Thursday, 12 March 2009

Review: Street Fighter IV

Yep it's finally time, as i promised here is my review of Street Fighter 4. in this review i am going to attempt to shorten it down a tad, but i say this a lot but anyway here goes.

Street Fighter IV is a fighting game developed by Capcom USA based on the hit series Street Fighter. The game's plot takes place after Street Fighter II but retroactively before Street Fighter III, The game sees the return of many familiar face with the entire cast of Street Fighter II comes back along with five new characters: C. Viper, Abel, El Fuerte, Rufus and boss character Seth whilst also having another eight unlockable characters. The game plays very similar to that of SFII but borrows elements of SFIII such as E.X. attacks and also introduces its own mechanics to the series in the form of a Focus attack and Ultra Combo.

A Focus Attack is slightly reminicent of Parrying from SFIII but not all that much similar. Focus Attacks allow you to take some recoverable damage from an opponents attack whilst also giving you the ability to counter in the same go, Focus attacks or FA's for short can also be cancled in numerous ways to help better your game such as dash canceling where you dash out of a FA and also a combination of FA and E.X. simply called E.X. Focus Attack which can be used to end animations of moves and allow you to string together moves to allow more damage, if i was to use an example of a E.X. Focus Attack Cancel i would say...

Messiah Kick > L.Kick Finish> E.X. Cancel first hit > Dash Cancle > Ultra Combo

Ultra combos(UC) also bring something new to the table, similar to that of the Super Combo(SC) in terms of use, the differences in UC's and SC's is that an UC is charged more on taking damage where a SC is more on dealing out damage, this allows players to mount a comeback in a losing battle and can somewhat level the playing field or even win the match out of no where if used correctly. The Revenge Gauge shows you when you can use an UC or not, the Revenge Gauge comes in two halves and can be used once half full but the closer to being full it is, the more damage your UC will do in the long term.

The game has many different modes of which can be played, there is the standard arcade mode which is staple to nearly all fighting games let alone street fighter, a Vs. Mode for multi player, Training Mode to help you brush up on skills and test things without the tension of fighting an actual opponent and Challenge Mode which has three different modes in it self, if your familiar with fighting games then Survival Mode and Time Attack and pretty much self explanatory however the Trial Mode offers much more by asking the player to complete a set amount of combos with scaling difficulty levels starting with simple things such as heavy kick, to chaining several moves into your super or ultra combo.

The game features online play on XBL and PSN, this allows you to play regular matches or ranked matches. Regular matches is essentially Vs. Mode but against someone possible the other side of the planet with no punishment for losing. Rank battles are are the same but players gain BP which is used to represent players skill level, the more BP, the better the player. The online mode allows you to use a selection of Titles and Icons to represent yourself along side your gamer tag, it's nothing amazing but it's an extra set of customization which allows you to stop looking like everybody else.

The game allows quite a bit of customization in offline play as well, players can change several things about there character before a match from the colour of their outfit, there personal actions or taunt and the win quote they use after winning a match. Though non of this really effects game balance in any major ways it is nice to be able to switch your character up a bit, in a sense it gives you that personal touch, even though two people could be playing Ryu at the same time it is allowing you to make yourself stand out from each other. The game also offers alternative costumes which can be purchased via XBL or PSN in packs, each pack contains so many costumes for five characters, some costumes are something simple like Ryu's battle damaged attire, to Zangief's Mike Haggar costume, again this is just another thing that allows you to set yourself apart from the rest.

Street Fighter IV is both appealing in the terms of game play and graphically, the replay value of fighting games is usually long when there is a crowed to play with and adding the online mode has simply bolstered that crowed from your local arcade audience to the entire world. Though the online mode does offer you the chance to play opponents the lack of a lobby system can usually mean you can be waiting about 5-10 minutes for a game which could end in less that 2 minutes.

The customization is a nice factor of the game allowing players to change small elements to their liking and i highly approve of this but the only thing that gripes me is the fact you have to pay for the Alternative costumes and my reason is this. The AC's (alternate costumes) were already programmed into the game in fact, they are available on the arcade version of the game. This just shows that Capcom have purposely removed content to sell it back to you, now i have no problem with buying content but on the basis that it's not ready for consumer release with the initial release of the game and that is how i like to see downloadable content, but these costumes were not, they were already working fine, and then they are charging you about £15 for the entire costume, sure i am buying/bought them anyway but it's the principle of removing content to sell it back to you that i didn't like.

Online play is when you are not waiting for a game is fantastic if you have a good connection with your opponent. Latency is shown before a game starts so you can decide to play or not. personally i have found that setting your online profile to accept online games whilst playing through arcade mode is a lot more convenient, it searches for matches for you whilst at the same time gives you something to do other than click matches and be denied for some unknown reason. There are some lag issues with online game but again, this is a matter of latency which can be checked pre-match so the only lag issue you have is the one you create yourself. Though this is not really the programmers faults, the online play is largely populated by Ryu and Ken players which can get rather tiresome after some time.

One thing I will praise the game for are the new characters, it's about time they had some new faces in the game, if I was going to choose a favorite out of the new characters, hands down Rufus would get my vote. The new characters are also similar to other characters in terms of move sets I.E. Rufus plays similar to Yun & Yang from SFIII, Abel is a mixture of Sean and Alex from SFIII, and Seth has a mixture of certain characters moves. The cast for the game is generally nice however, the exclusion of all the SFIII cast other than cameo appearances in Intro videos of certain characters was kind of a let down for me, I knew Hugo wouldn't make it in but not even Alex, Sean, Yun, Yang or Ibuki was even considered, well Yun & Yang are in Chun Li's intro video but that's it. There is discussion that the game will receive a free update later on that will fix some balance issues and apparently add Dee Jay and T.Hawk to the roster which i would like to see, being a grappler player i would like more choice other than Zangeif and... oh wait.

Over all, despite the minor issues, Street Fighter IV is an excellent game and has been well worth the near decade wait for its release, though it is more complex than SFII it is not as difficult as SF III. The online play has added so much replay to this game it's untrue. I personally think this game is a must for anyone who is into the fighting game genre. Some people complain that the game should have been done with hand drawn sprites, but at the end of the day, Capcom did a good job with the 3d cel-shading so i can't complain.

Score: 94% - Excellent

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