Reviews as we know them are undergoing a drastic change thanks to the way games are distributed these days. It’s hard to properly review a title on or near launch day when you know for a fact that it will be radically different just a few months down the line. This phenomenon of games changing over time has been happening in the MMO space for years and has slowly started happening to console titles as well thanks to updates and patches that significantly alter them.
You can imagine the sort of Catch-22 one must find themselves in when reviewing a game like Street Fighter V. You need to get a review out not only for the publishers who kindly sent you a copy, but for your readers who want to know whether or not they should plunk down 60 bucks for a title. However, how do you do that when the game before you is bare bones and won’t see key features added for months? You can see the conundrum that I and fellow reviewers have to face with SFV since we have to give a permanent score to a product that will be vastly different soon.
Being stuck in this bind doesn’t sit well with me, so I’ve decided to give you a review of the game as it stands today. I’m going to focus on the features it does have and not the ones that will eventually be added. This may sound unfair to some of you out there, but considering that this is the game Capcom chose to release to the public, it is open to be reviewed and critiqued as any other title out there. Take that as you will.
As far as the core game goes, Street Fighter V proves once again why Capcom is the true king of 2D fighting games. Street Fighter IV returned the series to its roots after the radical shift brought on by SFIII. SFV on the other hand feels even more like the SF titles of old but with the precision you would expect from a modern iteration. As far as controls go, this is a title that can’t be matched and is tailor made for those who are serious about their fighting games. Moreover, this is the Street Fighter game that fans of the series deserve (mechanically speaking).
The game has 16 characters who each bring something new and unique to the table. As formulaic as this may sound, there really is a character for everyone here and it shouldn’t be hard for folks to find one they like and stick with them. Most importantly, the entire roster is nicely balanced, with no character having obvious advantages over another. This is born out of Capcom’s years of experience with the franchise.
The newest addition here is the Variable System. This is designed to be unique and specific to each character. Initiating a V-Trigger action causes anything from a super special move, teleport, or a power-up to happen. V-Skills are also unique to each character and initiating one of these will have different effects as well. Lastly, there are V-Reversals which hearken back to the Street Fighter Alpha days and its Alpha Counters. However, each character’s reversals are also unique and don’t always initiate a counter attack when performed.
As I said before, this game is pretty sparse when it comes to features. While you can spend a lot of time in them if you’re a completionist, it doesn’t take away from the fact that modes and features are minimal at best.
There’s a story mode which consists of two to four 1-round matches per character which are interspersed with hand drawn pictures that flesh out a particular character’s story. The quality of each story ranges, but most don’t have any lasting or meaningful impact. I personally don’t mind these shorter stories as I can quickly see a character’s narrative without having to go through arcade mode, but I can see where some would be put off by the brevity of it all.
Other modes include versus, where you can face off against someone who is physically in the room with you, and survival mode. Survival mode is the beefiest single player mode the game has to offer and is where you will unlock different colors for the characters’ outfits. There are four difficulty settings, with the easiest having you face 10 opponents back to back and the hardest having you face 100. You can take “supplements” in-between rounds which can replenish your health or augment your strength and defense.
There is also the Capcom Fighting Network and the store where you can buy certain items using the in-game “fight money.” However, both modes are currently not working and will go live sometime in March.
Then of course there’s online mode: the heart of any fighting game. However, this is where SFV gets into trouble. Since the core of any modern fighting game is in the online arena, it’s a shame that SFV has such glaring issues in this department. Though things have improved since launch, it still takes a long time to find any matches. While the matches I’ve found were relatively stable, having to wait five minutes or more to play against someone is inexcusable, especially considering how fast and easy it was (and still is) to find matches in Street Fighter IV.
Beyond the core game, SFV excels with a superb presentation. This game runs on Unreal Engine 4 and looks absolutely stunning. Each character has a great amount of detail that is both overt and subtle. Every stage is unique and varied with different lighting effects that affect the characters’ appearance as well. The sound design is superb with convincing and brutal sounding punches, kicks, and special attacks. The soundtrack returns the series’ Hard Rock roots and thoroughly fits the tone of the game. And yes, the old themes return in a remixed fashion and sound great.
It’s a bit weird to end this review here but there really isn’t much more to say. This is a solid, if not exceptional, entry in the Street Fighter series from a mechanics and gameplay standpoint. However, a game this devoid of key features is one that I can only recommend to the most hardcore of hardcore Street Fighter fans. Everyone else would be better off waiting for Capcom to add the features the game should have had since day one.
This review of Street Fighter V is based on a digital copy for the PlayStation 4 which was provided by Capcom.