I’ll cut to the chase – Street Fighter V is tremendous fun. If Street Fighter IV was a return to form for the well loved and respected fighting series, V has managed to refine and improve the formula in every possible way. This is, in short, the ultimate Street Fighter experience.
It’s a fine line for any game to be easy for anyone to pick up and play, but rewarding for committed fans to master, and it’s something many fighting games can struggle with. Thankfully, Street Fighter V maintains a perfect balance throughout.
Veterans of the franchise will be pulling off finger breaking combos within minutes, while anyone seeking a casual thrill can pick up a controller and button mash their way through fights if they so wish.
Naturally, you can open up your chosen fighters moveset at any time in the pause menu, and since every fighter has wildly different styles and movesets, you may need to remind yourself what’s what from time to time.
Of course, pausing to check up on the input for a certain special move can interrupt the flow of a fight – especially if you happen to be playing with a mate, in which case they’ll likely sit there rolling their eyes and sighing as you fumble through the extensive list.
My recommendation to newcomers is to fuck about with the buttons and see what happens – it’s much more fun that way, and the learning curve will feel more organic and natural than if you were to just memorise a series of button inputs.
The initial character line up is an impressive 16 fighters strong, featuring a mix of new and returning fighters. Every place on the roster is occupied by your standard beat ’em up fare: Strong but slow, nimble but weak, and everything in between – Street Fighter V really makes use of each space on the character select screen by ensuring every fighter feels and plays differently.
Whether you’re rocking Ryu and sending out Hadoukens like there’s no tomorrow, or if you’re a master of Chun Li and her famous spinning bird kick – there’s a fighter for you. There’s all manner of styles on display: Mexican wrestling, martial arts, and whatever it is M. Bison does (is there a name for just being a tank that smashes through everything?).
There are more characters on the way in the form of DLC, but if you’re wondering whether to buy the game now or wait for the extra fighters; get it now. 16 is honestly plenty to be getting on with, and you’ll be able to unlock the DLC fighters for free through gameplay when they are eventually released.
New to Street Fighter V is the V-Gauge. Not to be confused with your critical art meter, which can be filled up by dealing damage to unleash some spectacular special moves, the V-Gauge fills up as you take damage, and grants handy boons to fighter’s V-Reversal, V-Skill, and V-Trigger – the latter of which is unique to every fighter.
For example, Ryu’s enables him to parry attacks, while Chun Li can land two hits instead of one upon activating her V-Trigger. V-Reversals meanwhile, act like a kind of super counter that drains your meter in one upon use.
All in all, the V-Gauge adds in all kinds of new defensive and offensive options for players to get their heads around, and helps to further distinguish each character as truly unique.
There are two main single player modes to get through on release. One is a survival mode, which is exactly what you’d expect it to be. The other is a story mode (a first for the Street Fighter series). At launch, every character has what is essentially a prologue to a cinematic story expansion that’s coming in June (also free).
Story mode is interesting enough. Every fighter has a series of three or four fights strung together by a couple of (gorgeous) hand drawn stills accompanied by some… overzealous voice acting. The only downfall here is the way the game assumes you’re familiar with the tangled and convoluted lives of each character.
So much of the terminology and callbacks to the past of Street Fighter that are casually mentioned flew straight over my head. It was kind of like tuning into a TV series ten weeks too late with a mild brain injury. Still, as an excuse to use every fighter at least once, you can’t really go wrong.
Even though you easily can beat the entire story mode with every fighter in two hours, it’s enough to get the juices flowing and build the hype for June’s expansion.
And there’s plenty to be getting on with in the meantime. Survival Mode offers some classic arcade style fun (although I do lament the lack of a more straightforward Arcade Mode) and VS mode is obviously where you’ll spend most of your time. I can see Street Fighter V dominating gaming sessions with friends for a long while to come.
Online play is good, and getting better as it goes on. Jumping into a match is quick and painless, and made getting absolutely fucked up by everyone I fought slightly more bearable (slightly). There’s also a challenge mode coming in March, alongside daily challenges to keep things fresh.
Some may scoff at the gradual release of content here, but I honestly reckon we’ve been given a fairly wholesome package that’s only going to get better and more interesting as time goes on – unlike Battlefront, Street Fighter V does feel like a complete game for the most part.
Running in Unreal Engine 4, Street Fighter V is an absolutely incredible looking game that maintains the gorgeous art style of its predecessor. The extra graphical oomph afforded by the new technology ensures that every character, every special move, and every exquisite background detail pops on screen.
Street Fighter V is clearly embracing the new business model that videogames seem to have adopted these days – gradually rolling out their content rather than putting it all out at once. Whether this way of doing things will work out for better or worse in the case of Street Fighter V remains to be seen. Still, it’s a shit ton of fun with the launch content alone.
I can confidently say that Street Fighter V is a brilliant fighting game and a hugely entertaining multiplayer experience as it is. With new modes, fighters and stages still to come, it’s a great game that is guaranteed to get better.