Street Fighter V Review (Playstation 4)
As the fifth proper entry in one of gaming's biggest franchises, Street Fighter V had a lot to live up to. Street Fighter I & II helped create the genre of fighting games, and Street Fighter III & IV helped to revitalize them. To live up to its predecessors Street Fighter V needed to be electrifying, and since it came from a huge, triple-A video game company, it should offer an experience both massive in content and potential. What we got instead was the digital embodiment of greed.
Street Fighter V departs from the ultra combos and focus attacks of its predecessor to create a fighting system designed to make each fighter feel more unique. In addition to the typical super moves and EX moves of entries past, fighters now have a V-trigger, a meter which can be used for powerful counterattacks or to activate powered-up states specific to each character. Ken's V-trigger grants him searing flames on every special attack, Ryu's powers up his fireballs, Chun-Li's enhances the power of her fist attacks (an odd choice for Chun-Li, the woman with the strongest legs in the world). Each character also has a unique "V-skill," a easy to perform maneuver which dramatically sets them apart from the rest of the cast. Ryu can parry a la Street Fighter III, while Karin gets a powerful forward strike, and Cammy hops like a ninja.
SFV's a much faster game that SFIV before it; characters move quickly, attack quickly, and combos rain down from experienced players with lightning speed. SFV mixes new, classic, and long-missing characters to form a cast that pays tribute to Street Fighter's long history. Each of these fighters plays quite differently from previous iterations, with returning characters like Chun-Li and Ken have new wrinkles to how they play. Once you're in a match, whether online against another player or against a friend on the couch, the gameplay is fast, furious, and fun... for a while. Eventually, the small cast of sixteen starts to feel claustrophobic, the lacking selection of super moves starts to feel bland, and the abysmally small number of stages starts to feel banal.
The single-player content is virtually non-existent. There's a story mode which consists of a few voiced illustrations and three fights per character, though Capcom has promised a free update to story mode mid-summer. There are also Challenges, which are currently unimplemented, but Capcom has promised to add this mode in soon, too. The training mode yields many options for the discerning fighting game fanatic to tinker with, yet forgets basics that new players might find helpful such as actually explaining what each character's various special attacks/V-triggers do. Survival mode mixes some interesting gameplay choices with the typical "fight and survive" format found in most fighting games; here you can choose from various Battle Supplements, spending your score to increase your power, recover health, or lose health to increase your potential score. It's a fun format, letting you make choices based on your own playstyle and current progress. Unfortunately, like the rest of the game, it falls victim to the brutally unstable online.
Like a free-to-play game, Street Fighter V incorporates two types of currency- Zenny and Fight Money- used to unlock new characters and costumes. Zenny is acquired by spending real money; Fight Money is acquired through gameplay. The single-player content grants Fight Money at a seemingly generous pace, but since the content is so short and lackluster you'll quickly burn through it, leaving you only with Challenges (which, again, aren't yet in the game) and online play to earn money. So far, SFV's online has been incredibly uneven. The servers go down constantly; while they're down, you can't access most of SFV's game modes, since they're mostly online, or earn experience points or fight money. In fact, you can be in the middle of playing solo content, and if the servers go down, you get booted back to menu with nothing to show for your efforts, even if you're, say, twenty-two matches into a thirty-match survival mode challenge.
Conversely, if the servers are up and if you can find a match, the online is usually smooth. If you win certain kinds of online matches, you'll get a whopping fifty Fight Money. Characters are priced at 100K (and costumes 40K), so once you burn through the pile of Fight Money earned through single-player, your only options are to grind like a fiend or shell out real cash. This feels like a free-to-play game that Capcom expects you to pay sixty dollars up front for, and it's shameful. This lack of current content and emphasis on DLC is indicative of a larger trend from big gaming companies— release an undercooked game and count on a loyal playerbase to spend extra money on preorders, season passes, and deluxe editions before they find out there's not enough gameplay to warrant spending so much on.
Also, rage quitting in Street Fighter V is a problem with no answer in place; players can quit any match without penalty, dodging potential losses to keep their ranks high and rob competitors of spoils. Capcom promised it will address rage-quitting in the future. Promises of future content is a theme in Street Fighter V, but how a modern fighting game shipped without something built in to deal with rage quitters is inexplicable.
It's not all bad, however. Once you're actually in a match, the fights are fluid, fast-paced affairs. Aesthetically, Street Fighter V is top of the line; the characters all look fantastic, with great details and flowing animations, and the returning voice cast of Street Fighter IV provides a nice sense of continuity between the two games. The music, too, rocks with powerful rhythms, blending remixes of classic Street Fighter tunes with stirring new pieces. The only big issues with the aesthetics is the much-maligned breast physics “glitch”— an odd issue that causes ridiculous, jiggly movements from the breasts of the second-player character. This glitch was discovered months ago during one of SFV's several large-scale beta tests, and yet it's still here despite promises from Capcom to fix it long ago. It's a minor thing, but it speaks volumes to the general lack of care and myopic focus on milking the playerbase.
Street Fighter V's core skeleton is sturdy, but beneath those bones lies a barely beating heart. With almost no single-player, limited multiplayer, a tiny cast, and unstable online, this feels like an Early Access beta that Capcom had the gall to try to price as a completed game. Perhaps it'll be a game worth playing in a few months, or heaven forbid, in a year. For right now, however, Street Fighter V is too lacking in content, too unstable, and too greedy to be worth your time.
This review was completed using a download of Street Fighter V provided by the publisher for PlayStation 4.