Street Fighter IV ReviewBy Matt Keil - Posted Feb 18, 2009
Capcom has delivered another in the incredibly popular 'Street Fighter' series with 'Street Fighter IV,' and all of your old friends have returned to fight again. Adam and Morgan are here with the review for the XBox 360.
- Exceptionally balanced
- Solid roster of fighters
- Smooth and responsive online play
- Top-notch presentation
- Deep gameplay that's still beginner friendly
- Trial Mode could use a "demo move" feature
- A stick is pretty much mandatory
Street Fighter IV Review -
Back in the heyday of Street Fighter, the joke was that Capcom couldn’t count to three. The seemingly endless string of updates to Street Fighter II established the tradition of not renumbering a Street Fighter game until substantial changes and improvements were made to the game. After many years of silence on the Street Fighter front, Street Fighter IV is perhaps the greatest leap the series has made between iterations.
In an unorthodox move, Street Fighter IV is set after the events of Street Fighter II but before Street Fighter III. As a result, the roster is populated by the SF2 cast, with some additions from the Alpha series and several new faces. The console version adds five fighters who were not available in the arcade: Dan, Rose, Gen, Fei Long, and Cammy. New to the series are MMA fighter Abel, cybernetically-enhanced corporate climber Crimson Viper, luchadore chef El Fuerte, obese American caricature Rufus, Ryu and Ken’s long-lost master Gouken, and weird blue big boss Seth. All the new additions fit well into the Street Fighter universe, and manage to avoid the oddities of the less well-received Street Fighter III cast. With the exception of Seth, they’re all fairly down to earth outside of their abilities to shoot fire out of their hands and such.
The characters and environments are rendered entirely in 3D, but the gameplay remains the familiar 2D fighting the series is known for. The visual design is highly stylized, with a semi-realistic hand-drawn feel to it. Some moves even result in an ink-and-paint effect reminiscent of Okami. Use of 3D allows for situationally-appropriate camera zooms, pans, and tilts that make the combat more dramatic and visually engaging. None of it interferes with the drum-tight gameplay, which is the true star of the show.
Capcom knew better than to mess with success, so anyone with Street Fighter experience will be pretty comfortable picking up Street Fighter IV. This is a very beginner-friendly game. The speed is slower than Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but a bit faster than Street Fighter III. Two levels of super moves are available to each character. You can build up a super bar with successful attacks to use a standard Super Combo, but there’s also a Revenge meter that fills up as you take damage. When full enough, the Revenge meter enables an Ultra Combo, a far more damaging attack that can turn the tide of a losing battle in one flashy moment.
A brand new addition to the action is the Focus Attack. Tapping the two medium attack buttons results in a Focus Attack. Holding the buttons charges the attack, and can make it an instant knockdown or even unblockable. While charging a Focus, you can take a single hit without being interrupted, although you will temporarily lose health from the hit. If you connect with the subsequent Focus Attack, the lost health will slowly recharge. If you’re hit before it recharges, you lose that health plus the damage from the subsequent attack. It’s sort of a simplified version of the Parry system in Street Fighter III, but with a much gentler learning curve. The versatile Focus Attacks can be mixed into combos and used to set up devastating attacks after only a bit of practice, further adding to Street Fighter IV’s appeal as a game for beginners and advanced players who want to explore more complex techniques.
The game also alleviates the issue of accidentally picking a “weak” character. While there are obviously some characters better than others at tournament-level play, for the most part the fighters are balanced and everyone has a shot at winning against everyone else in most players’ hands. Even Dan, normally a joke character in the Street Fighter series, is a fairly effective combatant in the right hands. Practice with anyone should yield results after time, and the radically different fighting styles of new characters like Rufus and C. Viper make for interesting matches. Or at least it will if you can ever find anyone online not playing as Ken or Ryu.
The online play is very smooth and essentially lag free, thanks to what seems to be similar netcoding techniques to the equally impressive Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix. The matching service is very good about not setting you up with slow connection opponents, and after a hundred or so online matches we’ve only had a handful of lag issues. The online is its own mode, but is also elegantly integrated into the primary Arcade mode. You can set your online status to accept challenges from other players while you play the offline game, and new opponents will join in as you play just as they would on an arcade machine back in the day.
A Challenge Mode adds longevity as well as a method of unlocking new colors for the fighters. A preset list of Time Attacks, Survival Matches, and Trials are available, and completing them successfully opens new features and ranks you on the worldwide leaderboards should your performance be up to snuff. Each Time Attack and Survival challenge has different rules, such as upping defense for you or the CPU, giving you infinite super gauge, or even hiding your enemy’s lifebar so you’re never quite sure how much more damage you have to do to win.
The Trial mode is a sort of training mode that presents you with increasingly complex special moves and combo strings to perform. This is one of the few stumbles Street Fighter IV makes, in that the advanced Trials feature long and intricate combos that require precise timing. However, since there is no “demo move” option to have the computer show you exactly what the combo looks like when performed, you’re left guessing what the timing is meant to be. Sometimes various moves must be canceled or dashed out of, but the controller commands listed are simply the default ones, not modified for the situation at all.
The only other flaw isn’t really with the game itself but with the hardware you’ll be using to play it. Neither the 360 controller nor the DualShock 3 are really sufficient for good Street Fighter IV play. If you intend to play the game for any real amount of time and get good at it, you’ll need to pick up a joystick controller or at least a pad with a six-button face. The extra expense may seem silly on the surface, but the improvement in control is noticeable from the first round you play.
The fighting game has evolved considerably since Street Fighter II exploded the genre into superstardom in the early ‘90s. Street Fighter IV proves that Capcom still has what it takes to dominate the genre almost two decades later. The fourth installment may, at long last, have trumped the second. Anyone with even a passing interest in one-on-one brawling owes it to him or herself to get into Street Fighter IV. Even if you haven’t touched a fighting game since the 16-bit era, one match of Capcom’s new masterpiece will remind you why you spent so many hours at those now long-shuttered arcades.
Video produced by: Mike Benson
Article written by: Matt Keil