It’s hard to believe that after the release of 2000’s Street Fighter EX3, the series was generally regarded as being done. Yoshinori Ono’s, Street Fighter IV’s producer, push for a new game was met with a lot of resistance at Capcom. However, the unexpected success of both Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting and Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix allowed Street Fighter IV to be greenlit. And thus, history was made. Street Fighter IV was a juggernaut, a game perfect in almost every way. It’s generally regarded as being one of the best games of its generation, and most certainly the best fighting game of its time. However, as good as it was, it came out in 2008, before Twitch, before the explosion of eSports, and Capcom felt like it could release a game that was built from the ground up to better fit the needs of today’s market. Enter Street Fighter V.
Capcom says that Street Fighter V is more accessible and easier to play than its predecessors. Gone are the split second reaction times required to hit a button in between two frames of animations. The changes made to the gameplay aim to make the series more appealing to newcomers and ‘casual’ gamers. For example, your win/loss record isn’t viewable, which is a technique that is used in a lot of games nowadays (Hearthstone comes to mind) as it supposedly makes games more user friendly. I see what they mean; I’m pretty sure I have a losing record in Street Fighter V right now, but since I can’t see it, I don’t actually FEEL like I’m playing badly, and thus am encouraged to keep playing. You now can level each character, unlocking things such as costumes and banners, a feature that popular games like Call of Duty have been using for years to great success. Basically the game does everything to make you come back to it, over and over again. Psychological manipulation at its finest!
All of that is good and great, but in its current launch state, Street Fighter V feels empty as hell. First thing I noticed was how short the story mode is. Each character has three one round fights interspersed with rather boring cutscenes (in this case: static images accompanied by text and voiceovers) that last longer than the actual combat. And then boom! You’re done with that character’s story. It’s quite underwhelming. Street Fighter has never had great story modes, that is true, but at least they used to be good for practice. I couldn’t even find a way to raise the difficulty! Your opponents are complete pushovers and barely register as punching bags. At least, when you beat a character’s story mode you unlock costumes that you can get in the shop! Well, actually, no, since the shop doesn’t launch until March. So you win costumes that you’ll be able to get ‘later’.
Thankfully, there’s all these other modes to keep you busy, right? Well, actually..no. The only single-player modes included at launch are the gutted story mode, a versus mode, and a survival mode. But wait, there’s ‘CHALLENGES’ on the main screen! Yes, but it’s greyed out and each feature will be released in waves, with a few coming out in March and the others following “soon after launch”. Oh and there’s also a proper story mode coming…in June. So basically, if you buy the game right now on launch, you have almost nothing to do if you plan on playing this on your own. This is a massive let down considering how fully featured the single player portion of Street Fighter IV was.
But of course, we all know that fighting games are all about competition! So the online modes must be amazing, right? Well, mostly. Right now all you can do is fight 1v1 online in either ranked matches or casual matches. Online lobbies are limited to 2 players for now, with 8 player support coming, you’ve guessed it, in March. As I write this, I wasn’t even able to connect to any lobbies. I’m not sure if it’s because the game hasn’t been officially launched yet. Spectator mode is also supposed to be out in March. So right now, all you can do is fight 1v1, and watch replays. There’s also only 16 characters currently available, missing a lot of mainstays. My main, Sagat, is sadly missing, so are my other mains Blanka and E. Honda! They’ll probably end up bundled later as DLC. Everything about Street Fighter V is getting released ‘later’.
That being said, the 1v1 online fighting is fantastic. I’ve encountered almost no lag, it’s fun, the controls are tight and it just feels awesome. I’m a big fan of the option that allows you to get challenged by players while you’re doing other things, such as roaming the menus, playing the story mode or writing this review. As I’m writing this, I’m getting challenged by players constantly, so I can seamlessly jump into a game and then back out. The game controls fine with the DualShock 4. Although, if you are serious about your ass kicking you should invest in either an arcade stick or a FightPad, which is what I used for Street Fighter IV since having to press the back triggers really kills your timing. So at least the competition portion of the game works as it should, and it’s pretty great.
I’ve been pretty negative about the game. It’s hard not to be; this is an incomplete release. It looks like Capcom wanted the game to be out early so it could replace Street Fighter IV in the upcoming EVO 2016 tournament. If it had been released any later, it would not have qualified. Thus, they’ve made a game that was supposed to be easier to play for everybody else than the hardcore competitor, but most of the non-competitive features are not in the launch release as the game needed to be out early for a professional competition. It’s quite the gamble from Capcom, because how many players are going to be buying this right now, then get tired of it after two days because of a lack of content? Is the used market going to be full of copies in a month, when a lot of the features are scheduled to come out? Feels like a lot of AAA releases are doing this lately, and it’s not yet clear whether it’s a viable strategy or not.
The gameplay is solid and will most likely stand the test of time, but only hardcore competitive players should be buying the game in its current state. If that does not describe you, I would strongly suggest that you wait for the full game to be out sometime this summer.