Street Fighter IV PS3, Xbox 360
Street Fighter IV, as with most fighting games, is difficult to review. Almost everyone that has enough interest in the product to bother checking out a review has also followed the game for months on end, read previews about how the game plays, looked at numerous videos showing the fighters in action, and spent countless hours wondering why Chun Li’s thighs are so stupidly big.
You most likely already know who all 25 characters are, who the secret characters are, and you are probably familiar with Seth – the big lumbering final boss of this iteration.
To be honest, if this were a game in any other genre we’d be a bit miffed at you for spoiling everything about the game before release, but for a fighter it is almost second nature to want to know absolutely everything before you buy.
However, no matter how much you look at, how much you see, and how much you study a game pre-release, you never know how a game will feel until you get that controller or arcade stick in your hands. The good news is that SFIV feels very good to play, and although this is a weird assertion to make, it feels very Street Fighter.
This is due to the fact the game is based very much on the Street Fighter II mould, albeit with new added additions. Because of this, regardless of all its new vivid flash and colour the game feels familiar; if you spent some solid time with those games in the past you’ll almost instantly know what the game asks of you.
It is not just a version of SFII dressed up to the nines though – we have already seen that countless times already anyway. It is better described as a scrupulously rebuilt game formed from the same base ideas.
Of course, since almost two full decades have passed since the blueprint was first drawn up, the building blocks Capcom have to work with are now significantly more advanced, and this most certainly shows as you play Street Fighter IV.
In just the single player modes alone there is loads to do. The game opens with just 16 of the 25 characters available, so a bit of unlocking would be a good place to start, which is all done via arcade mode. There are also multiple difficulty levels to choose from when you’re fighting the AI, so the game is friendly to those of all skill levels.
Challenge mode extends the single player offering that bit more, and is a great place to learn the eccentricities of the fighting system. Although a training mode is also available should we wish to repeat moves to such an extent they become ingrained in muscle memory.
Multiplayer options are what gives brawlers the most longevity though, and SFIV certainly does not let up in this regard. Same couch multiplayer is as awesome as it has ever been, and showcases the care Capcom have put into balancing the game. In fact, it is not until you fight a human opponent for the first time that you realise the cleverness behind the new Focus Attacks and Ultra Combos, which all work in conjunction with the EX Special Super Combos of older games.
While online there are only two basic modes available – player matches and ranked matches. However they come with a well thought out rewards system with titles and icons for meeting certain criteria that you can attach to your online profile. There is also a points system that keeps track of your wins and loses, pitting you against better players as your skill improves. SFIV’s online would seem to be addictive enough to grab you for the long haul.
Online also boasts an option which harks backs to the glory days of arcade gaming that lets other players challenge you to a one on one fight while you are playing through the one player arcade mode. When you are challenged, you are taken out of the vs CPU battle you were playing, and have to face a human opponent. Regardless of whether you win or lose you will then get put back into the arcade mode at the point at which you were challenged.
It is quite similar to the melding of both single player and multiplayer modes seen in Burnout Paradise, and Capcom have executed it just about as gracefully as Criterion did in their offering. If needed, the mode can be easily turned off should you want to focus on solo play. Thankfully, all of these online battles currently seem to be lag free, so let’s hope it all hold up when the servers get busy.
The brand new characters, of which there are four, are welcome additions to Street Fighter canon. Sure, none of them will every be as iconic as the old blood, and the likes of “Burning Kick” and “Chili Mexicano” will never give the same warm feeling that a “Sonic Boom” and “Hadoken” does. But even so, the four newbies are still highly playable.
C.Viper will probably be the character to get the most attention from players, due to nice all round selection of moves in her arsenal – in my opinion anyway. Personally, I found El Fuerte can be highly annoying, due to him being overtly hyper, along with multiple terrible online experiences I had going up against anyone using him (I lost a lot!), but ultimately it still seems like he belongs. Finally there is Rufus and Abel. Rufus, just like El Fuerte, is also a bit OTT in nature. Abel on the other hand is a stronger character, very much in the same vein as Zangief, though somewhat quicker.
Bad things? Well, of course there has to be a few. Number one on my list would have to be the opening and ending movies for each character in arcade mode. I personally found them to be very much out of sync with the rest of the game, as the characters are portrayed using a different anime style than the main game. Sure, it is nice to get some insight as to why the characters are fighting, but the minute long pieces are somewhat sterile next to the accentuated hand-drawn calligraphic look the main game uses.
Other smaller niggles would be that the HUD is a bit too intrusive, with both the top, bottom, and all corners of the screen taken up by words, numbers, pictures and gauges of some sort. In is not that bad, but the info on there could have easily being relayed in a much sleeker way.
Furthermore, I was sad to see Capcom did not choose to bring back the Smash the Car and Smash the Barrel mini games of old, as doing so would have been an affectionate nod back to the days of Street Fighter II. The rest of the presentation is top-notch though, particularly the brand new remixed characters and stage themes. The game’s main theme is a winner, and even though it seems deliberately cheesy, it is nonetheless irresistibly catchy.
If you have been out of the Street Fighter loop for a while, even as long back as the days of the SNES, Street Fighter IV makes it all too easy to want to fall back into those old habits.
In fact, it is a game that could get its Vega-esque claws into just about anyone, as you don’t need to know to know intrinsic mind boggling equations as to why character X should beat character Y to be good at it. And you can easily enjoy it without the need to understand exact character positioning, focus cancels, and the comprehension behind the meaning of life.
If you want to take things further though, the game is up to the task of moving with you as you learn, as it is one of the purest definitions gaming has for the old “easy to learn, but hard to master” adage.
Obviously, should you already feel you’re up to the task, due to your years of Street Fighter prowess, then the game is ready for both you and your skilled comrades to jump in at the deep end right from the get go.
When all is said and done, if you have nostalgia backing you up, then you will probably instantly love Street Fighter IV, as it brings all the joys of the ‘90s bang up to date. However, those wistful rose tinted glasses can only last so long, and if the game simply basked in the glory of Street Fighter II, boasting itself as just a souped-up version of that fêted achievement, then I’m sure that initial honeymoon period would fade quickly. Thankfully this is not the case and SFIV excels in its own right.
Street Fighter IV is not just a top notch next-gen version of Street Fighter, it is in essence what Capcom always wanted the Street Fighter franchise to be.