Street Fighter V: The Kotaku Review

Street Fighter V: The Kotaku Review

Playing Street Fighter V at launch feels like being at a construction site where the foundation is being poured. The structure we'll eventually all recognise isn't there yet. But if the foundation is cracked or uneven, that future architecture won't work as intended. So far, the bedrock of Street Fighter's evolution feels mostly solid, if a little spare.

Capcom wants to do lots of different things with Street Fighter V. The latest chapter of the fighting game franchise introduces new characters and new mechanics, both meant to deepen the strategies with which players approach the game. Capcom's also attempting to bridge the gap between console and PC players with cross-platform play.

The company once famous for Mega Man is trying to serve two very different mandates with Street Fighter V. They want to grow a mainstream audience who'll probably only play the game casually while also delivering a game deep enough to keep high-level pro players interested. The latter goal is a crucial part of an aspirational loop that keeps Street Fighter games relevant and successful. This is the series where world-class pro gamers demonstrate spellbinding skills; play it enough and you too might join their number.

The problem with Street Fighter V will be whether people will want to play it enough. After a week with the game, I'm overly familiar with the 10 stages and 16 characters available at launch. I already know which characters fit my predilections best and which I want more practice with. Likewise, I already know that I hate F.A.N.G. and that any online match-up where I have to fight him will stress me out.

F.A.N.G.'s the kind of character who seems tailor-made for players concerned with developing upper-tier skills. He's got a plethora of ranged attacks that make it tough to get in close. Those moves and many of his up-close strikes can be buffed with a debilitating poison effect that increases damage taken. I've already suffered through matches where I've been mercilessly slashed and throbbed in purple-tinged pain for the entirety of the fight. By letting you subject yourself to getting thoroughly trashed, competitive games like Street Fighter V offer up a counter-intuitive sort of pleasure. But that alone won't be enough to be for more casual players.

Right now, Street Fighter V feels stingy with its rewards. There's no Arcade Mode and the short story mode sequences for each character are woefully underweight. With no difficulty settings to this mode, the AI enemies you fight in these small chapters offer up only token resistance. Ploughing through them is easy. I'm used to unlocking a whole new look or at least a bit of glamor detail when I finish single-player portions of a fighting game. But all you get for your trouble here is one measly palette swap option, letting you change from one set of colours to another. Winning a certain amount of matches in Survival Mode will net you some extra costume colours, but it feels like a grind. You earn an in-game currency called Fight Money for playing various parts of the game, and many cosmetic options will be available to purchase using Fight Money. But that functionality and the promised goodies won't be available until the Shop feature comes in March. That Hot Ryu skin that everybody went gaga for? It's a pre-order exclusive. The cinematic story expansion? That's coming in June.

The wait also applies to the offline Challenge Mode, which is supposed to deliver daily tests of skill to players, but it's not starting until next month. Six new characters will be coming eventually, and they too will purportedly be unlockable with the credits you win while playing. At present, the only reason you have to keep playing Street Fighter offline is to get better at playing Street Fighter. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, but the lack of a more robust offline feedback loop is a sign of where Capcom's priorities are.

Online competitive play is clearly the main concern here. Even when in single-player modes, players need to be logged in to earn Fight Money or the experience used to level up their account. A decision like that signals that the 'real' Street Fighter V experience is supposed to happen online. You can toggle Fight Request settings so that the game will always be looking for people for you to play in Ranked or Casual matches, with the option to automatically accept challenges. Oddly, there doesn't seem to be any way to quickly jump into a rematch after playing someone online. The Battle Lounge function lets players invite folks into a virtual room for continuous brawling, and lounges can be secured with a password for privacy. Users can also save, search and share replay videos in the Capcom Fighters Network, another sign of how important the online portion of Street Fighter V is supposed to be.

In the week leading up to launch, I've seen Street Fighter V's online performance steadily improve. Matches went from laggy stop-motion affairs to being much smoother just before the public servers opened up. Cross-platform bouts went from seeming like they'd never work one day to performing much better than expected the next. But then, hours after the public servers went online — when the number of users probably went from thousands to hundreds of thousands — simply logging into servers became an exercise in frustration. Once I got on, I noticed that Fight Requests weren't coming as quickly as before, which meant I spent more time playing against the CPU in either Training or Survival Mode. Getting dropped randomly, being unable to log in and waiting a while for some real action are typical launch-day woes in this day and age, but titles that depend heavily on a network ecosystem can wither on the vine with every microsecond of downtime.

Street Fighter V: The Kotaku Review

It's nice that the game can always be passively searching for an opponent, but when the online infrastructure isn't working, there's no escaping the fact that you're left with a rather bare-bones experience. When you have someone sitting next to you, offline local play is fast, fun and filled with individual microstrategies waiting to be discovered. Some of these will doubtlessly center on the new V-Gauge system, which fills up as the player takes damage and fuels special V-Skills that vary from character to character. Ryu's V-Skill lets him automatically parry a flurry of attacks, for example, while Rashid's V-Skill triggers a whirlwind that can be both a barrier and attack buff. Learning the different tactics that various characters' V-Skills open is a nice new wrinkle on an already solid formula.

The formula for Street Fighter V is changing. In previous releases, offline single-player features felt as important as online multiplayer ones, if not moreso. Even if the purpose of the fighting game franchise is to funnel players into competition, other Street Fighter games still felt like they had enough room for people who weren't primarily interested in building a storied multiplayer career. Street Fighter V is different. You could tell that Capcom's intention with the new release is to turn the game into a service, a frequently refreshed platform where players keep coming back to cop new characters, show off trophy attire and sharpen their skills against each other ad infinitum. Right now, only the last option is available. The base offering of Street Fighter V is solid for the most part; the parts that are here are well-polished, but the sum total doesn't feel like a complete package.



Comments

    I'm not really sure how I feel about SFV. On the one hand I was never good at 1-frame combos so the fact that it's easier to link moves makes it feel like I can achieve things. On the other hand, as Maximillian put it, it seems to now be a case of "get in to combo". Most people I have been playing online against tend to have one or two combos they just spam, making it hard to push in on them and given my skill level I'm not good enough to use the break mechanism (F+PPP or F+KKK) to interrupt them and punish.

    Over time I imagine people will work out how to break through the fighting game equivalent of a tank rush but for the moment it feels a lot like SFV is geared towards allowing anyone to be able to just faceroll and win rather than requiring some finesse like in previous games.

    I like the graphics, the music and the new guy Rashid but.. there's SO MUCH MISSING. You can't make 1v1 matches against the AI, you have to enter training mode.. wtf? The story lines are alright but the use a lot of pictures instead of animations and are only THREE FIGHTS LONG. Like... really? That's pathetic. There's long story bits before and after each one which is better than SF4 but there needs to be at least 9-12 fights. They've really only shown us the start of a story for each character, needs moar content.

    Also don't bother trying to login. Especially not if you want to get any rewards for playing single player cause you'll just be logged out as the connection fails each fight or second fight. When do those 6 additional characters get released? I paid for them and got NOTHING.

      I don't want to be that guy, and I certainly have my own issues with the game, but the barebones story mode currently in the game and the rollout of new characters has been explained at length by Capcom multiple times. The current 'story' mode is a stopgap that fills in some back story between Street Fighter IV and Street Fighter V's real story mode, which will be coming in June. With the additional characters, one will be released each month (starting with Alex in March), except for June, which again is when the real story mode drops.

      There's also a lot more content coming in an update in March, such as 8-player lobbies, the shop where you can spend fight money to unlock additional costumes and future characters if you didn't get the season pass, all the challenge modes (including trials), and so on. Granted, all this stuff really should've been in the game at launch, but that's a completely different issue.

        Ahh ok. I don't follow the SF5 news much so I never heard about all that unfortunately. I just payed money for the game and character pack and was surprised when I got not much for it. Should have waited 6 months before I played it

      I think it's one character being released every 2-3 months, with Alex (SFIII) being released first

    Given it's missing basically every core element that makes it a, well, game.. it was rushed out to get it into EVO and it's waiting to get the ability to play the actual computer for instance... how does this get anything but a 1 out of 10 or the equivalent such as a 'don't play yet'? I'm positive in time it will be an amazing game, like the final incarnation of SF4, I'll grab it's eventual final release. But it simply should not have been released in this state. It's mortifying that this is how we're accepting AAA games now. I get it's fun to play 1v1, but we're seeing a new low standard for AAA games, where with this and the upcoming Hitman we're seeing 'premium price early access' and it really, truly sucks.

    Last edited 17/02/16 12:48 pm

      The game has multiplayer, for a lot of people (like myself) thats enough.

      Why delay a game when the main part that people are gonna use is finished?

      I understand why people are mad about no arcade mode, but the core game itself is great.

        I have zero doubt the games great, it has a legacy of great gameplay etc. However my main issue is capcom releasing it in this manner. It's a very slippery slope we're seeing. This 'early access' mode for AAA level games is going to have larger implications if it's succesful, I guarantee it.

          You're right in that they should have marketed the release as some sort of "Competitive edge early release" or some other bullshit marketing term so people wouldn't get mad.

          The only thing is that this is actually a really good deal, hardcore fans get to play the game earlier and not wait for features they don't play to be added in, and casual people can wait till june for their story mode ala Mortal Kombat.

          This is an example of using the early release well, its just that they didn't market it as an early release, and lots of uninformed people have picked up the game not knowing its contents, which is totally Capcoms fault, they didn't try hard enough to get it out there that the game would launch with not all of the content.

          I'm just mainly angry at people saying the game should have been delayed for the sake of singleplayer content, when the multiplayer is completely done, because it meant i and a lot of other people who don't care about singleplayer content in a fighting game would have waited an extra 4 months for something that wouldn't affect our enjoyment of the game.

            That's all fair points, but it definitely should've been marked as such. I'm under no illusions that the core focus of SF is the single player aspect, but I am rather hoping the single player storyline is at least as beefy as MK9's (not X's...)

              It supposedly can be completed in a couple of hours, so I wouldn't hold out hope.

    Good game missing classics like Arcade Mode!!!!!!!!

    Seriously! Missing Arcade mode for SF is a crime.

    Don't get me started on network issues. I couldn't even log on 90% of the time. I wouldn't go playing PvP on that kind of network.

    I'm going to give it another try in a month. It better get better.

    No clue why people are complaining about the "missing" modes.

    What else do you need besides online matchmaking, versus and training modes?

    This is Street Fighter, not Uncharted =\

    Also, the other stuff is coming soon anyway. This is just a nice early access for those of us wanting to get stuck into the important stuff, early on. Capcom could have just made us wait another 3 months so we can all "enjoy" some corny storylines, but what's the point of that?

    I think people are just complaining because they aren't really into Street Fighter anyway. The Shoryuken community is pleased as punch. Some online hitches, but that's not uncommon on launch, and they've prioritised a fix. Though it's been fine for me.

    Eh.

      What else do you need besides online matchmaking, versus and training modes?

      Sometimes someone isn't around, you feel like a game so you crank to the top difficulty level and see if you can beat the PC?

      Sometimes you just feel like a solo game?

      Streetfighter is NOT "Call of Duty" and has never needed to be multiplayer 100% of the time.

        I guess. Though I imagine it'd get boring pretty quickly.

        I honestly would put SF in the same league as DOTA, Counter Strike, Quake etc. Very much multiplayer-centric.

        Funny that you mention COD, with the latest version literally drowning everyone in content at release :)

      I never play online, heard one too many horror stories of people spamming ryu or whoever. Plus they'd be a hell of a lot better then I am at the game. I enjoy playing the story mode and versing ai so the online multiplayer has no appeal to me whatsoever. I just want lots of single player and some local multiplayer content.

      World Tour Mode.

      I want World Tour Mode.

      Where is World Tour Mode?

        Why have they not had a World Tour mode since Alpha 3?!? One of the best single player fighting game modes we've ever seen and they've ignored it since.

          EXACTLY

          World Tour Mode was so awesome. Why won't they give it back to us? Why don't they like my money? I'm not going to buy 14 slightly different versions of the latest SF game. I'm going to buy one. Maybe a second one if there's a solid difference.

          But I will buy whichever one has World Tour. Give it to me. Why won't you give it to me, Capcom? Who stole it? I'll break their legs.

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