Reviewed on: PC. Copy supplied by publisher.
As someone who is generally not that into one-on-one fighting games, I found reviewing Street Fighter V rather tricky.
It is a game that you clearly need to invested the time to hone your skills in order to get the most out of it. Whilst button mashing the range of basic punches, kicks and throws will let you breeze through most matches against AI opponents, if you wish to throw down against another human being from out of the internet ether, you better know your character’s complicated combos like the back of your hand. Honestly, the difficulty spike in hopping online is more shocking than the fact we could soon be uttering the words “US President Donald Trump”.
But despite being caught in this weird space between decimating my AI foes and being vigorously pounded by my online opponents, on the whole I found Street Fighter V to be good fun.
The main reason the game is fun is because its mechanics are solid. The basics I referred to above are pretty simple to grasp, with there being three tiers of punches and kicks ranging from light to medium to heavy; combining a punch and kick of equal level to perform a throw or a parry; and using directional prompts to block and aim your attacks. Each of these simple moves is represented in a variety of ways across the character roster, with some favouring speed, others strength, some defense etc.
Fight with the basic moves will easily get you by in Street Fighter V‘s story mode (more on that later) and exhibition matches against AI, or in couch multiplayer games with friends over a couple beers if that’s your thing.
But you’ll need to move up the complexity ladder if you’re even considering fighting a stranger online. This is where combos come into play, along with critical hit meters, and the new “V-Gauge” mechanics. In regards to combos, each character has their own unique ones that range from relatively simple to damn near mathematical. Combos are the real way to dish out some serious damage and use your chosen character’s strengths against an opponent. This is certainly the case when you’re good enough to string combos together, something I spent a while in the game’s training mode trying to pull off.
The “V-Gauge” mechanic I mentioned earlier is what gives experimenting with a character’s combos a little more depth. The V-Gauge is a two tier bar in the corner of the screen that fills by performing a V-Skill, an attack unique to each character achieved by pressing the medium punch and kick buttons together. Filling one tier of the V-Gauge unlocks a V-Reversal move, while filling both bars unlocks the V-Trigger.
(I know there are way too many V’s going on here, but bear with me.)
V-Reversals act as powerful counter attacks, but activating the V-Trigger will do different things for each character. It could be an instant powerful attack, it can buff up your regular moves for a duration of time, it can even be a requirement for certain combos. It certainly makes for a lot of variety in the character roster, since each one’s reaction to the V-Gauge can be applied in different strategies.
Moving away from gameplay for a moment, let’s talk game modes and graphics. Seriously, the game looks great, with a highly detailed yet cartoon-ey design really complimenting the arcade feel of the originals. As for game modes, the usual suspects are there, such as Training and Versus, but the rest of the modes in Street Fighter V are a mixed bag.
I mentioned the story mode briefly earlier, and I know no one plays these games for their story, but Street Fighter V’s is painfully awful, featuring motionless drawings of events and some of the worst writing and voice acting I have ever witnessed in a game. Each character’s storyline was over before anything really happened to them, and bar some characters crossing over to fight one another there was no real coherent relationship between any of them. Apparently there is more cinematic single player content coming later in the year, but if this offering is any indication as to its quality then I hope they spare us the trauma.
The one single player mode that really stood out to me was Survival Mode, where you try to survive against a continuous stream of AI opponents and earn points to spend between bouts on things such as health replenishment, filling your V-Gauge etc. It quickly becomes very stressful as you can only choose one option per round, forcing you to employ certain tactics and plan out your attack strategy before going into each round. It’s a simple but much more engaging single player experience than the story or plain AI matches.
The online Battle Lounges, areas where two players can link up, chat and play together, seemed plagued with issues as they would continuously drop out and thus prevent games from even starting. And whatever games I could get to start were laggy to the point of being unplayable. This wasn’t a problem however when it came to hopping into Ranked or Casual matches, a process that has been conveniently streamlined so as to only join games with ideal opponents. You simply select what kind of match you wanted to play, and what level of connection you will tolerate, and the game searches for you in the background while you do other things like practice in the training room or play the story mode, prompting you when someone is ready to play. It was so much better than sitting in lobbies watching a searching symbol tick over.
On a final note, I want to bring attention to a glaring problem with the PC version of Street Fighter V, and that is that without a gamepad plugged in it is virtually unplayable. I began my review using my keyboard so as I could compare the two, and there is no way anyone could comfortably pull off any of the directional combo prompts using the arrow keys as they can’t emulate the sweep on an analogue stick.
And to make matters worse, there are no instructions that tell you what the keyboard controls actually are, instead labeling everything assuming you’re using an Xbox controller. It says “Press A to begin” on the opening screen the first time you load up the game, but pressing the A key does nothing, so I had to set about pressing every key on my keyboard until I discovered that the B key is the equivalent to A on the Xbox. There is no controls screen in any of the menus either, leaving only the opening tutorial to tell you what the Xbox controls are and hoping you figure it out. I immediately fixed this by swapping to my Xbox controller, but this kind of laziness is beyond unacceptable. It’s 2016 guys, you release your game on a platform, you tailor the prompts and options accordingly. Come on.
Street Fighter V does what it does best so well, and what it doesn’t do best it does really badly. It just so happens that what it does best is be an easy to pick up but incredibly intricate fighting game and what it does badly is have an atrociously painful story mode and connectivity issues in the Battle Lounges. But for the core purpose a majority of players would want it for, a casual fight between mates or training to be in the big leagues, Street Fighter V will serve you well.
Pros: Gorgeous to look at, solid mechanics, easy to pick up but difficult to master.
Cons: Connectivity problems in Battle Lounges, Story Mode is garbage, PC version lacks proper tutorial and is unplayable without a game pad.