The next big title to hit the Fighting Game Community is the much anticipated Street Fighter 5, and this weekend marks phase two for those lucky enough to get in on the closed beta. But how does it play and what impressions are we getting for the final product? Well if you didn’t manage to get any hands on time, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!
Initially, all characters in phase 1 of the beta were to be left out. Upon starting this article though, news broke that as a ‘Thank you’, they’ll be unlocking them as I write this. As well as this, we’re gifted with six new ones – Mika, Ken, Vega, Karin, and newcomers to the series, Rashid and Necalli. The new stage for Karin was also available, and at the same time not -- but let’s explain this a bit later. Capcom have said that SFV will be an on-going service, not too dissimilar to what F2P models do. As more characters and content is added via DLC you can use money to buy it outright or it can be earned simply by playing the game.
Currently you earn FM (fight money) when playing and Karin’s stage needed 2000 FM to unlock. If we won a match we’d get 50 FM, as opposed to 10 FM for a loss, so you’d need to win 40 games in order to unlock a stage. It’s a mystery at this point what will be locked upon release or if they’ll continue to tinker with the reward system further. My thoughts are, it’s a beta. Expect changes.
Visually the game looks stunning, running at a smooth 60 fps at 1080p. The only stuttering I got was due to latency spikes, not in-game processing. The characters have all had minor enhancements from their original release so characters like Ken no longer look like he went on a cocaine bender for the past 72 hours. How the characters move resonates entirely with how they feel, every attack feels like it has the appropriate weight behind it and overall it feels like the pace has slowed down if you compare it to Ultra SF4. This points to some of the big changes they’re making with this title. Whiffed attacks have a lot of negative frames attached to them, and completely open you up if you miss one. Throwing out heavy normal attacks on block were relatively safe in previous titles; the onus was on the defender to get out of the way and react fast enough to punish. In SFV however, a blocked heavy leaves the attacker open for a free counter.
This, with the removal of Focus Attack, reinforces our belief that Capcom are reinventing the risk/reward dynamics of the series, as players now need to be more methodical when throwing out attacks against a well-defending player. In contrast to this though, the damage in SFV is quite high. Even mid-screen bread and butter combos can deal damage that will turn the tide of a battle and it’s made even easier due to the less complicated combo system. For veterans of the FGC this has been a highly spoken criticism of the game thus far, that the combos are essentially too simple. This is a fair assertion and it shouldn’t take long for the average Street Fighter fan to understand and execute some high damage punishes early on. But the wrong assumption to make here is that this makes the game simple, because it is anything but.
Instead it shifts the emphasis to what essentially becomes a battle of footsies and reactions, not too dissimilar to what we've seen in Third Strike. It removes the combo knowledge and execution from being the sole defining factor of who wins a game and shifts it back to the fundamentals that have been in every Street Fighter game since the beginning.
SFV is looking to be a completely unique experience, whilst at the same time keeping a familiar tone, and the introduction of V-Skills is a perfect example of why this is the case. Before SFV there would be a number of mechanics in a title that would be used across the entire cast, e.g. parrying in SF3: Third Strike, or Focus Attack in SF4. The down side to that mentality is that some characters would benefit largely from this whilst others would barely use it. SFV looks to create a V-Skill for each character that purely enhances their move set and play style. For example, Ryu has a parry and helps him play like a rock with heavy hits and counters, while Ken has a dash which adds to his ability to rush down opponents and maintain pressure.
I really like where this game is heading, even in its beta stages the netcode is quite solid and each character feels like you’re playing a different way. More importantly, for the first time that we can remember, it really feels like Capcom are listening to their fans and realising that the FGC extends to the greater world and not just Japan. At this stage we’re still about four months out from its full release and we expect many more changes to be made, specifically move sets, aesthetics, combos and frame information. One thing for sure is, it’s looking good and we’re quite excited!
When he’s not crunching hours in the IT world, Adam is gaming on anything that takes his interest. With a keen eye for quality, Adam keeps his finger on the pulse on the eSports scene, and enjoys competing in the USF4 FGC scene in our Nations Capital. You can see his writing on Player2, and catch his tweets at @Gharphield.