There is no fighting game franchise more revered than Street Fighter. With its ubiquitous appearance at popular competitive events and cast of beloved characters, the series has earned a place in the proverbial video game hall-of-fame.
It comes as no surprise then, that the latest entry in the series, Street Fighter V, was met with rabid anticipation.
Regardless of overall performance and reception, Street Fighter V was always going to have a home in the competitive fighting game scene. Pending a complete trainwreck of a product, hardcore fans were surely going to flock to Street Fighter V and dive into the tiers of characters, mechanics and strategies.
Those fans will be more than satisfied with the game they’re getting, as its wonderfully suited for repeated sessions of grueling tournament play. Who the game loses, however, is the more casual-inclined fan hoping to find a fun engine for relaxed, low-stakes fighting.
I find myself somewhere between these two groups. Not a technical wizard at all in things Street Fighter but adept enough to learn the ins-and-outs of a few characters well enough to survive a few hours of online play with little frustration.
Before purchasing the title, you’ll need to question just how much you plan to get out of the game, because in its current state, there isn’t much to give.
When it’s working well, there’s nothing quite like it. The mechanics on display here are fully refined, as the game both looks and controls wonderfully on the PS4. Inputs and commands feel quick and responsive, just like you’d want them to.
The quick tutorial will brush you up on all the necessary mechanics you need to start getting a feel for the arena. You can map buttons as you wish and even use a fight-stick controller if that suits your fancy. The PC version of the game supports multiple inputs as well.
V adds the new V-Gauge system (get it?) that builds as a fighter lands hits and pulls off counters. As the meter fills, you can use it to perform reversals and unique attacks. Once fully built up, each character has a special V-Trigger ability like a temporary damage boost or massive chain of hits.
While the individual maps may all be pretty standard and repetitive, the character roster is fairly beefy and diverse. A mix of 16 characters, both old and new, offer a far-ranging amount of ways for players to adapt. Mastering every character may prove impossible, but the quick character missions offer a fun way to learn their strengths and weaknesses.
The problems with the current iteration, however, are felt in the lack of content offered. Capcom has stated that purchasing the game is the full “platform” for future content, and that a “Super” or “Ultra” edition won’t come down the road encouraging you to double-dip.
It’s a nice idea compared to how some games handle DLC these days, but with nearly half of the menu options greyed out when you boot up this title for the first time, it’s a little offensive. The proper cinematic story mode is due out later this summer, and the available single player options are barebones at best.
What’s offered as the “story” mode is nothing more than two or three consecutive AI matches strung together with, albeit well-done, stylized comic book slides. Players should expect to gain nothing out of this mode other than a test of each available fighter.
Of course, the big draw of Street Fighter V isn’t the single-player modes, it’s the multiplayer. A lack of offline content wouldn’t feel like such a slap in the face if the online modes worked properly. The servers are already notoriously unreliable, despite Capcom’s continued maintenance and monitoring.
For the most part now, about two weeks after launch, online play is stable on Street Fighter V. You can seamlessly jump between ranked and casual play at the touch of a button with simple commands and streamlined matchmaking. The disappointment comes in the form of the lobby system, as you can only be paired with one other player between matches.
One exciting aspect of online play in this title is the sense of “always-on” multiplayer. It feels like a true arcade experience, as if you’ve placed a quarter on the machine, waiting for your next opponent to sit down with you.
While messing around with the AI or memorizing combos in the training room, you can set the game to search for an online enemy in the background. You’ll receive a quick notification when the opponent connects and find yourself quickly warped into the online battlefield. After your match, you can quickly return to the previous mode or keep searching for foes.
Finding your groove online and getting a feel for the spirit of competition will be the make-or-break experience for each individual player. If you find your main character or two, learn their combos and seek the thrill of online competition, you will likely fall in love with Street Fighter V and return for more matches over and over again.
In my experience, I found myself maining Cammy with her quick style, solid air coverage and powerful combo moves. Taking my character online and pitting her against other characters was rewarding every time, even when I get shut down in an embarrassing show.
Now, I will never come close to playing at EVO, nor am I even anywhere near the upper levels of Ranked Play on the leaderboards. I’m no Street Fighter pro, but spending time to learn the blissful mechanics and tight controls of this latest game were an absolute blast for me, issues aside.
It’s a shame that Street Fighter V currently suffers from a lack of content, because with free updates and patches, a legendary fighting game is waiting just below the surface. In a few months I hope we can look back on this tumultuous launch as an afterthought to the greatness I know that this game could hold.