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Capcom released the hotly anticipated fighting sequel Street Fighter V today for PC and PlayStation 4. However, I won’t be reviewing this game until at least half a year from now – I can’t exactly develop a full opinion on the game until Capcom develops a full game. What I can say about the game at it’s core is that it’s an immensely fun fighting game, and that it’s easily one of the most accessible and exciting Street Fighter titles to date.
Now however, I have to talk about the package it’s in. The initial roster contains 16 playable characters. There are the iconic fighters such as Ryu, Ken, and Chun-Li; as well as returning faces from Street Fighter‘s past like Karin, Charlie Nash, and R. Mika. The four brand new characters are an interesting bunch. Middle Eastern battler Rashid relies on wind powers; Brazilian lady Laura has some devastating grabs and electrical skills; skinny scientist F.A.N.G. poisons his opponents; and brutal giant Necalli can shake the ground and turn into a mighty warrior form, rippling with energy and anger. It’s a diverse range of characters with only Ryu and Ken (as usual) sharing similar moves. Most modern fighting games boast around 20 characters, but Street Fighter V feels like it has just enough variety in its roster to make for a compelling new title.
6 more characters will be introduced as add-on content in the game’s first year, with Street Fighter III‘s Alex joining the fray in March. March will see the addition of Street Fighter V‘s in-game store, where players can use the Fight Money they win from game modes and online matches to purchase extra character costumes, as well as new playable characters, without the need for reaching into their real-world wallets. That all sounds good, but it’s a promised feature that fans who have bought the game at launch will have to wait for. Also Fight Money can’t be earned if you aren’t online, just in case things were inconvenient enough for you.
This is the resounding issue with Street Fighter V – you’ve got to wait for most of the content you might have expected to be in your game from the start. So just what does the game boast on Day 1? As to be expected, there’s Online Ranked and Casual match modes, which will be the main meat of the game for fans if they aren’t practicing their skills with the 16 fighters in Training mode, or playing local 1-on-1 battles in Versus mode. Versus mode is going to disappoint some players as well, as there isn’t an option to battle against specified CPU controlled opponents. There are 10 stages to choose from, not counting the typical Training Stage. They look nice, but aren’t exactly going to draw much attention, aside from Lair of the Four Kings with its giant villain statues and ninja battles.
Shockingly, there’s no traditional arcade mode to speak of. The single-player modes on offer are Survival, and Character Stories. Survival pits you against between 10 and 100 opponents depending on which of the 5 difficulty levels you selected. Each fight gets progressively tougher, and you’ll be relying upon the same single health bar throughout. This is a fairly standard mode for fighting games, but this version features an interesting mechanic where you can trade some of the points you’ve accumulated during a session in order to either restore some of your health in the next round, or give your character some power-ups such as increased defense or a fully-charged super meter. You can also cut your current health in half for the next round, and triple the points you’ll earn if you survive. It’s a fun mode, but Survival is never really the main draw of a fighting game for too many people.
Character stories is promising in concept – select one of the 16 fighters and go through a scenario with them encountering a range of opponents while learning some Street Fighter lore and character relationships. Unfortunately, this mode feels very lacking, with each story only featuring 2 or 3 fights against low-level AI opponents for a single round. The story is conveyed through scenes with character dialogue talking over still artwork of the characters. Some of this art is also rather questionable in its execution…
Though there are 16 of these character stories on offer, every one of them lasts a mere 5-10 minutes. I have a problem with most fighting game story modes phoning it in when it comes to the actual battles, but here the 30 second distractions are in fact a quarter of the whole experience. The stories are so brief, it feels more like a playable advertisement for the alternative character costumes, such as policewoman Chun-Li. They’re nice costumes for sure, but it’s kind of rubbing salt into the wounds when you have to wait a month to even be able to get these new outfits with the Fight Money the mode is awarding to you.
While we’re on the subject still, there is going to be a dramatic Story Mode added to Street Fighter V, which will feature fully-animated cutscenes akin to the campaigns found in recent Mortal Kombat games. Here’s some more problems though: it’s only going to be 1-2 hours long, and you’re going to have to wait until June for it to be added to the game. I suppose you can pass the time by playing the Challenge mode, featuring character trials and special enemy encounters. Of course, you’re going to have to wait until March for that as well…
Street Fighter V is available both physically and digitally for £44.99. I will say I appreciate the direction the series is being taken in when it comes to making all add-on content potentially free to players who invest time into the game. The problem is the game has blatantly been launched as an incomplete product, with several main menu options only resulting in a message that the content won’t be added until March or as a later update. Through and through, this is an Early Access title – fans buy the game before it’s finished. Capcom hasn’t exactly hidden this, but at the same time, can you blame the people putting down money for a new Street Fighter game, finding a joke of a story mode, no unlockables, or several missing chunks of content, and getting frustrated at how incomplete the package is?
Street Fighter V on the PlayStation 4 is currently sitting on a Metascore of 83, with a Metacritic user score of 4.3. Ratings on Steam are Mixed, with only 45% of the 792 user reviews at time of writing finding it a good product. As I’ve said, I’m not going to review the game until a time where I feel it’s ready for a review. All I’ll say is – if you can’t accept the absence of content such as a Story mode, Challenge mode, extra costumes, or extra characters for several months, then give Street Fighter V a miss. If you’re fine with Early Access, and you know what you’re getting into, then this is a quality fighting game experience, that has the potential to be something incredible in a year’s time. If only it carried the label telling us that.