In order to understand what makes “Street Fighter V” an enjoyable experience, you need to have honed your skills in a grimy 90’s arcade. These hallowed walls held together certain unspoken rules that allowed the novices to learn and the good to get better. It was a merciless environment, where the children’s honesty was echoed by the brutal reality represented on the screen. Capcom’s newest fighting game beautifully captures this environment. However, it forgets that it is a video game in the 21st century. For all of the good it does in rekindling the competitive spirit of its heyday, it takes several steps back by removing long-established features and shipping an incomplete product.
It is common practice in fighting games to get a few rounds under your belt against the computer before dealing with real-life competition. Unfortunately, “Street Fighter V” makes it unnecessarily difficult to hone your skills with your preferred character against a computer opponent. Capcom has chosen to break the 20-year-old mold of a standard ladder arcade mode in favor of a disjointed Story Mode. While at first it seems each fighter has a fully fleshed out tale, it quickly becomes obvious that there are rarely more than three fights per character. Considering you can’t change it from the default Easy difficulty, you will fly through the cringe-worthy tales of the entire roster in a few hours. You barely have time to get to know anyone before their story is over and the lack of any sort of challenge means the entire game mode is a complete waste of time.
To supplant the omission of a proper ladder, “SFV” introduces Survival mode. Here you pick your preferred fighter and duke it out against the entire roster with only one health bar. You can spend points in between matches to increase your life and add other advantages to your game, but it requires careful management of your stamina to succeed. Yet, the mode has no notable end. It is an endless wave of soulless enemies coming at you non-stop as you see how long you can make an entire health bar last. If “Street Fighter” is your game, you will be stuck here for close to an hour, thoroughly sucking all the fun out of the experience.
It really is a shame that the basic single player game modes are so poorly made because the actual fighting of “Street Fighter V” is one of the series’ best. The combat feels like a natural progression from 2008’s “SFIV,” focusing on stinging combos together and unleashing counters whenever an opening shows up. The roster is comprised of the series classics like Ryu, Ken, Chun Li and Zangief, interspersed with returning faces such as Birdie and Nash, and four new characters. The new faces feel fresh, with Laura bringing some grapple moves reminiscent of Able in SFIV, F.A.N.G. acting as a fantastic ranged option for Guile fans, Rashid being a blast to play and Necali overwhelming opponents with his ferocity. There is plenty of room for DLC content down the line but the roster that comes in the box is perfectly balanced with old favorites and fantastically designed newcomers.
Like any new “Street Fighter” game “SFV” brings a welcome twist to the formula in the form of the V-System. Every character has a set of V-Skills, V-Reversals and V-Triggers that add to their arsenal. The skills are special moves unique to each fighter that let them alter the course of battle. Ryu might be able to parry an attack while M. Bison can bounce projectiles with ease. Charge your gauge enough and you can perform a reversal that lets you counter an opponents attack. However, if you let the bar fill up you can trigger a potentially game winning state for your character. Most characters will receive a damage bonus once the V-Trigger is pulled, and the system is balanced enough that you know what to expect from each fighter. The most important thing to note is that the fights really feel like you are playing someone else and when you do lose, it is never due to an overpowered character or a glitch.
Embracing its competitive roots, “Street Fighter V” has one of the most complete online matchmaking systems to date. You can battle it out in ranked or casual matches or join a lobby to wait your turn against some of the best fighters around. Each move you make will be recorded by the game and give you a comprehensive set of stats to scan over before each fight. Unfortunately, you have to select a preferred fighter from the options menu, taking away the enjoyment you might have felt as you and your opponent pick out a character. Though this does let you amass a huge amount of experience into your favorite guy, it is another, unfortunate oversight from Capcom. The fights will give you plenty of experience and points as well, but the store where you can spend them on is locked until next month, when an update is supposed to bring it into the game. The same goes for the combo challenges, so you are left on your own to learn the intricacies of your fighter against the training dummies.
Visually, “Street Fighter V” does a great job bringing the already stunning art style of “SFIV” into new hardware. The character models look fantastic and the particle effects the accompany every special move have a unique, tactile look. It also stays locked at 60 fps, even with sometimes shoddy connections or rather busy backgrounds. The fighters have unique dialogue depending on who they are facing off against, which can thankfully be set to their original Japanese voice over in the options menu.
“Street Fighter V” is another unfortunate product of the modern day video game industry. With indie developers letting users play their games on Early Access as they are being made, so many triple A veterans have seen it fit to do the same. “Star Wars: Battlefront” had a laughable amount of content on day one, “Assassin’s Creed Unity” shipped riddled with bugs and lacking some major optimizations. Now, “Street Fighter V” was rushed out so that it could be ready for EVO 2016 and fans are left with a husk of a game. The core design is unarguably the best fighting game on the market, but the lack of basic features we have come to expect from the franchise seriously hurt its lasting appeal. Unless you are planning on sinking hours into the ranked cauldron of competitive gaming, “Street Fighter V” struggles to justify its $60 price tag.
- Tight, well-balanced fighting mechanics.
- An entertaining roster.
- Ranked play has never felt better.
- Story mode is a sad replacement for standard arcade mode.
- Store and Combo Challenges are currently unavailable.
- There is a severe lack of content if you do not want to play online.