Street Fighter IV Review

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Developer: Capcom

Formats: Xbox 360 (reviewed), Playstation 3

There are a generation of gamers with thumbs hardened to leather on SNES d-pads, for whom the mixed screams of “Hadouken!” “Sonic Boom!” and “Tiger! Uppercut!” are sweet, sweet music and the thought of a warm, slightly sweaty joypad being handed to you triggers the happy urge to fight!

If the previous sentence describes you, then you probably own Street Fighter IV already. And probably like it.

The Street Fighter series has a lineage stretching back to 1987, one of the earliest ‘one on one’ fighting games it was the first to introduce a six button interface (for weak, strong and fierce punches and kicks) and features some of the most iconic character design to grace an arcade cabinet. Street Fighter II (particularly Street Fighter 2: Turbo -and- particularly on the SNES) achieved a high-water mark for the series in terms of mainstream appeal and popularity, with mould defining roster of characters, special moves and astoundingly memorable music.

Since then, the series has spawned numerous spinoffs, sequels and iterations, slowly drifting from a truly popular title to something more hardcore. The characters got weirder, play became more intense with more complex, top-tier techniques and a pretty high barrier to casual play. For many a gamer, it lost it’s way. But with Street Fighter IV, Capcom have made a conscious return to the “golden age”, evoking Street Fighter II with it’s presentation, character roster, stages and music, early teaser videos showed classic match-ups in recognizable locales, the nostalgia factor was high.

But nostalgia is like MSG, it may make your mouth water but it doesn’t mean the food’s any good. Fortunately, in Street Fighter IV’s case we’re been delivered a satisfying meal.

Street Fighter IV is at once an evolution of the franchise and a ruthless spring clean. Gone are the more hardcore excesses of previous iterations, the most striking change being that Capcom has balanced the game for joypad inputs, complex moves are far easier to pull off (and it’s about time).

The EX and combo bar remain (performing special moves fills a bar that you can ‘spend’ to perform more powerful moves and combos), joined by a new ultra gauge (taking damage fills it, and when filled you can perform a ‘revenge’ ultra combo) and ‘focus moves’, a new variety of guard breaking attacks.

Although these features sound complex it is possible to play with basic punches, kicks and special attacks and gradually introduce the more advanced techniques to your game, which is how I’m going about it (and still scoring the odd win in online play). Like previous Street Fighter’s, there’s a depth here that competition players will be mining in years to come, but we me mortals don’t need to think about, there’s a game here for every level of player.

And it looks stunning, every character has weight and a sense of power and of the 25 fighters on offer, the new guys are suitably diverse and dynamic and the old guard have never looked better; Kareteka Ryu stares down his opponents like a stoic action figure, Muay Tai exponent Sagat towers above the competition like a gnarled oak, School girl Sakura skips for joy between punches. This is a beautiful, beautiful game.

Is it flawless, no, even on a HDTV there are some moves that are hard to read, blocking mid or low is a guess unless you ‘know’ what’s coming and some moves have ranges it’s impossible to read, and it is brutally hard, the later stages are murder until you bite the your tongue and drop the difficulty level all the way to ‘easiest’. But single player Street Fighter was always an entree, the main course is multiplayer and here the game excels.

Really solid online support means that X-box Lives games very rarely lag, matchmaking does a fair job of providing similarly skilled opponents, but that’s not the cherry on this cake. The very best way to play the game is to gather together a bunch of friends and spend an evening passing the pad and punching the faces of the people you love. It’s rare a game can revert everyone in the room to teenage, trash talking, fools. Street Fighter IV does that and, I suspect, will be doing so for years to come.

Hadouken!!

GS Rating: 5 out of 5 (The Return of the King)

Dry slaps: 1 Dry Slap (difficulty)
1 Fireball, 1 Fierce kick and an Ultra Combo Finish (because I can)

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One comment

  1. Dave W /

    Couldn’t agree less. Play this back to back with a true modern fighter like Soul Calibur IV and the difference is immediate. SF IV lacks fluidity and playability and just trades on its former glories. Hate to say it but the author of this review should be noted as “by Nostalgia” cause that’s all SF has going for it.

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