Capcom plans on keeping Street Fighter V in for the long haul, but how does the experience hold up at launch?
Developers: Capcom, Dimps
Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Reviewed)
Release Date: February 16th
Fighting games are in the middle of a transformation right now. Much like a teenager through an awkward puberty, so, too, has the fighting game community grown in ways previously unfamiliar. We’ve reached a point where tournaments are finally starting to fill out arenas (like they should have done before MOBA’s came in), and serious money is up for grabs. Street Fighter V will look to bring about a new era of unified titles that will last the generation they were created in, but where does that leave players at the very start?
At launch, Street Fighter V is about the core gameplay. There are very few gameplay modes and options available for the user, starting out with a Story Mode that is comprised of basic vignettes for each character. Complete with voice acting and illustrative concept art by Japanese illustrator Bengus, the goal is to get the basics of each character’s control schemes and command lists while setting forth a surface level look into their backgrounds.
As a stopgap measure, these Character Stories are effective in their goal of familiarizing players. Having a basic knowledge of the Street Fighter universe, it really opened my eyes as to the inter-personal relationships this cast shares with one another. Furthermore, with basic opposing AI not meant to beat you down, you get a relatively easy way to learn how each character controls and plays. Easily the best way to figure out which character should act as your main.
Of course, these stories are supposed to act as a precursor to the events of the Cinematic Story Mode, coming in June. While it’s enough to pique my curiosity, the narrative balance is uneven throughout the entirety of the roster. You get interesting ideas about what Rainbow Mika, Rashid, and Nash are set up for (with characters beyond the Street Fighter V roster involved), but others like Birdie and Karin get the short end of the informative stick.
Single-player content, understandably, is not the main focus of Street Fighter V, which prides itself on a balanced combat system enjoyed between human combatants. The newest entry in the famed series introduces a number of mechanics and systems aimed at bringing flair to each character’s competitive checks and balances.
What I appreciate most about these new systems is that they add complexity to a combat system that is, overall, simpler.
In addition to the Critical Arts system (Super bar that fills up for devastating attacks), the V-Guage bar provides an additional offensive and defensive system to cross opponents up. Fill up your V-Guage bar to perform various maneuvers, including a guard reversal attack for a partial bar, medium kick+punch for character-specific skills or a full-bar V-Trigger. The trigger is unique to each character, but often provide damage boosts or specific cross-up attacks that lead to expanded combos.
What I appreciate most about these new systems is that they add complexity to a combat system that is, overall, simpler. Pulling off a string of hits in Street Fighter V can be done in a number of ways, but gone are the days of the frame-perfect combo (as observable so far). The V-Gauge adds an additional layer of options given to the player, adding into the meta strategy players from tournament ready to those slumming in the Rookie League will have to take into consideration.
The result is combat in Street Fighter V offering a ton of different looks for players at all skill levels in a way that goes beyond fighter type. Zangief will handle his grapples differently than R. Mika will, who is different to how Laura’s grapple transitional game will play. Each character plays to their individuality, as opposed to having a ton of clone characters and style-repetitive fighters.
More to the point, the roster of Street Fighter V might be one of the better pre-DLC collections out there. Your series staples are complemented by a great cast of introductory characters, each providing their own flair to the proceedings while weaving right into the Street Fighter narrative with ease. They feel like a breath of fresh air, yet fit in like they’ve been there for years.
Because of the variety in their move sets, a trip to the Training Mode is a must for players of all varieties. Whether you are new to the series with Street Fighter V or are a seasoned vet, the built-in training systems provided are beyond reproach. Not only do you have a ton of practice customization options, but a ton of stats and relevant fighting data is at your fingertips. Learn at your own pace, whether that means stringing hits together or fine-tuning combatants’ hitboxes.
Another step to take before you jump online (or take on your friends offline) is to enjoy the Street Fighter V Survival Mode. Hosted on a number of difficulty settings, the goal is to defeat opponents in a row with one health bar. While seemingly insurmountable a challenge, the score you earn each round can be used to purchase modifiers and health recovery.
For all the ills Capcom has pushed forward, they deserve credit for a fair and balanced post-launch content plan.
A throw-in mode to pad for content length by nature, I actually found the gameplay mode a welcomed feature. The RPG-lite systems involved, in addition to it being one of the only modes designed to combat a number of AI opponents in randomized order, gives players a ton of new looks through gradually increased gameplay difficulty. It’s a neat way to earn alt costumes and color changes without having to pay real money.
That leads to one of my favorite aspects of the monetization scheme of Street Fighter V; Fight Money vs. Zenny. You can earn absolutely everything in this game through winning online matches and through single-player modes. Otherwise, getting immediate access to schedule DLC will require payment.
By committing to an “Earn-To-Pay” model, Street Fighter V does a brilliant job of setting itself up for immense growth. Young players, many of which have no access to credit cards or means of paying for DLC characters, will now have the option to follow the ongoing development of the game as characters are added to the roster, increasing their chances of being viable competitors at tournaments. For all the ills Capcom has pushed forward, they deserve credit for a fair and balanced post-launch content plan.
Let’s face it; while Capcom wants to captivate as large an audience as possible, Street Fighter V is built to build the eSports monster it deserves to be. While tournaments are mostly held offline, the competitive online structure built in place at launch gives Capcom a real chance of building a large wave of up and coming eSports players through the Capcom Fighters Network.
The Capcom Fighters Network gives players an unprecedented level of statistical and analytical support for online players. You can favorite online fighters, create rivals to observe, receive elaborate data breakdowns, maintain and watch match replays, challenge online players and gauge where players are competing online geographically. Paired with the Battle Lounge, they serve as a great framework.
…Cross-platform support in Street Fighter V is a welcomed addition.
The features are built into the online experience, with Capcom doubling down on an impressive online netcode for Street Fighter V. Half of my time was (naively) spent wireless, and even when observing a “search for fighters” setting that brought me into online matches while I trained (an essential feature), frame loss was minimal to hardly noticeable compared to offline play. Even after getting wired in, I felt like the difference between the two was minimal.
Sony’s support cannot be ignored, here, as cross-platform support in Street Fighter V is a welcomed addition. Not only does it knock down barriers in unifying the fighting game community, but it allows for players to compete and ally with their friends who don’t necessarily have the same platform as them. Anything to keep the competitive spirit as open as possible is a victory, in my books.
As of pre-release, there are no means of punishing players who intentionally drop connection during matches.
Despite an overwhelming appreciation for what Capcom is building with Street Fighter V, there are some pitfalls. On a grand scale, variety in gameplay options is very limited. Versus, truncated Story, Training, Online play and Survival Modes: that’s it. Even daily challenges and Challenge Mode, which would aim to help build a competitive, engaged audience for newcomers is not ready until next month.
The bigger concern, during my time in limited (winning) online play, is unpenalized disconnections. As of pre-release, there are no means of punishing players who intentionally drop connection during matches, meaning no W/L or Points changes. Unless there is a fix ready for launch that reviewers like myself don’t have access to, this is a huge oversight. It will lead to players dropping out of matches left and right, ruining the fun and flow of online gameplay. (Also, think of the trophies!)
How a fighting game feels is hard to quantify, but due to differences in character mobility, Street Fighter V feels just. Nobody plays floaty unless it fits into their mechanics (Dhalsim) while nobody plays too powerfully without counterbalances (Zangief). The flow of battle doesn’t cater to matchups, but to a fighter who reacts to their opponents and reads their moves. It makes for a fighting experience that feels fair, leaving only yourself to blame for holding the L.
Due to the nature of fighting games, it seems unfair to the reader to rate the overall Street Fighter V package by playing on a reduced server load for online play. As the servers reset and all players are back to square one, I will update my final thoughts on Street Fighter V later this week.
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For the meantime, there is not much to dislike about Street Fighter V. Whether it is a robust roster, an impressive structure for an online community or a deep combat system that is easy to learn, hard to master, the game does an impeccable job of drawing you in and keeping you entertained. An unfortunate oversight in punishing ragequitters might derail the online experience, but I will wait for an engaged, included public to integrate before I draw any conclusions.
Street Fighter V is built for the long haul, yet excellence permeates in its present state. Capcom should be proud of what they’ve accomplished, yet remind themselves there is still much more work to be done.
A copy of this game was provided to GameSided for the purpose of this review. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.