Street Fighter V

EDGE - - CONTENTS - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Cap­com For­mat PC, PS4 (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now


Yoshi­nori Ono spent a tremen­dous amount of our in­ter­view for E289’ s cover story talk­ing about foot­ball. With Street Fighter V, he said, it was as if Cap­com was pro­vid­ing us with a ball, kit, two goals and a pitch – all play­ers of any skill level need to get started. At the time, it felt like a fair point. Now, we re­alise he was miss­ing out on a vi­tal in­gre­di­ent: a coach.

Street Fighter V of­fers al­most noth­ing to the begin­ner player. Its tu­to­rial sits some­where be­tween an in­sult and a bad joke, walk­ing you through move­ment, the three strengths of at­tack, throws, then Ryu’s V-Skill and V-Trig­ger. That’s your lot. OK, you’ve par­ried a Ken fire­ball us­ing Ryu’s Mind’s Eye V-Skill, but what of the V-Skills that are unique to each of the other 15 war­riors avail­able at launch? Ken’s is a nippy for­ward run, Chun-Li’s a quick an­gled jump, Cammy’s a spin­ning back­fist, and Birdie ei­ther eats a dough­nut, throws a ba­nana skin on the floor or rolls a can along the ground. You’ve ac­ti­vated Ryu’s V-Trig­ger by press­ing both heavy at­tack but­tons to­gether, but what does it do? And what do all the other char­ac­ters’ equiv­a­lents do? Cap­com, bizarrely, is in no mood for shar­ing. The V (short for Vari­able) sys­tem is SFV’s great­est trick, strip­ping away the sys­tem-wide me­chan­ics of pre­vi­ous games and re­plac­ing them with things that make each char­ac­ter feel unique and can help turn a fight on its head. The least the game could do is tell you a lit­tle about them.

Ac­tu­ally, it turns out that the least the game can do is an aw­ful lot less than that – for the sin­gle player any­way. With a Mor­tal Kom­bat- style cin­e­matic story mode com­ing as a free up­date in June, the ‘Story’ en­try on the launch game’s main menu leads to a se­ries of what Cap­com rather apolo­get­i­cally calls ‘char­ac­ter pro­logues’ – a hand­ful of sin­gle-round scraps against com­i­cally untest­ing AI op­po­nents in­ter­spersed with voice-acted comic-book pan­els. They’re over in a flash – some char­ac­ters have as many as four fights, most three, some just two – and the lack of op­po­si­tion means you can win the lot by thought­lessly press­ing but­tons, learn­ing lit­tle about a char­ac­ter be­yond a cou­ple of min­utes of back­story, and noth­ing about how the game as a whole should be played.

Then there’s Sur­vival mode, which has some fine ideas but is shod­dily im­ple­mented – a fair way of de­scrib­ing the game as a whole. In­stead of the gen­re­standard health top-up af­ter a vic­tory, you can cash in some of your score for a Sup­ple­ment – a perk, es­sen­tially, ei­ther restor­ing some health, boost­ing su­per me­ter or at­tack power or, in the case of the Dou­ble Down sup­ple­ment, get­ting a score mul­ti­plier for your next fight in ex­change for a de­buff (half health, per­haps, or a full stun me­ter that means ev­ery hit makes you dizzy). While the AI’s a slight step up from story mode, it’s still ter­ri­ble, and doesn’t re­ally start try­ing un­til level 26 of Nor­mal dif­fi­culty’s 30 lev­els. Sup­ple­ments are ran­domised – you’ll al­ways get one per cat­e­gory, but it might not be the one you want. So Sur­vival runs fol­low a sim­i­lar pat­tern: you mind­lessly bat­ter your way to the last few fights, scrape through one of the tougher bat­tles then get dealt a bad hand with the health re­fill, start the next fight with a sliver, lose, and won­der why you bother. Pretty soon, you just won’t.

Else­where there’s a lo­cal ver­sus mode, and a train­ing room. And for the time be­ing, that’s it. There’s no clas­sic ar­cade mode – fair enough, per­haps, in a game that launches on con­soles with no ar­cade re­lease, but it does put SFV in the un­fath­omable sit­u­a­tion of of­fer­ing no way to play a tra­di­tional best-of-three-rounds match against a CPU op­po­nent. Per­haps one will be added later on, though Cap­com’s hands are al­ready full in that re­gard. At some point in March it will add combo chal­lenges, one of sev­eral fea­tures ab­sent from SFV’s launch that were on the SFIV disc way back in 2009. While pun­ish­ingly dif­fi­cult in places, combo tri­als were an in­valu­able learn­ing tool in Street Fighter IV. OK, you might never land the harder chal­lenges, but you get in­for­ma­tion from them ei­ther way – which at­tacks can fol­low each other in com­bos, which can be can­celled into spe­cial moves, or how to best set up a su­per move (here called Crit­i­cal Art, or CA). There’s noth­ing of the sort here, and Cap­com’s stated aim of mak­ing a fun, ac­ces­si­ble fight­ing game is en­tirely un­der­mined by a sin­gle­player com­po­nent that doesn’t take the wants and needs of the begin­ner player into the slight­est con­sid­er­a­tion.

Also com­ing in March are eight­player on­line lob­bies, where you can spec­tate matches in progress while you wait your turn. The shop will open its doors too, sell­ing Alex, the first of six DLC char­ac­ters, and al­ter­nate char­ac­ter cos­tumes (weirdly, com­plet­ing story mode pro­logues un­locks new out­fits that you can’t ac­tu­ally buy yet). Cap­com’s roadmap for Street Fighter V’s first six months of life looks like the pub­lic de­vel­op­ment sched­ule of a game in Steam Early Ac­cess.

There’s a very good rea­son for all this, at least: the Cap­com Pro Tour sea­son kicked off ten days af­ter SFV’s launch, and Cap­com sim­ply had to get the game into com­pet­i­tive play­ers’ hands in time. In­deed, ev­ery­thing they need is here: a fea­ture-rich train­ing mode, plenty of on­line op­po­si­tion, and one of the most thrilling, most deeply sat­is­fy­ing fight­ing games ever cre­ated.

And this, of course, is what mat­ters most: Street Fighter V may be ter­ri­bly struc­tured, but at its core is a thought­ful reinvention of a genre that had be­come too com­plex for its own good. SFIV’s many lit­tle sys­tem ex­ploits – the plinks and op­tion selects, the four­but­ton Fo­cus es­capes and in­vin­ci­ble back­dashes – have been re­moved. Combo tim­ing win­dows have

The sin­gle­player com­po­nent doesn’t take the wants and needs of the begin­ner player into the slight­est con­sid­er­a­tion

been opened up con­sid­er­ably, with a three-frame in­put buf­fer bring­ing the fan­ci­est, most dam­ag­ing links within much eas­ier reach of the less skilled. Even spe­cial-move com­mands have been sim­pli­fied, with most now mapped to the quar­ter-cir­cle mo­tion.

Yet none of that means the game is now sim­ple. What it may lack in tech­ni­cal com­plex­ity is more than made up for by the need to learn the in­tri­ca­cies of each char­ac­ter, since each is so dif­fer­ent to the oth­ers. Even those who you think you know have some sur­prises: Zang­ief can combo into his Crit­i­cal Art, or Spin­ning Piledriver you in the air. Dhal­sim re­tains his keep-away stretchy limbs, but has also gained dev­as­tat­ing combo po­ten­tial. And Ryu and Ken are now two dis­tinct char­ac­ters with dif­fer­ent playstyles, just as Street

Fighter lore has al­ways in­sisted they are. The re­sult is that you need to learn at least the ba­sics of each char­ac­ter in or­der to stand a chance at suc­cess on­line. You don’t lose be­cause you dropped a fancy 20-hit combo, but be­cause you don’t know the match-up well enough. Af­ter a loss in Street Fighter IV, we’d of­ten head to train­ing mode to drill our combo ex­e­cu­tion. Here, we’re more likely to pick the char­ac­ter we’ve just lost to and spend a few min­utes with their spe­cial moves and V-me­chan­ics to bet­ter un­der­stand when, and how, to go in for the kill. The nat­u­ral con­se­quence of this is that, in­stead of pick­ing a main char­ac­ter and stick­ing with them, you move around the cast, and have a rea­son­able han­dle on them all, find­ing new favourites where you’d least ex­pected to.

That is pre­cisely how Cap­com wants it – and one of the rare ar­eas in which it has ap­pro­pri­ately struc­tured the mud­dled frame­work it has built around the game. Post-re­lease char­ac­ters and cos­tumes will be bought with Fight Money (FM), the in-game cur­rency that’s ac­crued with ranked match wins and as you level up. Each char­ac­ter has their own lev­el­ling path, and each rank-up nets you 1,000 FM. An on­line win nets you just 50. The maths is pretty clear, then – a few wins rank­ing up with a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter is a speed­ier process than win­ning an­other 20 with your cur­rent main. And va­ri­ety isn’t just good for the wal­let – it makes for a more en­joy­able game, too.

When it works, any­way. De­spite four pub­lic beta tests, a spotty launch saw us kicked even from sin­gle­player game modes if the server con­nec­tion dropped, while on­line play was ei­ther ser­vice­able or un­playable. All kinks that will be ironed out over time, no doubt, but it sim­ply re­in­forces the feel­ing that Street Fighter V was not quite ready for prime time.

The re­sult, then, is some­thing of a mud­dle. SFV, at its core, feels peer­less. Cap­com set out to strip away a lot of the overly com­plex non­sense and make a game play­ers of all skill lev­els could play and en­joy, and on that prom­ise it has de­liv­ered. Its launch ros­ter of 16 char­ac­ters is slen­der by mod­ern stan­dards, yet its cast of­fers such re­mark­able di­ver­sity that it doesn’t mat­ter. Me­chan­i­cally, it’s fan­tas­tic. Struc­turally, it’s a mess and a missed op­por­tu­nity, de­signed in di­rect con­tra­dic­tion to its de­vel­oper’s stated am­bi­tion. Those pre­pared to look past the faults, who ei­ther know what they’re do­ing or are pre­pared to learn the hard way, will fall quickly in love with the most exquisitely de­signed fight­ing game on the mar­ket. The rest should prob­a­bly wait un­til it’s fin­ished.

Ken is ev­ery bit as ef­fec­tive from dis­tance as he is when he’s in the op­po­nent’s face. His speedy for­ward dash, and new di­ag­o­nally an­gled Hur­ri­cane Kick, mean he can anti-air op­po­nents from sur­pris­ing dis­tances

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