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Review: Street Fighter V (PS4) – Ponder your fist

Street Fighter V is a technically sound, beautiful fighting game - however online issues, missing features, and questionable pre-launch practices should be considered.
Photo courtesy of Capcom

Street Fighter V

Rating:
Star3
Star
Star
Star
Star

Update - After finally getting into a decent amount of online matches, the experience is fun when it's working as intended - unfortunately that isn't always the case. During the matches played online I was disconnected from the server a few times, noticed some jitters and lag, as well as inexplicable movement like jumping when I was trying to block. I can't blame the movement entirely on the game as I also can't claim to be a great Street Fighter player, but when the entirety of the match hangs for a split second, however brief, it affects the match and ultimately the enjoyment. Getting disconnected from the server returns players to the main menu and is yet another experience breaking facet of the game. More frustrating is the fact that a few matches were so painfully choppy that I put the controller down in frustration - letting opponents revel in their perfect victory as my side looked like it was missing entire chunks of the match. Hopefully patching and updates will course correct the game, as it's somewhat feature barren release is going to hinge on the online adoption of the game, but for now I'm leaving the score as-is. The online experience at launch doesn't save the game from the issues mentioned below, and doesn't contribute positively to the end result of Street Fighter V. For those reasons this update is to denote that the score will remain as it is, and I hope Capcom pushes out robust content and patches quickly. Below is the unedited original review from 2/15

Note from the reviewer - Unfortunately for my review experience I was completely unable to test the online environment. As explained below I wasn't able to get into a match in any online mode over my pre-launch time with the game, I sat in menus for 10 minutes waiting for a match on a few occasions. The furthest I got was going from "waiting for opponent" to "connecting" then immediately back to "waiting for opponent". As stated in the review this was disappointing to say the least, and most definitely influenced the review and score. I may return to the game and update the score if the online portions are in check and easily accessed, and the shop opens up to reveal some goodies, but for now the score stands as-is for the product and experience I received.

Street Fighter V is a beautiful, technically superb fighting game that does some extremely interesting things to make matches not just fun to play, but also fun to watch. There’s nothing really like seeing a great player of a great game excel in crazy ways. Looking up Daigo Umehara and Justin Wong fights from the past, or any other of the greatest fights in Street Fighter history is some of the most inspiring and instantly respected surfing one can do in the realm of competitive games. Street Fighter V will carry the torch of past entries, and remains a very solid fighting game, however at the time this review goes up, there are still some glaring issues and omissions that are going to factor into your buying decision. And yes, that title is actually a Ryu quote.

Street Fighter V is the latest entry in the fighting community’s mainstay series, and offers up some sizable changes to the formula, as well as some exciting new characters that quickly became my personal favorites. First, the changes, as expertly outlined by Prima, are pretty big. While you and I might not take advantage of the removal of chip damage (chip damage is the small amounts of damage that any attack will do, tactics in past games could have an offensive player doing a combo into a block on purpose, knowing the chip-away would finish their opponent) in the way veterans may, it’s exciting to know that Capcom is looking to mix up gameplay in some interesting ways.

A huge change to the system this time around is the V-Gauge. This varies by fighter, with classics like Ryu gaining abilities like a parry, and others being able to do completely unique attacks or skills. The V-Gauge takes the place of past iterations, and may have two or three bars depending on the fighter. Using your character’s V-Skill and taking damage fills up the V-Gauge, while players can then use their V-Gauge reserves to trigger V-Reversals and V-Triggers. If that all makes sense and is easy enough to follow, experimentation and the trainer are key to learning if you know what you’re doing with not just the bare bone moves, but also the V-variants for each fighter.

Some fighters are offensive, some defensive, some focusing on speed, and others on strength. As should be the case for any fighting game hoping to hit the competitive scene, almost all fighters seem to have their own strengths and weaknesses, and most could counteract another fighter's attacks in one way or another. My personal favorite in short order was newcomer Rashid, as well as Laura. Rashid wasn’t the first character I trounced through the story with, and honestly was a bit grating with his incessant need to remind you that he loves technology. After getting through his compact story, I found his move set to be incredible, his speed was something I wasn’t sure would be right for me, but the swift movement and strikes using wind/cyclone powers I found that I could utilize his attacks to great effect.

I actually wanted to find out more about the characters instead of seeing differing parts of their bust spilling out of their costumes.

Laura was a character that I truly wanted to like. Her style is great, she’s got a flare that I didn’t feel was present in the rest of the characters, an interesting fighting style and move set, and her personality is something that struck me pretty quickly. A shame it is then that one of her outfits has her chest a bit too bare for any fighting game. I have to blame my feelings of this being a bit weird and just a little gross on also having just played through R. Mika (R is for rainbow) and her story. Mika is essentially Zangief’s apprentice, who wants nothing more than to be partners and impress her comrade. Unfortunately her voice is grating and her costume is downright ridiculous. I tried to give SF V the benefit of the doubt, but these character designs just seemed a bit ridiculous; I actually wanted to find out more about the characters instead of seeing differing parts of their bust spilling out of their costumes. I honestly tried to look beyond it, but it annoyed me to the point of sticking in my head. After going back to Rashid or other male fighters it didn't matter, and yeah hot Ryu is a thing, but he's not in a banana hammock or having part of his never-you-mind peek out of some shorts (which would bother me just as much, if not more).

The story and other modes in Street Fighter V are fairly varied and interesting, providing plenty of options for the player hoping to mix things up. The story vignettes can only really be described as that, or teasers. Each one is anywhere from 2-4 fights, and don’t seem to be terribly challenging. Playing through each one gave a bit of background on the fighters, their relationships with each other, and portions of their journey (poor Birdie gets just destroyed by almost everyone). It’s neat to see the variety, but the brevity of each little experience was a turn off – there’s no real closure to the tales, and only provides something of a prologue to each fighter’s motivations. Capcom has stated that in June 2016 players will get the “cinematic story expansion” which should flesh things out and will come as a free update to all players, but if you’re looking for a compelling narrative or background as to what Nash has been up to, you’ll be left wanting until June at least. It’s worth mentioning that my above comments about Laura were in regards to her Story mode outfits, which aren’t available as player choices to select in Versus until after launch (March according to Capcom), and her current selection is much more fitting, both for the character and the game.

I tried, and I wish I could say that the online experience in Casual, Ranked, and Battle Lounge matches was a blast. I wish I could say that,

If you’re wanting to take the fight to players online, you’ve got the option for Ranked Match, Casual Match or Battle Lounge. Ranked and Casual matches being just what they sound like, and Battle Lounge being a lounge or lobby style, where you can jump in and fight players in said lobby. This was hands down the most frustrating part of my time with Street Fighter V. When launching the game, players will select their home region (country) and fighter ID, then get into the action. After having my ID and region reset four separate times (losing all XP and Fight Money gained) I was a little miffed at having to start all over, but figured I would jump online to earn some LP and see how I stacked up. I thought maybe if I could even win a fight or two I’d call it a win on the whole and take my 1-3598 record and call it a day. Unfortunately that day never came.

I tried, and I wish I could say that the online experience in Casual, Ranked, and Battle Lounge matches was a blast. I wish I could say that, but I can’t comment either way; I never got into a single online match. Perpetual spinning of the dial, “waiting for opponent” prompts, and failed connection messages plagued the pre-release environment. While Capcom sent word they were preparing a patch to servers for improvements and preparation for the launch, it’s still worrisome that over multiple days not a single match was found. This is mostly disappointing because for the first time in years, I wanted to play a fighting game online, and was ready to get dealt a beating, but thought it’d be fun to see what it was like. I’ll probably still go back, but it’s just not the first impression you want a game making, and could permanently turn off players on the fence much like I was.

In addition to the Online, Story, and Trainer modes, players can go up in Survival – a ten round affair available for each player and at multiple difficulties[edit: survival mode at differing difficulties has more rounds]. Survival mode rounds end with a choice for the players where they can spend points earned to recover health, V-Gauge fills, and more. Each time players complete a characters leg they’ll unlock some sort of costume variant – same result as beating their stories. These variants are in color only, but typically mix things up enough to be a bit of fun, but also not rewards that really feel all that special.

The game is getting a bevy of upgrades, patches and releases post-launch – which if we’re being optimistic could be a sign that Capcom plans to support the game for a while. Capcom is putting out six new characters who can be unlocked via in-game currency (the publisher claims this is earned free of charge or player purchase) called Fight Money. Zenny is another currency in the game which can indeed be purchased with your hard earned real-money in the shop, but wasn’t available pre-launch to report on pricing. Also omitted but slated to come down the pipe are Spectator Mode, Challenge Mode, and Daily Challenges – the latter two coming in March with Spectator Mode only hinted at as “soon after launch”. The online woes and missing modes for the time being are frustrating but can't go without the mention that Capcom will be piping in a deal of content over the next year. While it's easy to say that this could fix things and make it a truly impeccable package and example of fan/audience service, I can't judge the game on things that have not happened yet.

Pros

+ Tight, solid combat – overall exceptional feel and fighting mechanics

+ New characters are varied, interesting, and all deserve checking out

+ Art, animation, and overall design is simply incredible

+ Fight sticks from the PS3 will work

Cons

- Online Modes were tough (impossible) to play

- Options and modes like (full) Story, Shop, and more are missing at launch

- Characters like Laura and R. Mika don’t need under/side/all-cleavage, voicework can be grating

The Bottom Line

Street Fighter V is a technically sound, and all around well designed fighting game. Unfortunately without being able to report on the online matchmaking in any mode at all, modes missing like a fleshed out story that makes sense and has closure, challenges, and inability to purchase or investigate prices for in-game currency make this a tough game to recommend as a day one purchase. Capcom has some great plans for a well supported 2016 for Street Fighter V, and the ability to cross-play between PlayStation 4 and PC might be an attractive option for some. At this point it’s impossible to say that it’s a must-own for the casual or much less than big fighting game fan collection, but will hinge on your trust in Capcom to refine, patch, and deliver content throughout the year for Street Fighter V.

Examiner was provided a digital code of Street Fighter V for review on PlayStation 4.

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