super Smash Bros. flavor with the new V-System. As you absorb punishment, your V-Gauge will fill with energy you can use to execute a variety of moves. Unlike traditional Street Fighter special moves, which require a decent amount of skill to pull off consistently, V-Gauge moves are activated simply by pushing the punch and kick buttons simultaneously. V-Gauge moves come in two flavors, V-Skills and the more powerful V-Triggers, and they can be either direct offensive attacks or RPG-like buffs.
Balancing the V-Gauge, is the EX Gauge, which fills as you mete out damage. Unlike the V-Gauge, which unlocks easy-to-perform V-Skills and V-Triggers, the EX Gauge allows you to amp up your regular special moves, and pull off powerful, difficult-to-execute Critical Arts. It’s clear Capcom is trying to keep everybody happy with this multi-tiered system – V-Gauge moves for average folk, Critical Arts for the pros and traditional special moves for the old cranks like me. Generally the new system works very well. The various types of moves don’t conflict with one another, and it feels like you have some freedom to craft your own approach to each character.
Speaking of characters, Street Fighter V serves up a decently varied roster. You have classic, easy-to-use fighters like Ryu and Chun-Li, esoteric blasts from the past like R. Mika and Birdie and a solid selection of newcomers. Aggressive jiu-jitsu grappler Laura and the agile, stylish Rashid seem like early standouts, while the quirky Necalli and F.A.N.G. may be for expert players only.
Unfortunately, while Capcom seems to be trying to cast a wide net with Street Fighter V‘s mechanics and roster, the game’s selection of modes sends the complete opposite message. As mentioned, the game’s story mode is barely worth playing, and local multiplayer options are sorely disappointing. You can play a basic one-on-one exhibition match, and that’s about it. Instead, Capcom has devoted most of its energies to a variety of online modes, and shock of shocks, pretty much everybody you’ll face online will eat you for lunch. I can best Street Fighter V‘s AI with the difficulty set to Hard pretty consistently, but I was lucky if I won one-in-five online matches. I can only imagine how badly the truly casual players the V-System was designed for are being destroyed. Unless you’re a relatively high-level player into serious online competitive play, there’s just not much for you in Street Fighter V. Capcom has built this badass car, and given you nowhere to drive it.
Street Fighter V‘s story mode can be completed in two to three hours, at which point, you better be into playing online, as all you’re left with is a repetitive survival mode. Capcom is going to deliver a challenge mode and expanded story mode, but it remains to be seen how much they’ll add to the package. According to Street Fighter‘s producer, the upcoming story expansion will still only take an hour or two to complete. Of course, if you’re truly serious about honing your craft, Street Fighter V has the potential to be endlessly replayable, but you have to be able to provide your own motivation.
You need Zangief-levels of FIGHTING SPIRIT to get the most out of this game.
Street Fighter V is not a finished game, plain and simple. That said, it’s difficult to get a full rage-on going over it, as Capcom has vowed to deliver all the missing modes for free. In fact, you can get all Street Fighter V DLC for free, provided you can earn enough in-game currency. Capcom wants Street Fighter V to be a growing, living platform, I get that, but still – for the next few months Capcom is going to be charging $60 for not a lot of game.
The game is also suffering from some online woes. This isn’t exactly shocking, Street Fighter V‘s betas were plagued with issues, but it’s disappointing nonetheless. The matches themselves are usually smooth, but connecting to a match can be a slow, disconnection-laden process. To Capcom’s credit, the situation is already improving, but it still isn’t ideal.
Street Fighter V is a game in a fight with itself. It has designs on being an approachable, chill-out fighter in the vein of Super Smash Bros. or Mortal Kombat, but it also doesn’t want to give up it’s diehard fans or eSports cred. The game invites new players in with its more accessible mechanics, then shuns them with a lineup of modes strictly tailored for the hardcore competitive player.
If you are a hardcore fan, Street Fighter V is yet another slick, finely-tuned entry in the series. Pick it up and get practicing now. On the other hand, if Street Fighter isn’t your full-time hobby, you may want to wait to see if Capcom is truly interested in letting average fans join the fight.
Verdict: Worth A Chance
This review was based on a PS4 digital copy of Street Fighter V, provided by Capcom.