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.

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