I have had a week of tearing my beard hair out. I have been waiting a long time for Street Fighter V (SFV), but this isn’t what I was waiting for. Not by a long shot.
The fighting itself, the actual game part that, by most people’s standards at least, is all that really matters, is amazing. The frame rate sticks to 60 fps regardless of the action on-screen, making for a silky smooth fighting experience. So much of the game depends on this because this is the type of game where watching frames is necessary for those killer combos and beating your opponents.
The system has also been tweaked to help newer players. There are a lot less complex moves across the board, with a lot of characters never requiring anything more complicated than a quarter circle with an attack input. V-trigger, a brand new mechanic, adds an extra energy bar to use in combat. Each fighter utilizes it in a different way, but with similar key inputs. From reversals to negating projectiles or powering up attacks for a short period of time, this is a highly visual, easy to read system that adds another layer to the strategy of the game. Another big change is the speed that attacks are launched at. SFV is a tad slower on some attacks, giving you a few frames to at least see the attack, so that you know what to expect next time. Of course slower is a relative term here, one or two frames isn’t exactly a long period of time, but veterans will feel it.
It is beautiful in its eloquence, the graphics are amazing. Spell effects, characters and outfits are highly detailed and exude presence. Hadokens are mesmerising in their quality and Zangief, for example, is a menacing tower of muscle that looks and feels solid on the screen.
But then the cracks show in the game around the fighting. The whole game takes place while connected to a server. Losing connection to the server kicks you out of whatever you were doing, even if it is the last fight in a 30 stage survival battle, which is a singleplayer only component. Busy with the terrible prologue stories? You get kicked out as well. It is clunky, and awkward but it isn’t the worst part. If you enjoy singleplayer fighting, or are looking for a good place to be taught the ropes with a character, this doesn’t exist. There is no arcade mode, a baffling removal and the training mode has no means to help train you, it is just a place to flail against a target with infinite health.
Muscle… spirit! Muscle spirit!
The prologue missions for each character involve two or three single round fights and are over in about seven minutes. The “story”, if you can call such terrible writing that, is asinine and embarrassing. Besides the prologue, if you are looking for singleplayer kicks you can play survival mode. The mode is pretty fun, with you competing in bouts attempting to reach 10, 30 or more people defeated on a single health bar, depending on the difficulty you choose. Between rounds you can spend score on health recovery, or increased attack or power meter charges. Its part tactics, part random luck and it is a lot of fun, until the server kicks you out when it falls over, losing all your progress.
Early Access release
Street Fighter V feels rushed. It is rushed. The game was released way far before it should have been. Yes we have waited a long time for this game. But its current state feels more like something you would see on Steam Early Access, but without any of the warnings that you are buying an incomplete game. Add in server issues, a 6GB day one patch and two player lobbies (seriously how is this even called a lobby?) and a whole flow chart of when content will be added for free (content that should have been there from day one) and you get the feeling that Capcom rushed into something way too far ahead of time, for reasons.
Street Fighter V is preaching about its improved combat system, which is meant to be much friendlier to new players, to be more welcoming. But there are only pews for the veterans, and the church is nowhere near big enough (or stable enough!) to accommodate everyone.
In its current state, unless you have a group of friends who will come over for some couch fighting regularly, I cannot recommend this game. Yes the fighting is amazing, it’s a natural evolution of one of the best fighting games franchises ever. It is a shame because the new characters, and the older ones who got some revamping, are so much fun to play and add such variety to the fighting. But everything around it has me shell-shocked. I can’t handle another server drop, another person quitting a match early with zero repercussions, another line of dialogue from those terrible prologue stories. Sure, maybe this is a platform that will have amazing content later on, but until that content becomes a reality, until the servers stop falling over, I am avoiding this mess, before I break a controller.
I will revisit this game once they bother to finish it. Unless someone comes over for a couch battle.