Review – Street Fighter V

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Street Fighter V is the video game equivalent of a specialist – it can do one thing extremely well, but it is mediocre at everything else. In this case, Street Fighter V boasts some of the best gameplay I have ever experienced in a fighting game or any game released within the last couple of years. However, it is severely lacking in content and polish. If you are a fan or competitive games and plan on spending most of your time playing online, you can’t go wrong with Street Fighter V. If you are looking for anything else, you will not find anything of substantial quantity, or quality, here.

Gameplay

Let me set the record straight: Street Fighter V’s gameplay is absolutely fantastic, and I am firm believer that the gameplay is the most important aspect of a video game. In this respect, SFV is a clear winner. The gameplay is simple, deep, fast, balanced and a ton of fun. It has been quite a while since I have been thoroughly satisfied with a fighting game’s, or any game’s for that matter, gameplay and mechanics.

To start, the game addresses almost every concern I had with Street Fighter IV. While SFIV was a very deep and mostly accessible game in its own right, it felt very much bogged down by an overabundance of mechanics. Focus Attack, Red Focus, dash canceling, delayed wakeup, option selects, plinking… the list goes on. While all these mechanics, intentional or not, added a great deal of depth to the game, it also made it fairly complicated and made mix-up tactics very powerful.

Street Fighter V went back to basics and brought the focus back to fundamental gameplay. The core gameplay has been simplified significantly. Gone are many of these superfluous mechanics. While some may see this simplification as dumbing down or making the game too easy, the game still feels as deep as any other modern fighting game. In some ways, it might be even more challenging and competitive because of its focus on fundamental gameplay (i.e. there are fewer options and shenanigans to help the player escape tough situations).

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V-skills and V-triggers are unique to each individual character. Every V-skill/trigger has a different property, effect and application.

While I do not believe simplifying the gameplay has made the game easier, it certainly reduced the barrier to entry. Newcomers should have a much easier time learning how to play Street Fighter V. They are less likely to be overwhelmed. The game’s execution is also significantly less demanding which helps out players not accustomed to the complex inputs and strict timing of fighting games. To share a personal experience, I was able to teach two of my friends how to play the game fairly quickly with few complications. They are now fans of Street Fighter V when they had no previous interest in the series.

I have made it clear that part of what makes the gameplay great is its reduction in excess mechanics; however, that is not to say that Street Fighter V does not bring anything new to the table. The new “V” system mechanics make the game feel refreshing and new. V-skills and V-triggers are unique to each individual character. Every V-skill/trigger has a different property, effect and application. They are similar to Injustice’s Character Powers and Killer Instinct’s Instinct mechanic. The V system really helps diversify the cast and makes playing each character feel like a unique experience.

Overall, the gameplay of SFV simply feels more solid and rewarding than previous entries in the series, specifically Street Fighter IV. The system is designed in a way that more calculated and thoughtful play is rewarded. Normal attacks are better than they have ever been, combos are simpler but more damaging and players can heavily punish scrubs who carelessly spam invincible attacks. The gameplay is a little too offensive for my taste, but there are certainly ways to deal with overly aggressive players. The cast of characters feels mostly well balanced at the moment but, as always, it is too early in the game’s life to tell for sure.

Multiplayer

Street Fighter V’s impressive gameplay really shines in the game’s multiplayer modes. As with any fighting game, the gameplay’s depth becomes apparent when you play against human opponents, especially skilled players. Whether you are a hardcore competitor or a casual player who enjoys beating down your scrubby friends, SFV is most fun when playing against other people.

The versus mode is the standard fare for fighting games, which is perfectly fine. Capcom, however, put a lot of work into the online multiplayer, and it really shows for the most part. Online matches are nice and smooth on quality connections. Some of the five-bar matches I have played seemed nearly identical to offline play. It is also easy to get into a match from anywhere in the game using the match-making feature. Once the player sets up the fight request feature, you can play training, survival and story mode while you wait for online matches. The Capcom Fighters Network, or CFN, is also a great additional feature for competitors that allows for the viewing of replays, searching for players and statistical organizing of match data. Oh, and the online multiplayer is cross-platform between PlayStation 4 and PC which is super convenient if you have friends who play on a different platform than you do.

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The gameplay is highlighted in the impressive (when functional) online multiplayer.

Online multiplayer, while great, is certainly not perfect. For whatever reason, Capcom chose to limit the ability to choose characters outside of battle lounges by forcing the player to change their favorite character in the battle settings. Speaking of battle lounges, they are currently limited to a two player capacity at the time of this writing. While matches are great on good connections, lower quality connections suffer from large amounts of stuttering and give the appearance that the characters are teleporting across the screen. Finally, the online component has been known to suffer frequent server disconnects. Capcom has mostly resolved this issue but players still run into the disconnected from server error from time to time. This is quiet disappointing considering Capcom ran several beta tests through the course of several months before the game’s official release. What is most baffling of all is that disconnecting from the server also interrupts offline gameplay including versus mode matches. There is simply no reason for this to happen. Don’t even get me started on the rage quitters.

Despite its quirks and issues, the online gameplay is currently Street Fighter V’s main selling feature, and it does its job well more often than not. If you have friends to play with locally or a good internet connection, you should have no trouble enjoying the game’s multiplayer.

Content and Single Player

Street Fighter V’s largest and most obvious shortcoming is its downright puny amount of content. The bottom line is that there is simply very little for players to play, let alone enjoy, outside of multiplayer matches. There are only two single player modes (Story and Survival) and both are pretty underwhelming. Story mode consists of about two to three matches per character accompanied by very generic illustrations and voice overs. The stories themselves feel more like prologues than anything else as most of them consist of flashbacks. There simply isn’t a lot to experience in this mode.

Survival mode is a little bit more robust. Like most other survival modes in fighting games, the player fights a series of computer-controlled players until they run out of health. However, this mode does provide additional options in the form of power-ups at the end of each match that range from replenishing health, boosting attributes and increasing your score (which you use to purchase these power-ups). The main issue with survival mode is its inconsistent difficultly. Often the player will face a brain-dead pushover of an AI opponent one match and then fight a more calculating and aggressive one the very next match. Much of the time, it is simply a matter of getting lucky. These issues are particularly evident in the harder difficulties.

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Story mode consists of about two to three matches per character accompanied by very generic illustrations and voice overs.

The truly baffling omission from the single player content is an arcade mode. The arcade mode has been a staple feature in fighting games pretty much since their inception. Considering the very limited nature of the story mode, you would think Capcom would offer a basic arcade mode to fill in the gap. I do not imagine it would have been very hard to implement either. Alas, arcade mode is MIA and there seems to be no indication one will be added in the future.

Outside of these single player modes, the game is limited in content overall. There are currently 16 characters and 11 stages. This doesn’t exactly qualify as a small offering, but it is low compared to other Street Fighter games and modern fighting games in general. The only positive perspective to this situation is that more content is on the way and it will be free (for the most part). Capcom has already announced the addition of six DLC characters, a challenge mode, in-game shop and a cinematic story mode all of which will be arriving in the coming months. Many of these features, including the first DLC fighter Alex, are scheduled to release sometime in March.

The inclusion of this additional content is no doubt exciting and will add value to the game. The issue here is that the game was released without this content in the first place. The retail of version of Street Fighter V in its current state feels incomplete. Yes, the game is certainly playable, but the content is not up to par with what is expected from a $60 product. If the game would have released for $20 to $30 or was even, dare I say it, free-to-play, the value would be more in line with the final product. Even with the free additional content on the way, SFV currently feels overpriced for what it offers.

Presentation

On a more positive note, Street Fighter V’s presentation is excellent overall. The game was developed using Unreal Engine 4 and the visuals are a significant improvement over Street Fighter IV and other fighting games currently on the market. I have heard the character models likened to detailed action figures or statues and that description is pretty spot on. The characters are highly detailed, well textured and have a sort of glossy finish to them. The cartoon-esque style with exaggerated facial expressions and proportions remains but just overall looks more appealing. I must also say that I am a fan of many of the character redesigns. It refreshing to see classic characters in brand new default outfits which are very rare for the Street Fighter series.

The most notable improvement to the visuals are the animations. Characters movement is incredibly fluid and reaches a level close that found in the Street Fighter III series. The characters’ attacks feel less jerky and the animation is generally more life-like. If you are playing the game on PC, there is an option to add a motion-blur effect that really gives the animation some extra visual fidelity. One particular aspect of the animation that I really appreciate is how the many of the characters’ attacks have different animations on hit, whiff and block. In addition to simply looking neat, these differences in animation make it easier to confirm hits and punishes during gameplay.

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The characters are highly detailed, well textured and have a sort of glossy finish to them.

Stages are less impressive than the characters but still look great overall. There is plenty of action happening in the backgrounds as well as the usual slightly-hidden details. What grabs my attention the most about the stages is how diverse they are. Unfortunately, only one of the stages has end-of-round transitions. Why this feature was not included in the rest of the stages is beyond me.

Audio is more or less very similar to Street Fighter IV. Many of the hit effects sound the same though the new block sound effect is a little beefier. The music, as usual, consists of remixed tracks from previous Street Fighter titles. Some of the new stage exclusive tracks, the Brazil stage in particular, are pretty catchy and appropriately energetic.

The presentation of the PlayStation 4 and PC versions is very similar. As expected, the game does look noticeably better on PC, especially when the aforementioned motion-blur effect is active. However, the PlayStation 4 version still looks impressive and thankfully maintains a stable framerate during gameplay. Since the online play is cross-platform, neither platform has any significant advantage aside from the small cosmetic augmentations of the PC version.

Conclusion

Street Fighter V was a very difficult game to review. I am personally enjoying this game immensely. The gameplay is tight, balanced, accessible and deep. Its focus on fundamental and thoughtful gameplay make for a game that feels intense, rewarding and honest. The new V-mechanics give the game a fresh feel and add some additional variety and flash to the characters. This gameplay is highlighted in the impressive (when functional) online multiplayer. However, the overall product is not a great value for those who want more or simply don’t enjoy playing with friends or online. The single player content is limited and mediocre in quality, which is an issue for a $60 retail game. Street Fighter V as it is currently is not worth the price of admission for those who fall somewhere outside the competitive online player. Those who enjoy deep-engaging gameplay and want nothing more than to play against other humans, you most certainly will have fun with Street Fighter V. For those looking for anything else, you are better off waiting till more content is added which you hopefully won’t have to wait much longer for.

Score: 3.5/5

Video Review:

 

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