Street Fighter V – Light on Content, High in Potential

By on February 14, 2016 at 10:57 pm
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This review was written by Lance “Tarnot” Hood and Ian “iantothemax” Walker.

It’s no secret that Street Fighter IV revitalized the fighting game community. After a severe drought in major releases, 2008 served as a sort of resurrection moment for the competitive scene, resulting in the return of numerous other franchises and catapulting us into the spotlight.

Street Fighter V enters the genre in a much different time. In the years following its predecessor’s launch, Evolution Championship Series has grown to the point that it’s now primed to conclude in the massive Mandalay Bay arena. Major tournaments have sprung up across the country, and have even begun to rival the Las Vegas spectacle. Capcom is supporting the scene with prize pools pushing half a million dollars. Back in 2008, many of us were simply excited to be throwing hadoukens in a new game, but hindsight proves just how big of a moment Street Fighter IV’s release was.

And so, Street Fighter V has massive shoes to fill. While numerous complaints have been levied at the ever-expanding Street Fighter IV series, especially now that there’s a new title on the horizon, there’s no denying its importance to the community as a whole. Can it take the baton without missing a beat, or are we in for a stumbling transition?

It’s obviously too early to expand on that, but what we can do is examine what Street Fighter V brings to the table and whether it’s worth your time. Let’s go.

sfv-review-necalli-tallWhat’s new?

The only place the game seems to falter on the character front is with its relatively bland newcomers, though that isn’t without its own silver lining. While fresh faces like Rashid and Laura may not pop quite as much as fan favorites like Juri and C. Viper, their mere inclusion represents a conscious effort on Capcom’s part to highlight the franchise’s global fanbase. Sure, we’ve seen Brazilian characters before, but the appearance of an Arab rep feels like a personal nod towards the rise of the Middle East on a competitive level, and this rather privileged writer can see the importance of a major developer acknowledging dedicated players outside the United States, Japan, and Europe.

The one real highlight of Street Fighter V’s playable roster has to be F.A.N.G. He embodies both a shift in whatever amounts to narrative by providing a breath of fresh air to antagonistic organization Shadowloo while also demonstrating the most realized application of the game’s new mechanics. Sure, he seemed like a bit of a joke character upon reveal, ready to occupy the same space as series punching bag Dan thanks to his exaggerated features, but our time with Street Fighter V so far has proven that he’s anything but.

Street Fighter V’s battles heavily revolve around the V-System, which is broken down into three separate mechanics: V-Reversal, V-Skill, and V-Trigger. The first is essentially an alpha counter that spends a portion of the, you guessed it, V-Meter to retaliate while blocking.

Things start to differentiate, however, when you dive deeper. V-Skills are where characters truly begin to flex their muscles, providing the cast with a wide-ranging set of skills unique to each fighter. F.A.N.G, for example, has a fireball, and while it doesn’t do any direct damage, it inflicts a poison status on the opponent that slowly drains their health. Birdie gains access to a variety of foodstuffs that build up his V-Meter and litter the stage with dangerous hazards. Ryu takes a page from his Street Fighter III playbook and is capable of parrying attacks.

But where V-Skills build Street Fighter V’s roster into a living, breathing group of diverse characters, V-Triggers are a little more subtle. For the most part, they provide buffs that vary slightly from fighter to fighter, rewarding them for expert use of their meter-building V-Skills or providing a chance for a nail-biting comeback if they’ve taken enough punishment.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any standouts. R. Mika’s V-Trigger allows her to call in tag-team partner Nadeshiko as a sort of assist, mixing up opponents with their wrestling skills. Karin’s unleashes the true power of her Guren Ken fighting style and its numerous follow-ups. F.A.N.G’s coats the mysterious villain in a cloud of poison that damages nearby opponents, perfectly representing the genre’s mixture of in-game consequences and mindgames.

Even with all these additions, Street Fighter V feels like a simpler title when compared to Street Fighter IV, and we mean that in the best way possible. Combos are drastically shortened and easier to pull off, making for matches that are just as much about outthinking the opponent as they are about doing damage. Even in this early stage, Street Fighter V appears to knock pure execution down a notch in favor of other important facets of competition. If you feel like your propensity to condition opponents or set the pace of a match has been overshadowed by not being able to bust out 30-hit combos at will, it’s likely Street Fighter V will give you the chance to shine you’ve been waiting for.

Lean offerings

The unfortunate truth is casual distractions are probably more important to Street Fighter V’s future than hardcore, competitive features, despite Capcom’s renewed efforts to connect with the tournament-going community. Another unfortunate truth is that the game is pretty sparse as far as content and teaching goes, making the changes to gameplay a little lost on newcomers.

At launch, Street Fighter V features a number of modes without much meat to their bones. You’ll find the typical training, versus, and online modes bolstered by a lenient “story” that’s more akin to the arcade playthroughs seen in previous iterations. Each character has their own chapters, chronicling their back stories and ambitions leading up to the main, cinematic story mode set to launch in June.

While not animated, these vignettes are supported by the work of famed Capcom collaborator Bengus, with varying success. At best, these interludes simply frame whatever scene is currently on-screen, but at worst they defy all logic and distract from the loose narrative. In any case, we can confidently say that Bengus, who produced some of the best fighting game art in history, wasn’t fully checked in this time around. This makes for a fierce dichotomy when held up to Street Fighter V’s generally excellent style.

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If there’s any consolation, the story does a decent job of fleshing out the Street Fighter universe, with frequent cameos from characters like Sean Matsuda, Sakura Kasugano, Oro, and more, raising our hopes that these classic fighters will eventually become playable. It also serves as a decent way to make Fight Money, the in-game currency that can be used to purchase characters and outfits when the store launches in March.

Survival, while a welcome addition in theory, also offers little variety on a match-to-match basis, and grinding out 50 matches to complete Hard Mode on every character for the sake of filling out your wardrobe is more a chore than anything else. The mode, in its current state, is more about the player’s willingness to wade through time-consuming menus than anything else.

Get online

At launch, Street Fighter V’s online lobbies can hold up to two players. Though they’re undeniably smaller than we’d like, launch lobbies will offer a good deal of customization. On top of setting up the rounds required to win a match, time, and other such standard fare, lobby owners can determine how many matches take place before the completion of a set, up to first-to-ten. If you’ve been longing for the days Street Fighter would incorporate proper sets into online play, that day has finally come, albeit outside of ranked mode.

Upon match completion, if set to a single match, competing players return to the lobby screen and must ready up to enter a new match. To expedite this process, the lobby owner can set the room to use Battle Settings—just like ranked and casual matches—in order to forego character and stage selection. As of our review period, the option to rematch in a two-player lobby did not exist. However, if the lobby is set to, say, first-to-three, players are given a rematch option directly following each match, allowing them to hop right back into the battle until the set completes. This means the best way to grind the most matches while spending the least possible time staring at menus will be through setting a lobby to first-to-ten, then rematching until someone takes the set.

Fortunately, the underlying foundation is solid. While not perfect, Capcom’s proprietary netcode provides a better online experience than many of its peers, with an environment that fosters competitive gameplay despite a few logistical missteps. Of course, it remains to be seen how servers function when the community at large joins the handful of players currently occupying netplay, so remember that your mileage may vary.

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But what about PC?

PC players have been burned in the past, but Capcom has, thankfully, decided to place the non-console crowd on the same priority level as their PlayStation 4 counterparts. This likely has to do with cross-play between the platforms, but whatever the cause, it’s nice to finally see some parity at the time of release.

Street Fighter V’s PC version comes with some inherent benefits. First, a PC is not a PlayStation, a fact which results in controller support not present in the PlayStation 4 version. Testing confirms that input devices sporting either Xbox 360 or Xbox One guts function as intended out of the box. This was tested through the use of an Xbox 360 Mad Catz TE Soul Edition—long live the Namco Black layout—as well as a wired Xbox One pad. PlayStation peripherals, on the other hand, will likely need a third-party program to function until a proper update is applied down the road.

Those concerned with the current push toward Windows 10 need not worry, as the game in its current state will run on this newest Windows offering as well as the popular, though aging, Windows 7.

Now for the fun stuff: PC players have been given free rein to adjust a number of settings within Street Fighter V to create the crispiest graphics their machines can handle. These options include anti-aliasing, post-processing, shadow quality, texture quality, effects quality, and resolution. For those wondering, the game does support the use of 3840×2160 without having to fuss with any outside means.

Perhaps most exciting is the lack of an in-game option to enable or disable FPS lock; Street Fighter V always runs at 60 frames per second, provided your PC can handle it. Some may recall the oddities caused by players who hadn’t locked their FPS in the PC version of Ultra Street Fighter IV, but that, thankfully, shouldn’t be a problem in V.

Bang for your buck

sfv-review-zangief-tallOne need not look any further than Street Fighter V’s combo system to see Capcom intended the title to be more inclusive than most fighting genre offerings. It’s exciting to land combos in a match, and if a new player can slap together the same strings as their veteran buddies, well, they’re probably more likely to stick around. But do players from outside of the fighting game community purchase games from this genre for the competitive aspect? In a world filled with eSports and the ever-increasing prospect of quitting your day job to pursue a career in competition as a definite part of the current gaming market, one has to consider this a possibility; conversely, one must also consider the fact that there still exists a contingent of casual players who pick up a game in order to have a Full Gaming Experience, and who don’t care about ever stepping into the ring against another person. At least, not yet.

Exactly what it takes to sate such a player and leave them not only pleased with the game, but primed for taking their first step into the competitive arena, certainly varies from person to person. That said, those expecting to find a Full Gaming Experience in Street Fighter V outside of pure competition need to seriously gauge what they are looking for in the game until it has had time to become a more advanced version of the evolving product Capcom promises it will be. In its current state, the story mode, while undeniably entertaining, will provide only a couple of hours of distraction to even the newest players before they’ve exhausted its content.

That said, even the competitive aspects are slightly lacking when it comes to bringing in new players. The lack of actual lobbies, which are set to arrive in March, is another confusing decision on Capcom’s part. In the event that the game succeeds in lighting that fighting fire in someone, they need a certain atmosphere in which they can thrive before being set loose in Ranked and Casual online matches. They can’t just hop online and be expected to stick around. Without the ability to gather such players into one friendly place—like a lobby filled with friends of roughly equal skill—so they can help break each other in, they’re likely to lose interest before the month or so passes that will see such a possibility included.

All of that said, the fighting game community doesn’t need the same elixir it did in 2008; we’ve been eating our vegetables, and we’ve grown. The scene will continue to grow, and we hope Street Fighter V is a large part of that future growth, even if it’s not alone in carrying that burden anymore. The game was essentially pushed to market for us, and we appreciate the developers’ continued support.

In closing, is Street Fighter V fun? Yes, it is. Is it lacking out-of-box features that should be industry standards by now? Absolutely. Be sure to keep that in mind if you don’t expect pure competition to carry you through the next few months.

Shoryuken was provided review codes by Capcom in order to bring you this coverage.