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Street Fighter V

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local and Online)
Genre: Fighting/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

"This game isnít finished. Why is it on shelves?" A question I find myself asking more and more these days. Whatever it can be blamed on is definitely up for debate, but the most likely culprit is pre-order culture, which is more aggressive than itís ever been. With future sales guaranteed, the pressures of developing a complete quality product inevitably decrease. I'm shocked in this case; I never thought Iíd be applying that statement to a Street Fighter game. Donít get me wrong: the game looks, sounds, and plays great. Itís functionally complete, but it doesnít feel content complete, and thatís a major no-no for a fighting game. Capcom has preemptively ensured us that it will enrich the release with post-launch support. But here "post-launch support" seems to mean "the rest of the game." As of this writing, Street Fighter V is not worth full price. It probably will be in the future, but frankly, my code of ethics forbids me from making this assumption the cornerstone of the review.

Street Fighter V features a natural evolution of the "3D graphics on a 2D plane" aesthetic introduced in Street Fighter IV, and the increase in hardware power only serves to make the game look even better. It still looks decidedly anime-inspired, but itís far smoother around the edges than any of its predecessors. The fighting action is slick, colorful, and superbly animated; not a single frame is wasted, which is an absolute necessity, considering how crucial it is to hardcore play. While Street Fighter Vís netcode doesnít have any glaring issues that I can speak of, the actual frame rate can suffer during online play. My experience between the online and offline play hasnít been completely consistent in regards to that qualm, so take that with a grain of salt while also bearing in mind that this game is unfinished.

I donít really have any complaints to levy at Street Fighter Vís audio design. Capcom has had a very specific vision for what this series looks and sounds like since Street Fighter II, and nothing here even comes close to betraying that vision. It sounds very much like an arcade fighting game. From the exaggerated blows and impacts to the varied soundtrack that aptly conveys a sense of place to each environment, itís good stuff. Plus, anythingís better than "Indestructible."


Gameplay:

Street Fighter V is the videogame equivalent of the scene from Watchmen in which the recently-vaporized Jon Osterman struggles to construct a body for himself, beginning with a disembodied nervous system. Specific and weird, I know, but this game is currently missing so much that it almost canít support itself. But judged on what is actually here at launch, itís all solid. Great, even!

Letís start with Street Fighter Vís roster, which is slim by comparison, but also superior to those of its predecessors. Allow me to explain: while Ultra Street Fighter IV included everyone and their grandmaís dog, you could usually spot a handful of characters who essentially had the same attack patterns and rhythms. Not so in Street Fighter V; each character feels wholly their own, from their basic move set to their special abilities. More on that later.

Letís talk modes first. This is where Street Fighter V currently suffers the most. If youíre the kind of hardcore competitor who watches EVO and doesnít bother with artificial intelligence of any sort, you might not miss anything. Street Fighter Vís online component is its most complete facet by far.

Maybe itís unfair to treat Street Fighter Vís Story Mode as a joke, but when itís placed in the company of Mortal Kombat X (hands-down the most complete fighter on the market), itís hard to see it as anything else. A series of standard brawls, a couple of hammy (but static) cutscenes and a personal fight or two, and youíre done. And you can't change the difficulty level. What more can I say?

Iíd love to give my impressions of the rest of the gameís modes, but I havenít experienced them yet. In fact, no one has. They arenít available yet.


Difficulty:

Thereís arguably more to learn in Street Fighter V than there has been in any previous installment (save perhaps III). That isn't a problem, per se, but it certainly helps in the creation of a fairly massive one. This learning curve would be manageable if there were training tools to help the player crest it, but alas, there are none at the moment.

So right now, Street Fighter V lacks the toolset that most fighting games use to help players gain a competitive edge in both offline and online play. Since fights almost never devolve into button-mashing affairs, this is a serious problem. A full-fledged training suite is a necessity for fighting games, and itís kind of amazing that the most recognized name in fighting games has launched a title in which such a crucial component is missing. But again, the gameís not finished.

As of this writing, all players are pretty much on their own. The community is as ferociously competitive as itís ever been, so newcomers will simply have to be content with getting thrashed until they somehow learn from their unexplained mistakes or manage to make a series of serendipitous surprise discoveries.


Game Mechanics:

Iterating on a formula as tried and true as Street Fighter's must be no small order. Change too much and it doesn't feel like a Street Fighter game. Change too little and people will wonder at the game's overall necessity. With Street Fighter V, Capcom has put in arguably their best work to date. In terms of sheer fundamentals, nothing is too different. Classic abilities and special moves remain unchanged in terms of input and rhythm, but other mechanics have been cut in favor of something better.

The only discernible major cut from Street Fighter IV's universal ability pool is the Focus Attack, the charge and release staggering move that helps besieged competitors break out of an opponent's combo by absorbing one blow and launching a powerful attack that brings the enemy fighter to his/her knees. Skilled players were able to follow up with combos of their own.

Capcom fills the void left by the polarizing mechanic with one that is easily one of the best and most welcome improvements to the core formula the series has ever seen. Enter the V-Gauge. As your opponent lands hits, this gauge fills. When the V-Gauge reaches a certain threshold, your combat options multiply. You have three choices: the V-Skill, the V-Reversal, and the V-Trigger. This may sound familiar so far; indeed, the V-Gauge definitely compares with special meters from other fighting games, but this one is wholly unique in that its applications are, in many ways, fighter-exclusive.

Consider the V-Skill, for example. Ryu's is the parry from Street Fighter III. Ken's has him instantly close the distance between himself and his opponent in one ferocious dash. Zangief walks slowly towards his foe, Terminator style, able to absorb one hit before finishing the cycle and letting loose. V-Skills are unique to each and every playable fighter, and that's what makes them special.

V-Reversals are closer in nature to Killer Instinct's Combo Breakers, as they allow you to launch an immediate counterattack when you're on the receiving end of the pain.

Finally, V-Triggers endow the combatant with passive abilities. These usually manifest themselves in buffs to special abilities, but others unleash special moves that have the potential to instantly turn a losing fight into a winning one.

Reviewing Street Fighter V is one of the most difficult tasks Iíve faced as a reviewer. I know a fair chunk of it is, in essence, me bludgeoning a dead horse with a giant cricket bat for several paragraphs, but itís the nature of the beast. I feel like Iíve said a lot about Street Fighter V, but trust me: thereís far more that I could not. Hold off on buying this one for now. Weíre probably due for several upgraded versions in the future as it is.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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