February 15, 2016
Having mastered Street Fighter IV and its various spin-offs, I went into reviewing Street Fighter V thinking I'd be untouchable online. First getting to grips with the tutorial and each character's individual story, I ensured I had a good understanding of the game's new V-Trigger, V-Reversal and V-Skill abilities before jumping online for a fight, safe in the knowledge that I'd easily scrape out a few wins. How very wrong I was.
Where once I was able to hammer out the occasional hard-fought victory in Street Fighter IV, in Street Fighter V, it's an intentionally level playing field, and as such is less about your ability to pull off moves, and more about actually managing space and watching for openings to strike. An out and out offensive approach like I've favoured in the past will only get you so far, as for every aggressive plan of attack, there's an equally potent defence to counter it.
Past experience with previous Street Fighters (and I've been playing them since I was 10-years old) is no guarantee that you'll do well in Street Fighter V. It's almost like Capcom has started with a blank slate, stripping characters down to their bare essentials, making the game inherently more accessible to anyone in the process. It's a bold move, and one that made me feel like I immediately knew everything there was to know about the game, and absolutely nothing at the same time. The game would benefit greatly from a more involving and thorough tutorial, like Guilty Gear Xrd's.
Initially, Street Fighter V can seem rather bare bones in content terms, with its 16 characters paling in comparison next to the 25 that launched with SF IV. And after being spoilt by the sheer number that eventually came to make up the roster in Ultra Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter V offers a comparatively meagre number of challengers at launch. Playing through the incredibly short Story mode only serves to remind you that certain characters are absent too. No doubt they'll all make it into the game's roster at some point.
None of this matters, of course, as each and every one of Street Fighter V's characters represent their own deep and intricate challenge. Newcomers like F.A.N.G (or Flappy Armed New Guy, as I've dubbed him), Rashid, Laura and Necalli have distinctive styles that stand out from the old guard, but slot seamlessly into the roster. You're guaranteed to find a character that works for you, even if it means spending extended periods in Training mode striving to figure that out, or cutting your teeth online, learning the hard way. For me, Necalli was the go-to for aggressive tactics.
Alternatively, you can delve into Survival Mode at hard or hell difficulty levels (you won't find it much of a challenge on easy or normal) for 30 rounds of brawling, or head into the rather anaemic Story mode, which offers about 10-15 minutes of hand-drawn cut-scenes and connecting bouts for each character. These single-player modes are pretty throwaway, although Survival at least invites some replay value with a clear time to improve upon.
Survival is also Street Fighter V's most novel mode (not that there are many to choose from), granting points for each victory that can than be spent in between rounds on replenishing health, boosting your V-Gauge or EX meter, or even making your opponent more challenging but worth more points when you defeat them. It's a neat twist on a stalwart fighting game mode. Story is less interesting, and is really only good for boosting the amount of fight money in your coffer.
This in-game currency can be spent on various things in the Shop, like new characters as and when they materialise - the first of these will be Alex in March - although at time of writing, the shop is currently closed until then. The same goes for the upcoming Challenges mode, which for now remains tantalisingly greyed-out on the main menu. Consequently that means that SF V's launch content is severely lacking, pushing you into the online portion of the game.
Casual Match, Ranked Match and the Battle Lounge are the sum total of the online modes in Street Fighter V, and while they're not perfect, it all comes remarkably close. Capcom has made waiting for a match less of a pain, as you choose your favourite character and then jump right in. Twiddling your thumbs while your opponent chooses their fighter is mercifully a thing of the past, and matchmaking is fast and effortless. Street Fighter's online offering is really the crux of the game and it all works impeccably.
Sadly, there's no way to battle AI in Versus mode anymore, as it's strictly player vs. player, but Training mode offers plenty of options to battle a CPU rival. There's a lot to learn too, with the newcomers especially possessing a lot of quirks, like F.A.N.G's bizarre, relatively slow movement and gangly limbs presenting a unique challenge, or Laura's nimble, grappling moves and short range projectiles making up close and personal the only way to fight with her.
As for those new V-Trigger abilities, a V-Skill can nullify or pass through a fireball with a simultaneous press of both medium attack buttons, effectively replacing SF IV's EX Focus move. Meanwhile, activating the V-Trigger itself not only enhances a character's speed and power, but also unlocks a range of modified moves. Hitting it at the right moment can turn the tide, making it a valuable weapon in your arsenal. Valuable too is the new V-Reversal, enabling you to counter attack if you manage to time it right. Again, it's another useful defensive tool to have at your disposal.
Boasting remarkable depth, Street Fighter V is the kind of fighting game that while initially inviting and seemingly accessible to all comers, gradually reveals itself to be complex and layered. It's the kind of game that makes me want to learn and develop new strategies, even if I'll be stopping short of analysing frame data, hitboxes and such. It's really only held back by a dearth of launch content. By the time March rolls around with the Shop and Challenge mode, it'll be looking like a far more rounded out offering. Then there's the cinematic story mode to look forward to in June.
The lack of a Challenge mode means that this time around the trophies are a little easier to acquire, with completion of the Story mode, levelling up characters and putting in a decent performance online among the tasks you'll have to complete. Perhaps the biggest struggle will be performing well enough online to reach the gold league, requiring consistency and a helluva lot of wins. 300 wins and levelling a character up to 200 might prove to be a grind too. Overall though, this is a fairly well-balanced list with a good spread.
A whole new (fire)ball game, Street Fighter V is a more than worthy successor to previous instalments, proving every bit as gloriously complex as a Street Fighter game should be, but not too daunting for newbies. It's just a shame that in its launch state, there simply ins't enough content here. You'll have to wait until March before Street Fighter V feels like a more fleshed-out product, and until then, you'll just have to make the most of what you've got.
Those good old Street Fighter rockin' guitar riffs return and the character voices are all present and correct. Solid.
Street Fighter V's art style is superb, taking an evolutionary step forward from SF IV with satisfyingly chunky fighters, colourful backdrops and gorgeous, flashy effects. Critical Arts finishers are a retina-burning joy to behold.
Almost as compelling as a game of chess, Street Fighter V proves once again that it's fighting game royalty. Accessible yet complex, SF V is all things to all fight fans.
And here's the rub. At launch, Street Fighter V doesn't have enough modes or additional content. It feels like it's a third of a complete game, and won't really be a full one until March. Disappointing.
A perfectly fine trophy list that does almost all of the same things as Street Fighter IV's trophies. Decent spread, a little bit of grind and plenty of different tasks to complete. It'll keep you going for a while.
Despite being in desperate need of more stuff for players to do, Street Fighter V is an exemplary fighting game that'll smash you right in the brain, then burrow its way in and stay there.