REVIEWS -- Street Fighter IV -- Xbox360
Very easy to pick up and get hooked for months
by Dave Cain
Fun factor: Fun
Worth to: Buy/Rent
Brings back the old arcade excitement but adds new twists and a depth of polish that can rival even the greatest of fighting games
Back in the early 90’s, Street Fighter II rocked the arcade world with its unique characters and fast combat system. Although a simple game on the surface, many diligent (read: obsessed) gamers found added layers of complexity not visible to the average quarter-wielding Joe. Despite the release of the spin-off Alpha series and the ultra-hardcore Street Fighter III, the series has never been able to top the mainstream appeal of Street Fighter II. Capcom sought to change that with the release of Street Fighter IV by once again combining casual accessibility with hardcore complexity. Boy, did they ever succeed.
Easy to pickup; hard to master
Street Fighter IV truly feels like the arcade game we all know and love with plenty of enhancements to the core gameplay. If you haven’t thrown Ryu’s Hadouken in over 15 years, there’s no need to worry. Capcom has made it incredibly easy to pick up the controller and allow the muscle memory to guide you to victory. However, as you progress in the single player challenges, using the old techniques will prove to be less effective. Fortunately, learning Ultra Combos, Super Combos, and the all new Focus Attacks is a relatively simple endeavor... mostly.
Beneath each fighter is a Super and Revenge meter. The Super meter fills as you perform attacks and the Revenge meter fills as you take damage. When the revenge meter passes a certain point, you can perform an Ultra Combo which is a desperation move to turn the tides in a losing battle. The same idea applies for a full Super Meter, allowing you to pull off a quicker, less powerful super combo. For several fan favorite fighters, pulling off either of these spectacular combos is as simple as performing two quarter-movement rolls and a face or shoulder button (basically, you’re performing the Hadouken motion twice) and you may often find yourself performing the combos completely by accident. Some charge characters, such as Chun Li and Bison, require a bit more finesse to perform their combos, and others like Guile and Vega (and the always frustrating Zangief) will be impossible for some people to pull off consistently, if at all.
The Super Meter has other functions as well. One function allows you to perform EX versions of standard special moves by consuming ¼ of the meter. An EX move is performed by pushing more than one button for a fireball or uppercut, increasing the damage and allowing the move to pass through Focus Attacks. Also, consuming half of the meter allows you to cancel out of attacks to chain together new combos or recover from missed or blocked attacks. Getting a good handle on the Super Meter is an important tool for high level play, but can mostly be ignored (especially for casual players) in favor of the simple and effective Focus Attacks. By holding down 2 buttons, your fighter charges up a devastating punch or kick that can penetrate blocks and gives ample time for a follow up throw or combo. Additionally, you can dash out of focus attacks to psyche out your opponent and you can absorb a single hit while charging up.
They’re street fighters, not actors
There are 25 fighters to choose from, but only 16 are available to start with. All 12 original characters from Street Fighter II are present and accounted for, along with select fan favorite fighters from other installments, such as Cammy, Sakura, Dan, and Fei Long. There are also 5 new characters, including a new final boss named Seth who you will immediately loathe for eternity. Other characters include the rotund yet agile Rufus, the ultra-cool gadget girl Crimson Viper, the Mexican chef El Fuerte, and MMA fighter Abel. The new characters are a welcome addition for the most part with El Fuerte being the main combatant who feels out of place (what’s the deal with the recent trend of Japanese fighters and Lucha Libre wrestlers anyway?).
Each character gets a simple story to go through in the standard arcade mode, bookended by some sub-par anime scenes. It’s a noble attempt to provide more than the usual ladder of opponents, but since the scenes lack context, you’ll probably end up ignoring them anyway. After taking each fighter through his or her story, there’s still plenty of single player challenges to tackle.
Survival Mode has your fighter taking on a set number of opponents with minimal healing in between rounds, Time Attack involves a series of fights that must be completed before a timer runs out, and Trial mode gives you designated attacks and combos to perform that get progressively difficult. The longevity of the single player is staggering since there is also an additional collection element to completing set tasks. Finishing challenges rewards you with titles and icons to assign to your personal profile, which you can then show off online to take up even more of your time.
Will have you playing for months, even years
The core online fighting of Street Fighter IV is magnificent. You can quickly join a match, search using custom criteria, or create your own lobby to take on opponents in surprisingly lag free matches. Creating your own lobby is the fastest way to find an opponent, but the matchmaking in that situation can be a little random. Ranked matches pair you up with other fighters with relative Battle Points. The more battle points you acquire, the more you lose if you’re taken down by some new dynamo. Fortunately, Player matches allow you to win and lose to your heart’s desire without consequence and are much more akin to the arcade days of old.
The graphical style of Street Fighter IV plays a large part in the sleek presentation. Even though the fighting still takes place on a 2D plane, characters are rendered in 3D and feature exaggerated facial expressions (which are a riot if you’re a second away from getting destroyed by an Ultra Combo). Backgrounds are vibrant and lively and there’s a cool ink outline around your character whenever you land a Focus Attack. The sound design complements the over the top battles with boisterous whistles accompanying flashy finishes and a play-by-play announcer occasionally shouting with excitement. Voice work is also solid in English and Japanese, but the anime scenes suffer in both cases from poor lip sync and awkward timing.
If you’re a fan of fighting games, purchasing Street Fighter IV is a no brainer. Newcomers also shouldn’t be afraid to give this incredible game a chance, but it should be noted there is a bit of a learning curve. It’s very easy to pick up the game and enjoy it yourself with another new player, but taking on someone who knows every move for every character inside out can be a frustrating endeavor. Overall, with online play and tons of single player options, Street Fighter IV will keep you busy for months and months and truly deserves a place as one of the greatest fighting games of all time.
Release Date: February 17, 2009
Review Date: 02-05-2009
Numbers of Players: 1-2
Players Online: 2
Notes: 720p Support, Dolby Digital 5.1, Leaderboards, Downloadable Content, Online Tournaments, Voice Support, Widescreen
Heavily stylized look and superb animations. Hilarious character expressions. Cool ink splash effects.
Controls are quick and precise. Tons of distinct fighters. Easy to pick up with layers of complexity for the hardcore crowd to learn.
Excellent opening cinematic gets you pumped up to fight. Brief, forgettable story cutscenes suffer from poor animation.
Raucous sound effects complement satisfying victories. Voice acting is topnotch and fully customizable. Many famous theme songs return with one infectious
Unlockable characters, Timed and Survival Modes. Trial mode can even get beginners to pro level. Online play rewards with collectibles and ranked points.