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Street Fighter V / 20th of February 2016


The above statement is perhaps the best way I can reasonably describe to you the state of Capcom's latest instalment of the Street Fighter series. Street Fighter V was rushed out 2 weeks before the run up to Capcom's “Capcom Cup” and as a result, many features of the game are being held back until a later date, some are as early as March this year, and others as late as June. I could not care less about what the Steam page says, this game is in Early Access as far as its level of completion is concerned and if readers do not wish to read any further, please take that into consideration.

So, once again, I am evaluating a game that is, as of the writing of this review, incomplete only this time I had to cough up real money to pay for this and, not to sound privileged, but I refused to dub this product as worth £45 in its current state, a state that I sadly cannot justifiably trust Capcom to improve upon beyond general character balancing and network patches, oh I will get onto that with time.

Let's address the main gameplay which, fortunately, is functional and up to the standard expected of the Street Fighter series. Capcom's quest for new blood has not compromised gameplay to the point of just aping Mortal Kombat's “Mash out a combo as fast as possible because screw timing!” and maintains its timing required links. The real change fans of the series will likely notice is the genocide of charge inputs, that is inputs that require the player to hold their control stick (or “lever” for you old-school SNK fighters, see you guys at KoF XIV) for a second or so before quickly pushing it to another direction and then after that quick move, press a button. Though not completely gone, charge inputs appear to be limited in favour of the more popular motion inputs like you quarter-circles or dragon-punch motions. While fans would likely have seen this coming after the “Omega Edition” patch for Ultra Street Fighter IV, it is still rather daring they made such changes to staples characters, even Chun-Li's rather infamous “mash kick” special has been changed into a quarter-circle motion. It really does seem like Capcom's goal is to remove as much of the input obstacles as seemingly possible so newcomers can start getting comfortable enough to start understanding the game's other systems like cancels, links and other words new players have likely confused for one another.

The game's V-System is also a cool mechanic for the series that proves to be leaps and bounds better than the Focus Attack of Street Fighter IV. Each character has a “V-Skill” move that is unique to them (although the fact they all seem to serve a “screw your projectile” purpose be it Ryu's parry, Mika's super armour for one hit and even Cammy's spinning back hand dodge does downplay the uniqueness) to help build a separate V metre. This metre can be used for V-Reversal, a character unique Alpha Counter (a move triggered on block to disrupt the enemy's attack) that costs a bar segment or the character unique V-Trigger that would be too redundant to say “unique” about when I can just say there really doesn’t appear to be a consistent enough rule for it beyond costing all of your V-metre. Suffice it to say, once you get into a proper match, the game's good points really shine, my only critique would be the stun system returning from SFIV. Yes, Yoshinori Ono, there are people that like Street Fighter III: Third Strike which featured such a mechanic and yes, the fact that the stun metre is now visible so I can flipping react to it is an improvement over SFIV, but seriously Ono, stun is a bad fighting game mechanic. If I fulfil the prerequisite for getting stunned, its likely because I fail to use the necessary mechanics to change the course of the match and am instead getting hit too much, what does punishing me by removing ALL of my options until I get hit even more (because let’s face it, you're never going to recover faster than they can strike you) contribute? Nothing, exactly! Why you decided to carry that over from Third Strike and not the System Direction modes, Ono, I will never know!

Speaking of game modes, I hope you enjoy the staple diet of “Arcade-Training-Online-Survival” that practically EVERY FIGHTING GAME surrendered to with the popularising of online play, because that's all the game modes you’ve got here. Well I tell two lies, first there is a “Tutorial” game mode but it frankly is a joke even compared to the one in Capcom's last crossover botch-up Street Fighter X Tekken. So much so, the Tutorial is a compulsory obstacle you have to playthrough before getting to the main menu, likely because otherwise no one would willingly waste their time with a tutorial so barebones it won't even teach you the Hadoken! Secondly, “Arcade” actually got traded out for “Character Story”, essentially functioning as prequel stories leading up to Street Fighter V's actual “Cinematic Story” coming this June. In the Character Story, the player plays about 3 single-round fights against various opponents (fights inter-spliced with the worst art Bengus has ever drawn frankly), often while wearing a unique outfit that you get upon completing that character's story...but only for use in “Character Story”. If you wanted to play as Officer Chun-Li, say, online then you are out of luck until March when the shop opens and even then, you will only get it if you have a spare 40,000 fight money on you (and yes, these story costumes can ONLY be bought with fight money according to Destructoid's sources anyway). Back on track though, the character stories themselves are sadly hit-and-miss, if you were hoping to get some explanation on why characters like R.Mika or Karin have suddenly re-emerged from Alpha 3 (which in SF canon pre-dates the VERY FIRST Street Fighter) or maybe get a better understanding of what happened to Nash or Necalli to get them in the game then tough luck, the character story won't fill you in on most of, if not any of that. Really, the only stories that I can honestly say that I felt were really good (for lack of better word) were Birdie's, although admittedly that might just be me flooding praise on his voice actor's superior performance (leaps and bounds better than Laura and Gill, forgive me, Ibuki's voice actor performance).

Online play is a bit of a coin toss at the time of writing. Literally, I have had to accept that the first time I connected was going to be a sure-fire failure and the second time, at least for myself, would be successful. I know a lot of critics are getting hoisted over the flames for their reviews glossing over this though admittedly I cannot blame them to an extent. The worst crime a critic can commit is to call something good/bad and fail to explain why, and online functionality is one of those things that you basically have to become an online networking major to efficiently critique. Suffice it to say, I had a hard time writing one sentence about the online that could best summarise my experience with it. At the same time though, the fact the online play is a noticeable downgrade from the last round of beta play should undoubtedly be noted, and a failure to do so is a justifiable black mark against critics. But I digress, my time getting curb-stomped online was predominantly smooth regardless of location (only really stuttering at the start of the match when I faced off against a PS4 player with my PC), the fact that online play was so spotty that I could lose connection to servers without even playing an online match should contest to the launch day state of it. Though Capcom has made attempts to remedy their online service, this doesn't forgive the current two-player only lobby system for online play (once again, we will supposedly have this patched with bigger numbers and a spectator mode in March-June time), the ability to rage-quit without penalty (admittedly, I could foresee that being Capcom's damage control to avoid complaints of losing fight money or EXP from a server error) and the fact that the fight money means a server connection is even advised for single-player, meaning that Street Fighter V is almost an “always online” game.

The key takeaway here is yes, the game is fun and will no doubt be worth the money, but right now it isn't. As a Street Fighter fan and likely the resident Capcom fanboy at High Rez Gaming I sincerely advise anyone considering Street Fighter V to wait until the release of the Cinematic story in June. By then, all of Capcom's promised additions will be there, the six DLC characters, the shop itself, the daily challenges, the extra battles, the aforementioned cinematic story, the spectator mode, lobbies with a max population bigger than your local church's tolerated quota of to-be-weds per wedding and with any luck, a fix to the physics on the versus screen (Yes Capcom, it’s still in the game and yes, I noticed. I really noticed when facing off against Laura). Until then, I suggest that you avoid this game, please do not however pirate it or crack a copy of the Street Fighter V beta. Admittedly, Capcom probably should have just patched said beta for offline multiplayer instead of releasing Street Fighter V if they wanted to ready up for the Capcom Cup, but that's the curse of hindsight and, frankly, I doubt Capcom would approve of anyone using their beta in such a manner even in protest of their launch state.
Greg Baxter
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