Street Fighter 5 is the newest incarnation of the premier fighting game. But can it please the fans of the older titles intricacies whilst still providing a easy entry point for series newcomers? The short answer is… mostly. The slightly longer answer is that it succeeds on multiple levels but is still far from a complete package. If you want the really long answer then you’ll have to keep reading.
• Developer: Capcom / Dimps
• Publisher: Capcom
• Reviewed on: PS4
• Also Available On: PC
• Release Date: Available Now
Writing a review of a game like Street Fighter 5 is difficult for a number of reasons. Not least because understanding the mechanics of a Street Fighter game is like trying to translate an alien language for most of us. In a world of ‘cross ups’ and ‘cancelling into an EX super’ it can be difficult to even follow a conversation, let alone decide whether or not it works well. This was especially true of the previous game in the series, which featured a grand total of 44 separate characters and jargon so complex it made Starcraft 2 look like Super Mario World. Thankfully though Capcom has taken a sensible step back for their newest game, with a roster a much more manageable 16 characters. The mechanics have been streamlined too, with the more obtuse exploits and angles taken away in favour of a system designed to be more accessible to newcomers.There are of course plenty of tricks that seasoned players will be able to use to destroy us lesser mortals in online play. But if you’re new to the series or fighting games in general then you’ll find the entry level of play highly accessible. I won’t delve too deeply into the mechanics of the game in this review, mostly because I don’t really understand them and I don’t want to show myself up.
Aside from the intricacies and hidden techniques that are sure to have the more technically minded player pouring hundreds of hours into it, it’s important to note that the actual controls work fantastically. The animations for all the attacks are sharp, responsive and beautifully animated., it’s been said before that fighting games are an exercise in character design almost beyond all else. (something I referenced in my previous article about the genre) but Street Fighter has the budget and experience to not only make every single character utterly unique in appearance and fighting technique but they also give them all a sense of personality even in their idle animations. Even from the character select screen alone you know the character’s height, allegiances and things that they like. Apart from Nash, because he’s a miserable so and so.
However, the thing that makes Street Fighter 5 hard to recommend in its current state, is, well… it’s current state. Ever since the game launched it’s seemed incomplete, missing the features and functionality that it’s high production values and AAA status would imply. Capcom have said that his is because they wanted it to come out early enough to give competitive players and ardent fans a chance to play properly before tournament season begins but it’s left the rest of us playing premium prices for a somewhat lacklustre package. Although as the game has changed and had more added to it as time goes on, the best example of the kind of problems the game has at this stage are illustrated through the game’s lack of an Arcade mode.
For those of you not particularly up to speed with fighting game lingo, the arcade mode is usually the largest single player content in a game of this type. Essentially players pick a single character and fight their way through a selection of increasingly difficult CPU controller players to reach the end, hopefully with some kind of thematic story cutscene as a reward. It’s as close to s troy mode as games of this type have. Hover it’s entirely missing from Street Fighter 5 and instead it’s been replaced with a Story mode. However this story mod consists of between 2 to 5 fights with computer characters permanently on the very easy difficulty setting. As fun as it is to relentlessly pummel the computer into the ground it’s not exactly rewarding and although the alternate costumes you unlock from it are fun to use the mode for every character can be blitzed through in less than an hour if you’re quick about it. There are story sections in between each fight however and I have to admit that these are the parts of the game I feel most conflicted about. Conflicted, because the writing is laughable the motion comic art is nowhere near on par with what we’re shown elsewhere in the game, but also because it’s some of the most fun I’ve had playing with a game’s story in quite a while.
As I said a moment ago the writing is unquestionably terrible, equal parts obscure Street Fighter mythos and incomprehensible exclamations, it’s like tuning into a terrible anime at episode 300 and wondering what the hell happened for all the preceding 299 episodes. But the performances manage to save the dialogue from itself, each line performed with a surprising amount of genuine emotion, which speaks to some half decent direction and acting if nothing else. And they are rather fun, in a terrible sort of way. If you’re the sort of person who finds joy in unintentionally badly made films (which no mistake about it, I completely am) then you’ll find a lot to like here.
There are also the issues with the netcode, with matches taking an age to connect and when they do happen there can be some horrific framerate drops mid match, for no apparent reason. Playing any competitive game becomes incredibly frustrating with issues that affect frame rate, but something that requires as much precision and timing as Street Fighter quickly becomes unplayable. these issues aren’t game breaking for the most part but they are frustrating and they feel as though they could have been avoided given the amount of time and money that’s been poured into the game in other respects.
As I said before, Street Fighter 5 is a tricky prospect to recommend at the moment, because it depends so much on what you want to get from a game. Although the game is in the process of being improved those players who want a more single player oriented experience are probably best to stay away. Those of you who want to pour lots of time and energy into the online then it’s already an excellent proposition, netcode issues not withstanding. Street Fighter 5 shows the world how fighting games should be done, although it could learn a few lessons from the pretenders to its throne.