It’s a knockout
For all its faults, Street Fighter V imparted a vital lesson to those who make fighting games for a living. The accepted standard for games in this genre is that any singleplayer component will forever play second fiddle to multiplayer, whether online or off. Yet one of the most widespread, and most surprising, criticisms of SFV was its lack of an Arcade mode. On the evidence of this month’s Play crop, it’s a lesson that’s been learned by developers.
Leading the pack is Injustice 2 (p110), which sets a new standard for the singleplayer fighting game with its sprawling, endless Multiverse mode. On top of that sits a loot system which, while hardly offering the game-breaking power of some of the games from which it takes its inspiration, adds a motive and a reward to playing the game offline. Loot is a powerful hook in games of all stripes, admittedly, yet in retrospect it’s always been well suited to the fighting game, where players typically stay loyal to characters with who they feel a deep connection. So it’s perhaps no surprise to see Tekken
7 (p114) implement a loot system of its own. Yet Bandai Namco’s game shows it’s not enough to just chuck torrents of cosmetic or power-enhancing gear at players. You need to nail the structure, too, and it’s here the game falls short.
Trust Nintendo to be different. Arms (p102) has a loot system of a sort, but Nintendo is more preoccupied with changing the fundamental nature of one of the most intoxicating, but off-putting, genres in games. By dramatically lowering the fighting-game skill ceiling, reducing its move lists and combo patterns to a handful of simple motion inputs, Arms shows that the best way of making players stick with your game isn’t a matter of content or structure – but good, old-fashioned, peerless game design.