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Street Fighter IV Review

5
  • PS3
  • X360

Street Fighter IV combines old and new in powerful ways, resulting in a game familiar enough to bring retired fans back into the fold while being different enough to appeal to the players who have stuck with the genre since day one.


When C. Viper isn't yakking away on her phone she can be a formidable opponent.
Street Fighter IV is one of those games that makes me glad I'm not a game developer. Dealing with franchises that are beloved by the world, making dramatic changes to classic formulas, attempting to thread the needle between a wide, mainstream audience and an insatiable collection of die-hards... it's probably not too easy. And that's what makes Street Fighter IV that much more impressive. Smart choices were made at almost every turn, and the final result is an absolute masterpiece that will appeal to longtime fans as well as the people who haven't thrown a fireball since 1993.

Street Fighter IV gets back to basics in a lot of ways. If you played Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting to death and then sort of drifted away from the genre, you'll probably be able to jump right back in after a little refresher course. The original 12 characters from Street Fighter II are present, and there are 25 characters in all. The rest of the roster pulls in a pair from Super Street Fighter II, a few from the Alpha games, and a collection of new fighters. From a gameplay perspective, the new characters fit in just fine. From a look-and-feel angle, though, guys like El Fuerte, the lucha libre chef, feel a little out of place. Likewise with the big, bobbling belly with appendages that is Rufus. But while they may look and act like comedy characters, they aren't total jokes when you're at the controls. Also not a joke? Gouken, a fighter who has appeared in the Street Fighter storyline before, but makes his first appearance as a playable fighter here. As Akuma's brother, he's the good guy to Akuma's raging demon badness. While you probably won't enjoy controlling every last fighter in the lineup (I've never been much for Dhalsim and I don't much care for Gen, either), there are enough different characters here to ensure that you've got a main selection and a couple of backups.

Ryu, readying his ultra.
The core fighting of Street Fighter IV is largely based on Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but that doesn't mean that this is just a 3D version of an old 2D game. Sure, the old standbys still work. If you want to pop from a low forward into a fireball, you still can. But there's some new stuff in IV that really changes the game once you start getting into it. The biggest difference is the addition of the focus attack. This chargeable move will absorb an incoming attack and can also be charged to deliver an unblockable attack that stuns your opponent, ideally setting you up for some free hits. You can also cancel into a focus attack out of a special (at the expense of some of your super meter) and cancel out of the focus attack with a dash. There are two meters that charge over the course of a fight. The super meter charges as you do moves and lets you do pumped-up EX versions of your specials or a reasonably devastating super combo. There's also a revenge meter that fills as you take damage. When it reaches a certain point, you can perform an ultra combo, which is usually a hyped-up, more damaging version of a character's super. Each option has its place, obviously, and it's up to you to figure out when to employ them.

So what do you do if you can't quite figure out when and where to employ those techniques? Or, to be more direct, what do you do when everything I said in the previous paragraph sounds like meaningless jibber-jabber? Ideally, that's what the game's trial mode would teach you, as its main focus is to help people get better at the game. But it doesn't teach you anything about theory, the hows and whys of the way the game functions, or even basic stuff about when you can safely jump in on someone and when you shouldn't. Instead, the trial mode gives you a list of moves to perform, starting with the absolute basics, moving on to simple cancels, and eventually getting into some lengthy, difficult combos. If you already understand the basics, this mode will let you pick up some deadly combos. But it doesn't even meet you halfway and let you view the moves being performed before you attempt them, leaving things like working out the timing of the combo to you. If you already know how to play the game, it won't be an issue. But if you already know how to play the game, all you'll take away from it are a bunch of new combos that, depending on your skill level, you may or may not be able to actually complete. It's sort of frustrating, because if this mode were more fleshed out, it might help complete neophytes understand the core concepts behind canceling from one move into another.

E. Honda is... displeased.
The rest of the game's features are fairly standard, with the sorts of versus, survival, time trial, and training-against-dummies modes you'd expect from a fighting game. They're done up a bit differently here, though, with survival and time trial offering different levels of play with different goals to attain. You'll have to play a lot of arcade mode, as there are quite a few characters to unlock. In arcade mode, you'll get to see some short anime clips that bookend each character's trek through the mode and give the game more of a story than Street Fighter has presented in-game in the past. These range from serious, main-plotline clips about the nature of the game's final boss, Seth, to fairly whimsical stuff from characters that don't tie in as deeply, like Honda and Zangief. If you're just bent on unlocking characters, you may want to set the difficulty all the way down and play one-round fights to get it done quickly. It's also worth noting that the easiest difficulty setting is practically like playing against an empty controller. If you've had trouble with fighting game AI in the past, you still shouldn't have any serious trouble getting through the game. Of course, it can play pretty rough, as well, if you want to turn the difficulty up a few notches.

While fighting the game's AI can make for a fine time, the very nature of fighting games all but requires you to play against a human opponent. While you can certainly do that locally, the real draw of Street Fighter IV is its online play. As with anything played over a network, there are a lot of different factors that can hamper the game's ability to play smoothly, but other than a couple of typical, minor hitches, the online seems to work fantastically. For the most part, it's the typical ranked/unranked setup, but there's also a way to configure your arcade mode games to allow players to butt in with fight requests, which is a cool function that sort of replicates the arcade experience. A championship mode patch added a sort of ladder-like tournament setup to the online mode in the console releases, and this mode shipped by default in the PC version of the game. It's interesting because it doesn't require you to assemble a full tournament bracket before starting to fight. It just sort of assembles the brackets on the fly as you partake in tournament matches.

Online, you can present yourself via a title and an icon. You unlock additional titles and icons by performing certain tasks. So, for completing a trial stage with Sagat, you might earn the "Password is 'Tiger'" title. There are 16 pages of different titles to get, and once you start playing online, you seem to just start racking them up. Same goes for icons, which range from little leaves that denote some basic level of experience to a baby chick, to a picture of a joystick, and so on. The game doesn't really specify how these items are unlocked, so people on the hunt for all of them will have a lot of work ahead of them.

Seth can be bad news.
Probably the most impressive part of Street Fighter IV's visual style is its facial animation. Unlike a lot of other polygonal dudes out there in video game land, the characters in Street Fighter IV have a lively look to their faces that makes them stand out. It's especially noticeable during the startup of an ultra combo. The player on the receiving end of the ultra usually freaks out, with bulging eyes and a dropped jaw as if they can't believe what's about to head their way. Taking people out with an ultra also usually looks great, from the facial expressions to the huge sunburst effect that fills the screen. Moreover, the game seems to match its arcade counterpart in every way that matters. The PC version of the game also offers three addiitonal graphical filters that let you play around with the way the fighters look. They're fairly subtle, with one adding a bit of an ink effect that hovers around the edges of the fighters, another giving the characters a watercolor-like palette, and posterize effect that flattens the look of the characters out a little bit. Watercolor is probably the most striking, but I prefer the default look of the fighters.

The audio portion of Street Fighter IV might be a bit off-putting for some players at first, but you're given enough options to straighten things out to your liking. The game's main menu and intro is set to music that sounds like some kind of boy band nightmare. The worst part is that "Indestructible" is incredibly catchy, and it's been sort of half-stuck in my head for around 10 days or so. It's also worth mentioning that the character voices have all been recorded in English as well as Japanese. Now that doesn't mean that you're going to hear Ryu shouting "dragon punch" instead of "shoryuken," but the between-fight banter is spoken in English by default. Also, all of the fight voices have been recorded twice, so Ryu will say "shoryuken" differently depending on which voice actor is on the mic. After completing the game once, you can set any of the fighters to Japanese on an individual basis, so if you think it's wrong that Akuma's voice sounds a lot like Blanka's, you can opt for his Japanese track. I initially assumed I'd despise all the English acting and snob out like a purist, but most of it's just fine.

My only real complaint about Street Fighter IV is that the trial mode represents a missed opportunity to help brand-new players get into the game, and perhaps the genre, as well. I only know what I know about Street Fighter because I've been playing and watching it since the early 1990s. Will it take 20 years for new players to acquire the same bits of knowledge that I have? The good news is that Street Fighter IV is a game so great that playing it for that long doesn't immediately sound out of the question. Jeff Gerstmann on Google+
155 Comments
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Posted by TheGamerGeek

My envy grows stronger!

Edited by Shane

gamergeek you bastard

Posted by License_To_Bill

Right at midnight! Noice woik.

Posted by Andrew

5 Stars !! I cant wait to pick up mine!

Posted by Aska

Awesome, earlier than I expected too.

Posted by animateria

One of the only games I pre-ordered before seeing any review.

I mean, its muther effin Street Fighter!

@ Shane You fail in life. First for saying "first". Second for not being first.

Online
Posted by simian

I haven't touched SF since the SNES days but I'll be picking this up mos def.

Posted by Meltbrain

Frickin' ace. Totally picking this up, oh man I wish I had more money I need those arcade sticks too.

Posted by FCKSNAP

Oh SFIV, you big hot tranny mess. I mean... I've decided I will save my money for RE5 as I've spent too much so far this year.

Posted by Lilarcor

I have never been good at fighting games but I'm still kind of tempted to play this one. I know it would be a waste of money, since everyone online would kick my ass and it's no fun to just play against AI constantly, but it just looks like so much fun. Oh well, maybe when it gets cheaper.

Posted by wefwefasdf

I want to pick it up... but I don't  know if its worth it considering how much I suck. :/

Posted by Csaint

Never really played a SF game, dunno if I should get this one or not. : /

Posted by MALACHE

Ill be playing this one for a while!!! Thanks for the review Jeff!!

Posted by KingOfIceland

I'm so getting this shat, can't wait for thursday!!

Posted by Slim

man this is going to ruin my grades...

Posted by Berkie

Can't  wait to get this!!!

Posted by TripMasterMunky

Can't wait to pick this up wed.

Posted by enesrules

THIS GAME COMPLETES ME!

Posted by xanavi

Haha vinny singing the intro song at the end of the video. Love the little easter eggs at the end of video reviews lately.

Posted by JJOR64

NiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiZOMGiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice!!

I can't wait!  MUST PLAY NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW!!!

Posted by Milkman

I am really, really bad at Street Fighter. But that's definitely not gonna stop me from buying this as soon as possible.

Posted by StaticFalconar

stupid living on a budget makes me not be able to afford any games this month (stupid val day). I guess I can always wiat a little longer.

Posted by SkipT

Interesting, but I just don't know if any fighting game is for me.

Posted by CarolynP

Good review!

But what kind of controller do I need to get the most out of the game? If I'm not ultra-competitive, will the Dualshock D-pad and buttons serve me okay? Seems like I might at least want the six face buttons of the official fight pads, but I'm not sold on the quality of those.

Posted by G3rt

I'm going to pick this up, even though I know I'll be pretty terrible at it for awhile.

Posted by John1912

Man, wish I had the game.  Nice review Jeff.

Posted by Jezzasaurus

I really want to like and get into this game, but I'm scared that just getting my ass handed to me by middle-aged Japanese gentlemen in grandiose fashion will be too debilitating and depressing, sucking the fun out of the whole experience. I've never played a Street Fighter game, and the last fighting game I played was a Mortal Kombat II port for the Super Nintendo, at which I was terrible anyway. Nice to know it'll please the fans though.

Posted by Pathos

Great review! Aww why did I get that nano this week? Gotta start saving again!

Posted by Kraznor

Awesome, hopefully I can find a copy today. Checked around and it seems Wal-Mart and two local video stores won't be getting it until Wednesday or perhaps Thursday so going to have to go hunting elsewhere.

Posted by FuzzYLemoN

You know, I don't even like fighting games, but the art style is so awesome that I might actually want to play this one. o_O

Posted by Dauragon

god i wish i wasn't broke right now

Posted by Captain_Fookup

Video Review? Fuck yeah!

Posted by Rachtyon

Just bought it a couple hours ago. Broken street dates in Australia woooohooooooooooooooo!!!

Posted by Muffin_Hunter

No surprise, Street Fighter fucking rocks!

The wait is finally over. d(-_-)b

Posted by JackSukeru

Having played more and more fighters as of late, it's time to finally really get into Street Fighter. Played it just a bit here and there but now it's gonna be serious.

Posted by andrewf87462

Awesome review Jeff! I will be picking this up soon. Its £10 cheaper at Game in the UK. Bargain!?

Posted by DJ_Lae

Damn it, I was hoping the training mode would be good.

Oh well, still looking forward to the game, but now one of my eyes is slightly squinty in displeasure.

Posted by 88Fingers

Seriously, I have never been more excited for a game.
It has been a long wait... almost 10 years since 3rd Strike
came out on the DREAMCAST.
I never thought Capcom would make IV.
It was a dream. I wanted a new Street Fighter so bad...
and today, Capcom has delivered it to all it's fans.

I'm not going t o be able to sleep tonight.

I'll be waiting for my call from EBgames to tell me
my collector's edition has arrived ....

the next 10 or so hours are going to be hell...

anyway....

Great and thoughtful review Jeff  : )


Posted by makari

Saw that coming.

(see what I did there?)

Posted by akumous

That's cool review and video review...I am so glad SF is back..and back better than ever..I can't wait for Gamestop to open so i can pick this baby up...

Posted by TheFrostedGamer

great review

Posted by Dragonseer

Great review Jeff, looking forward to the game...  But tell us...

Can you turn that @$$ announcer off?

Posted by Lukeweizer

God I wish I was good at fighting games.

Posted by Kohe321

Really good review. "Signifies that you can see things... Like an eye would". Hahah.

I'm getting this game asap.

Posted by am_dragon

PS3 or 360?  That's the question.  It really comes down to if it is playable with the 360's D-Pad.  I'm really leaning toward the PS3 right now based on that issue alone.

Posted by Asurastrike

I want to buy SF4, but it just seems to be way too lacking in content. I see myself having a great 2 or 3 days with it, and then getting bored.

Posted by SinGulaR

Superb review.

Posted by ahoodedfigure

Looks like Rufus is on the railroad to heart failure.

I'm interested to know how dynamic the backgrounds are.  Those are fun to look at even when you're not playing.

Posted by bodgie

wowow! whenever i see sf 4 i keep remembering the snes days with sf 2 when me and my brother was playing it :P this weekend will be great \o/

GREAT review Jeff!!!

Posted by Legend

How about writing a guide for us n00bs about "the hows and whys of the way the game functions", Jeff?

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