When I previewed Sifu back in December, I made the bold statement that it might be the best beat ’em up of 2022. Independent game studio Sloclap had done a fantastic job of selling me on the concept of an intriguing revenge storyline coupled with evolving fighting mechanics and supernatural elements of aging upon death.
After spending nearly 30 hours with the game, I feel 100% confident in doubling down on my original statement. Sifu isn’t just a kickass way to start the new year but it is without a doubt an outstanding sophomore title from the makers of Absolver. Here are more of my thoughts on the addictive fighting game and why it might be worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.
Fists of Fury
Sifu opens with a brief introduction of Yang, the central leader of a deadly group of five assassins who launch an unrelenting attack on a martial arts school. As the player, you take full control of Yang and work your way through several unprepared students before ultimately taking out the Sifu aka Master, and leaving his child behind. After witnessing the death firsthand, being attacked, and then left for dead by one of the assassins, the child awakens with vengeance in his or her eyes and prepares for 8 long years to hunt down the assassins.
After watching a slick montage that depicts the passage of time, the player is able to start their quest for revenge at the age of 20. The journey extends across five levels which are The Squats, The Club, The Museum, The Tower, and The Sanctuary. Each level has a designated section on your detective board and can be replayed again after getting clues and unlocking shortcuts. At the end of each level, you’ll encounter one of the five assassins on your target list and can choose to kill or spare him or her.
The Art Of War
While the revenge storyline is both entertaining and fairly straightforward, Sifu shines the brightest due to its intuitive fighting mechanics. It is essentially a Kung Fu love letter to Pak Mei’s style and remains challenging, yet also rewarding for those who are willing to take time to learn from their mistakes. As you progress through the various parts of each stage, you’ll come across shrines where you can choose a reward and use your built-up XP to unlock new moves. Rewards are based upon age, score, and XP. It is worth noting that if you use XP to unlock a reward, it is deducted from your overall XP and this may or may not prevent you from purchasing more moves at that particular time.
If I could give any advice to new players interested in this game, then I definitely would recommend studying the attack patterns of your enemies before attempting to fight back. While this is a beat em’ up game, you can’t simply approach every fight by button mashing as this is the quickest way to end your journey. You’ll also want to do your best to avoid getting crowded by groups of enemies as this also guarantees multiple deaths. When you die, the magic pendant allows you to return at an older age, but the game definitively ends once you die in your 70s. Learning how to parry, block, and evade oncoming attacks will allow you to become a true master of this game over time.
The painstaking attention to detail when it comes to fighting is complimented nicely by the beautiful art style. Character models, lighting, and animated sequences appropriately set the tone and perfectly capture the ambiance of every level to a tee. You will often come across some enemies that look exactly the same but this is to be expected since they were designed to be primary obstacles on your way to the final stage boss.
The choice of music in the game is also brilliantly constructed and I especially enjoyed the moments where combat sequences were harmoniously synced up at the right time (the club fight in the video above depicts this starting at the 2:06 minute mark). You can tell that the developers took their time to fine-tune the overall experience and create something unique and engaging for any player willing to try the game out. The minimal dialogue sequences that are completely optional are also nice touches that add a layer of personality to some of the characters.
Sifu is an outstanding beat ’em up game that will push you to your limit and reward those who are truly fully committed to becoming a Kung Fu Master. It is without a doubt Sloclap’s greatest title to date and a must-play standout action game of 2022.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Sifu for the PlayStation 5 provided by Sloclap.