Sifu was revealed for the very first time during Sony’s State of Play February 2021 stream earlier this year. As both a diehard martial arts fan and a former Taekwondo student, I was naturally intrigued by the upcoming game and have been following every trailer and news tidbit closely ever since.
Fast-forward to earlier this month when Sloclap gave me the opportunity to try out a roughly 20-minute demo of their sophomore title. Based on what I’ve played so far, Sifu is an outstanding follow-up to Absolver and might be the best beat ’em up video game of 2022. Here are more of my thoughts on the demo and what you can expect should you decide to pick up the game early next year.
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The story of Sifu revolves around a vengeful kung fu student embarking on a mission to track down five deadly assassins who murdered his family. The setting takes place throughout various parts of a Chinese city and makes full use of Pak Mei’s style to give combat more realism and immersion. The supernatural element of the game comes into play whenever the student dies and is resurrected as an older version of himself. Sifu in Chinese means master and thus the overall goal of the game is to teach players how to become masters of their own martial arts abilities.
The demo that I participated in didn’t lean heavily into any story elements and instead focused primarily on the finalized combat experience. Before starting the mission, I wandered around my secluded dojo and investigated my chalkboard and training board. The chalkboard includes photos and news clippings of areas of interest along with key enemies that you will face when you take on these missions.
When using the training board, you are transported to a red backdrop where you are able to train with an AI-controlled fighter. Both of these tools are great resources because they provide you intel on the missions ahead while also allowing you to sharpen your skills before moving forward.
The sole mission that was available for this demo was set at a vibrant nightclub, a level that players will encounter during the first half of the second chapter of the story. While searching for one of my target assassins at this location, I was tasked with beating down all of his hooligans in order to get to him. There were very minimal conversation scenarios where an enemy would make a sly remark and I could either briefly respond back with the same amount of energy or let my fists and feet do all the talking. There also were some variations in the enemy types ranging from male and female gangs and mini-bosses to overpowering big guys.
The purpose of this demo was to illustrate the intricacies of combat and how these mechanics feed into the overall gameplay experience. You can perform light and heavy attacks, dodge and deflect enemy strikes, vault over obstacles, and throw weapons. All of these moves can be chained together and being able to pull off effective combos allows you to earn XP skill points that can be used to unlock more advanced moves.
Some of these features along with the progression system are still being worked out and will definitely evolve as the final build nears completion. With that said, the combat just feels solid and smooth from top to bottom, visual proof that Sloclap is deeply dedicated to honoring Kung Fu in all its glory. However, to be most effective in enemy encounters, I would strongly recommend not getting surrounded by multiple adversaries at once. As you can see in my video preview above, this is the quickest and easiest way to get yourself killed.
Speaking of death, Sifu is a game where you are guaranteed to die and when that happens, a magic pendant revives you. The downside is that every time you come back you age faster. When you get too old, the pendant breaks and you’ll have to start all over again. The demo accelerated this process a little faster in order to show off the dynamics of the system. I also noticed that as you age, you can become a little more refined in your attacks but this also depends on if you unlocked some new ones after building up XP over time. I very much like the creative concept behind this system and I’m very eager to see how it turns out in the final game.
On the surface, Sifu might seem like another typical beat ’em up game with some repetitive gameplay elements but the game is shaping up to be so much more than that. The fighting mechanics coupled with supernatural elements of aging upon death are very addictive and have the potential to keep martial arts fans coming back for more. The story also sounds interesting in its own right and is designed to put our protagonist in some exciting showdowns. If you are a diehard fighting game fan, definitely keep your eye on Sifu in the months ahead.
Sifu launches on February 8th, 2022 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 5, and PlayStation 4. Physical versions of the game are expected to launch shortly thereafter sometime in Spring 2022.
This preview was based on a Sifu PC preview Code provided by Sloclap.