Ever since Street Fighter II revolutionized the one-on-one tournament fighter back in 1991, Capcom’s seminal franchise has often led the charge as the gold standard for competitive fighters to this day. With multiple variations of Street Fighter IV proving to be competitive darlings on last-gen platforms, all eyes were on Street Fighter V to continue elevating the standard of 2D fighters for a new generation, at least, on PS4 and PC, as Capcom has unfortunately denied the game an Xbox One port. Sure enough, Street Fighter V represents the next evolution of the competitive fighter, laying the foundation for a new series champion, and one that continues to offer the best fighter gameplay in the business when it comes to perfecting one’s game of high-powered virtual fisticuffs!
… Which is why it’s very unfortunate that Street Fighter V, in its current launch build, feels like it’s unfinished.
Capcom has promised to treat Street Fighter V as one of those ‘games-as-a-service’ initiatives that has become popular recently, even if often for the wrong reasons, sadly, between overpriced Season Pass hawking and intrusive microtransactions in these ‘service-driven games’ most notably. On the one hand though, this approach means that Capcom seems to be pledging to eliminate the excessive and often mocked Street Fighter game re-releases, which even Street Fighter IV was sporting with relish during the previous hardware generation. Street Fighter V seems to be the one and only version of the series’ proper fifth entry. That’s the good news.
The bad news however is that this essentially means that Capcom is launching Street Fighter V as an Early Access game. While the training tools, couch-competitive Versus Mode, and limitless appeal of the robust online multiplayer suite are all present and accounted for at launch, the game is also currently missing a good chunk of planned features that are often included within the base package of other fighting games, including a Challenge Mode, a properly completed Story Mode, and even fully-featured online lobbies, or, ‘Battle Lounges’. Those looking to immediately jump in and compete against the world’s finest players online, or even just have intense, flashy brawls with their local buddies, will already have plenty to enjoy in Street Fighter V, even in its bare-bones initial package, in fairness. If you’re looking for any substance beyond that though, you may want to hold off on a purchase for now, since a sizable chunk of the game, particularly its solo play options, are disappointingly absent until later in the year.
Despite launching without its full gameplay package complete, Street Fighter V is definitely not wanting in terms of its graphics. The game is a vibrant visual marvel on both of its platforms, taking the inky, cel-shaded visual style of Street Fighter IV, and pushing it further on the new generation of hardware. The result is a very visually striking fighter, one a bit more colourful and vibrant than its predecessor, with some of the inkiness toned down. Character models are outstandingly detailed, and arena designs are similarly impressive, having fantastic background touches such as crowds that react to your fighting skills, and scenery that sometimes shudders, sparks and/or falls apart when a fighter suffers some hard hits. It’s no exaggeration to say that Street Fighter V is currently one of the best-looking fighting games available right now, and is a fantastic showcase of the cutting-edge Unreal Engine 4 that powers it!
With that said though, Street Fighter V’s PS4 port appears to be a tad more visually reliable than its PC cousin, even though you can predictably get some added visual power out of the game’s PC build on a high-end rig. The PC version is the better-looking of the two on maximized settings, having enhanced motion blur and texture effects, along with superior anti-aliasing, in contrast to the PS4 version. The PS4 version still looks superb, mind you, rendering at native 1080p resolution and consistently running at a full 60fps clip both online and offline, even if it’s missing a few of the small visual flourishes in the PC version, which, frankly, are pretty much invisible during in-motion gameplay anyway, beyond the slick blur effects in the PC build when its settings are cranked.
The hiccup with the PC version’s visuals comes in how demanding they are. Street Fighter V’s system requirements are quite high on PC, and anything less than a higher middle-tier gaming-ready computer won’t even be able to properly run the game. Even then, if you don’t have the means to accommodate the PC port’s taxing demand on the GPU, as the gameplay is completely tied to the framerate, it becomes unplayable offline at anything below 60fps. In layman’s speak, if you don’t have a beastly graphics card that can keep up with the recommended visual processing specs of the game, Street Fighter V essentially bleeds frames to the point of running in slow motion and moon physics, leaving control inputs unresponsive, and gameplay completely lacking flow. Online gameplay doesn’t seem to be affected this way, but even then, low-end budget gaming computers, assuming they meet the steep specs at all, won’t run the game well without lots of compromise and tweaking, and will basically cripple you against online opponents with worthy rigs, or even PS4 players, who can effortlessly play online with PC players, and vice-versa. All that is before the PC version’s other unique headaches too, but I’ll get to those later.
You do get the best Street Fighter V experience from a raw technical standpoint when you play the PC version on maxed-out settings, though if you don’t have the means or patience to get a working setup for the PC version, you’ll find that the PS4 version is far more accessible, while still offering much the same visual panache. Either way though, objectively, Street Fighter V is still a gorgeous game on both platforms, with intense, flashy combat that can be a true delight to watch unfold, let alone play with the requisite degree of skill!
Street Fighter V’s soundtrack, much like Street Fighter IV’s, still consists of a lot of rock and synth, though the synth element has been heavily toned down in contrast to Street Fighter IV. Now, the music has a more classic, arcade-style feel, having a great mix of classic and all-new compositions for the new and veteran fighters in the game, as well as some of the Story Mode scenes. It’s one of the best Street Fighter scores since the memorable tunes of Street Fighter II, and while it lacks some of the punch behind the hyper-modern Street Fighter IV soundtrack, it nonetheless feels enjoyable to listen to, on top of being effectively nostalgic.
The audio effects lend plenty of flash and power to fights though, feeling very distinctly true to the series’ stylized, anime-esque flavour. The audio cues feel very arcade-like and retro chic in nature, which fits the competitive bend of the game well, and things like the dizzying jingle of stunning an opponent, along with the whoosh that accompanies a swift K.O., feel just as satisfying to behold as ever for avid Street Fighter fans especially. Street Fighter V’s audio effects aim to recapture the feeling of pumping quarters into those vintage arcade cabinets, only with the extra definition and power of modern sound systems, and the result is quite appealing for a franchise that has served as the vanguard for competitive fighting games.
Perhaps most surprising among Street Fighter V’s audio triumphs however is the voice acting, which is among the best in the series’ history. Every character in the game sounds distinct and full of personality, with the characters being easily memorable, even to series newcomers, making it all the more easy to find and identify with favourites in the roster. Whether it’s the spunky attitude of Laura, the quiet discipline of Ryu, or the sinister sneering of F.A.N.G., everyone sounds superb in the English dub, with each character having their own cool appeal, whether they’re series veterans, or are joining the Street Fighter roster for the first time. Consequently, if you so choose, you can also opt for Japanese voiceovers with English subtitles in both the Story More scenes, and fighter intros, with the Japanese dub also sounding good, though many players will no doubt be happy with the quality of the English dub, and simply opt to stick with that.
The audio polish in Street Fighter V continues to be as strong as ever for this esteemed, long-running fighter series. The series is packing as much charm and style as it ever was in its latest installment, which feels mature and nostalgic in its fifth mainline entry, without some of the occasionally obnoxious aftertaste of the audio from the various iterations of Street Fighter IV. It’s a happy balance of old and new, and one that longtime Street Fighter enthusiasts especially are bound to appreciate immensely!
Street Fighter V continues to uphold the series’ tried-and-true traditions of refined, classic-style competitive 2D fighting gameplay. Two opponents square off, fighting to drain each other’s life meters, with the winner being decided when one opponent is successful in this endeavour, or the timer runs out, and one opponent has done more damage to the other. It’s as simple and quaint as fighting games come, and as with prior Street Fighter titles, Street Fighter V doesn’t aim to reinvent the very foundation that it forged itself back in 1987, and perfected back in 1991, but rather, to perfect the fundamentals of the formula that spawned an entire genre of competitive gaming.
The main difference with Street Fighter V in contrast to its predecessors however is Capcom viewing the game as an ongoing service, rather than the various self-contained releases that would found each of the series’ mainline entries. As I said, the negative side of this is that the game is essentially launching as an Early Access game, and doesn’t have all of its features right away, though right from launch, there’s certainly enough features to draw the attention of competitive gamers that are itching to best other players both at home, and across the world.
Of course, none of that would mean anything if Street Fighter V hadn’t continued to uphold the series’ outstanding fighting fundamentals, and believe me when I say that this latest entry continues to raise the bar for competitive fighting mechanics, and how they handle in action. The game feels like the ultimate mix of the series’ strengths, having the accessibility and fun factor of Street Fighter II, the stylish, fast-paced combat of Street Fighter III, and the smart, competition-friendly design style of Street Fighter IV. Most of all however, Street Fighter V functions like an especially refined version of Street Fighter III, eliminating some of that game’s shortcomings, and delivering an experience that feels especially polished and exciting.
Even more impressive however is how effectively Street Fighter V manages to balance accessibility and depth in its fighting mechanics. The game is far more friendly to newcomers than the Street Fighter IV games were, at least in terms of its fundamental fighting mechanics, and can be easily played and understood by even someone who has never picked up a Street Fighter game before. Some die-hard Street Fighter fans may lament this as what seems to be a ‘dumbing down’ of the series’ play style, to appeal more to casual fighters, though this isn’t exactly true. Street Fighter V is just as deep and robust in terms of its finer mechanics as any of the series’ best installments, and it’s definitely poised to be a preferred genre option for the most hardcore of fighting game enthusiasts in competitive circuits, over the course of this hardware generation.
If you so choose, Street Fighter V can be easily played with basic punches and kicks, until you or your opponent are defeated, and that’s just dandy. To really get the most out of the game though, one should really try to take advantage of each character’s unique array of special moves and combos, and as you can expect, series mainstays like Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li and Cammy all have their most iconic moves intact, from Ryu’s Hadouken energy balls to Cammy’s fast-flying Cannon Spike kick. There’s obviously been tweaks and rebalances in contrast to the prior Street Fighter games, as well as this game’s trio of pre-release online betas, but the familiar personalities from the series will still feel comfortable to use for longtime fans. The new personalities also fit very well with the rest, and add their own extensive potential for competitive options, between Karin’s specific, but powerful combo-friendly assaults, Laura’s balance between power and agility, or F.A.N.G.’s deceptive, toxin-based treachery. Practicing with and mastering each of the new personalities, as well as discovering new spins on the old ones, is one of the great joys of Street Fighter V to serious brawlers.
Naturally though, fights aren’t just a simple matter of hitting your opponent enough times to knock them down for good. Players will also have to manage a series of special meters that fill during gameplay, as certain conditions are met, potentially allowing a losing fighter to turn the battle around in spectacular fashion. The Focus Attacks from Street Fighter IV have been removed in Street Fighter V, though some may find this to be welcome, as it means that you can’t just keep trapping your opponent in a combo to win, and you actually have to carefully stay on your toes, and anticipate when an opponent can counter you and reverse the attack. Players are never completely protected in Street Fighter V, since even blocking attacks can only be done on the same stance as your opponent, while maneuvers like back-dashes no longer make you temporarily invulnerable in this latest installment, and that means that this latest game is less technical, and requires more focus and care. Along with making Street Fighter V more ‘fair’ to newcomers in this respect, it also demands more skill and precision from seriously competitive masters, and that’s a fantastic balance for the game to strike with its special attacks and strategy for both sides of the spectrum.
As I said though, strategy is still a factor, as much as reflexes and focus. In place of the Focus Attacks from Street Fighter IV for example is the return of the EX Meter from Street Fighter III, which, once again, fills as you damage your opponent, and can be expended to temporarily beef up special attacks, or, at the maximum, can allow players to unleash a very painful combo called a Critical Art, which will either instantly K.O. a weakened opponent, or seriously damage a healthier one. Likewise, the Stun Meter also returns from Street Fighter III, which fills as players take damage, encouraging their opponents to get more aggressive when it approaches capacity, as a full meter means that the opponent gets dazed, and the attacker can launch a free hit or combo of their choosing. Street Fighter V favours a more aggressive, fast-paced style of play than Street Fighter IV with this Street Fighter III-inspired setup, which makes matches played between two skilled opponents feel like a true thing of beauty, as well as making matches speedier and more intense, with fights often resolving themselves in less than fifteen seconds. This allows for more time to cycle through opponents in the online circuit, as well as benefiting lengthy play stints across the many opponents of the game’s Survival Mode.
Adding an all-new wrinkle to the fights in Street Fighter V as well is the ‘V-Gauge’, which is filled as players use special attacks called ‘V-Skills’, and these are activated by simultaneously pressing the Medium Punch and Medium Kick buttons. Characters like Ryu can use these skills to parry attacks, while characters like Birdie can use them to drop foodstuffs that trip up their enemies. Whatever the case, using V-Skills fills up the V-Gauge, which can be expended to either counter or reverse any attack in a pinch, further highlighting that there is no such thing as an impenetrable assault in Street Fighter V, or, at their maximum, can activate ‘V-Triggers’ by simultaneously pressing the Heavy Punch and Heavy Kick buttons. V-Triggers, like V-Skills, vary between fighters as well. V-Triggers can do things like add more hits to a Chun-Li combo, or give Laura electric-powered attacks, among numerous other fighter-specific examples. This is a simple, accessible, and yet very deep and rewarding new addition to Street Fighter V, further making each fighter unique, and adding to the individual strategies of how to both battle with a certain fighter, and battle against them.
No two fighters feel alike, not in terms of how they attack, not in terms of how they move, and not in terms of how their movesets can give them tactical advantages and disadvantages, and this makes the initial 16-fighter roster of the game feel perfectly balanced in every respect. This is also true of the great balance between personalities, having eight tried-and-true classic Street Fighter characters, four returns by long-requested fan-favourites that sat out Street Fighter IV, and four all-new additions that make their series debut here in Street Fighter V, plus six unlockable (or buyable) characters that have been announced to come later. In all honesty, the fighting mechanics of Street Fighter V, along with its character design, feel nigh on flawless, and there’s nothing that sticks out about them that feels wrong, poorly-balanced, or inconvenient. It’s as exceptionally designed as competitive fighters come, and continues to elevate the outstanding quality gameplay standard that Street Fighter has always held since Street Fighter II was guzzling quarters worldwide back from 1991.
When the planned, finalized model that Capcom has in mind for Street Fighter V comes to be finished in the future, this game could very well be the series’ new best entry! For now though, the package feels like it’s kind of wanting in terms of features, especially for the not-inconsiderable price of $69.99 CDN. Right now, at launch, you have a Story Mode, Survival Mode, Versus Mode, Training Mode, and the online gameplay suite. The multiplayer element of the game already feels excellent, and those coming for that will not be disappointed, right from the launch build. Those coming for solo play options however will not find anything that compelling in the launch model, and that’s the main weakness of Street Fighter V in its current incarnation.
Yes, the game does have a Story Mode, but this actually serves as a mere prologue for a larger, proper Story Mode to come, via a free update, in June. For now, Story Mode simply offers the chance to play through a series of short prologue scenes for each of the game’s sixteen current fighters, which end after a couple of fights, and are only good for unlocking a few costume colour variants. It’s incredibly disappointing, and compared to competing fighters, particularly the full-fledged stories of Netherrealm Studios’ Mortal Kombat and Injustice games, it feels downright lazy.
Likewise, Survival Mode is a strange hybrid between competing fighters’ Endless Mode, which has players trying to last against as many opponents as possible, and competing fighters’ Arcade Mode, which has you taking on a series of fighters for high scores. Starting from ten fighters on Easy, ‘Survival Mode’ adds twenty new fighters apiece on Normal and Hard, and has players trying to fight against a staggering one-hundred fighters on the highest ‘Hell’ difficulty. Coming out on top once again unlocks costume colour variants, but as with the Story Mode, this isn’t much of a reward for solo play, even with achievements/trophies to consider. A Challenge Mode is coming to the game in March, to better motivate solo players, but right now, it’s missing.
Versus Mode and Training Mode meanwhile are about what you would expect. Versus Mode predictably allows two players to battle each other at their leisure, and it’s sound as a local play option with two people, though its lack of ability to simply fight the A.I. in one-off battles, or simply watch and study two CPU-controlled fighters take each other on, feels inexplicable and annoying. Training Mode fares a bit better, as it allows you to save and freely view up to five play sequences, allowing players to mix and match any hypothetical scenario, and see how it plays out. Naturally, the mode also functions very well when it comes to simply practicing and perfecting your skills with the more advanced attacks and strategies of the game’s roster of fighters too.
Like I said, it’s the competitive online portion of Street Fighter V that is currently its biggest draw, and those wishing to sharpen their skills against random opponents from across the world will find plenty to enjoy in this series’ latest installment! To start, you can create a special in-game profile, allowing you to customize your preferences and region, and even pick a different handle than your PlayStation Network ID/Steam ID, if you so choose. This makes it extra easy to locate and follow the exploits of skilled and beloved competitive fighters in the game, which you can even highlight for other players, or watch the replays and strategies of, to better tune your own strategy. This is all done by the Capcom Fighters Network, a way to share your own accomplishments, as well as interact with would-be opponents, though Spectator Mode isn’t yet available in Street Fighter V at launch, sadly, even if it’s claimed to be patched in soon.
Of course, if you choose, you can also select options to simply play in casual matches for fun, or ranked matches to develop your reputation and fighting career standings when playing online. Street Fighter V gives you the option of allowing any online player to challenge you whenever you choose (assuming your console/computer is hooked up to the internet, of course), which can be freely toggled right from the main menu, and should you accept the challenge of anyone who prompts you during gameplay, the game will simply drop you back into whatever you were doing immediately afterward, with no progress lost, and that’s fantastic! Of course, if you want, you can also prevent the game from sending you these invitations, if you’d rather focus on something else. Later, Street Fighter V will also allow you to host up to eight of your online buddies in a lobby called a ‘Battle Lounge’, though disappointingly, said Battle Lounge can only hold one other person at this point. This feels odd and limiting, and one has to wonder why the game even bothered offering a Battle Lounge at this point, though I suppose that the option to play online matches with one friend at a time is better than not having the option to play online with PlayStation Network friends/Steam friends at all.
As for the game’s network stability, it’s a bit unreliable at launch, though certainly not unplayable. At this point, the PC version seems to be more likely to suffer server disconnects and other such hiccups, though the PS4 version also has occasional problems with booting you from matches, or refusing to connect to the servers outright. It’s more of a nuisance than anything else on PS4, but in a game that’s already suffering from its lack of offline play incentive, this can be a bad problem to have for PC gamers especially, where the servers are noticeably less stable. The servers will no doubt eventually stabilize for both platforms, but if you’re already on the fence about an early purchase of Street Fighter V, this doesn’t help the case for potential early adopters.
Another note of warning should also be issued to those aspiring to play on PC, beyond the demand for a fairly powerful rig that can at least effortlessly hold the 60fps demand, as Street Fighter V’s PC version currently has some odd limitations. You can’t rebind the keyboard controls for example, despite being able to choose from multiple control schemes on PS4, even though, in fairness, Street Fighter V pretty much demands to be played with a gamepad if you’re going the Steam route. Even then though, the game doesn’t support many varieties of gamepads for seemingly no reason, possibly forcing players to download third-party software to get their gamepads to work with the game. This is in strange contrast to the PS4 version, which not only allows for multiple control options with the regular Dual Shock 4 controller, but also even goes as far as to support arcade fight stick peripherals made for the Street Fighter IV releases on PS3! This could be another reason to save yourself a lot of headaches by opting for the game’s PS4 version, over its more stylish, but also more rigid and demanding PC version.
The missing, unfinished feature set drags down what’s otherwise an excellently designed fighter for the current generation of hardware, and that stings a lot more than the lack of an Xbox One port. Street Fighter V has proven that it could be a new high point for competitive fighters in its complete form, but as well-designed as its fights are, it’s not going to tantalize many people beyond hardcore fighting gamers at this point, particularly those who aren’t primarily coming for the robust and competitive online multiplayer portion, who currently have better options on both PS4 and PC.
One can look forward to the future, and appreciate what Street Fighter V will one day be, and there’s no doubt that in its complete form, it will eventually become a true masterpiece among fighting games. For now though, it is sadly a game that is built on promises for the future, rather than a huge amount of benefits for the present. There’s enough of a high-quality foundation to prove its chops as being a cut above most any competing fighting game in terms of its design, but that design can only be applied so many different ways in the current launch build.
If you’re mainly buying the game for the online competition, or even just to have fun locally with your buddies, then Street Fighter V is polished and entertaining enough to recommend, even with a lot of its promised features currently missing. It’s ultimately an informal Early Access game at launch, but at least it’s an Early Access game with enough to currently offer to the right audience, even if it will primarily be the die-hard, super-competitive fans of the Street Fighter franchise that will be most rewarded by an early purchase. Everyone else might be better off waiting for the game to flesh out into something better worth their money, though the wait for a better product will still eventually be rewarded, given this early set of play features.
Whether this ‘game-as-a-service’ approach ultimately works to the benefit of Street Fighter V is for the future to decide, but for now, Capcom has crafted a beautiful, perfectly polished and immensely entertaining fighter, one that can equally appeal to newcomers and veterans of the Street Fighter franchise, or fighting games as a whole. There’s not a lot of meat on its bones yet, but I suppose that the bottom line is that Street Fighter V is an outstanding fighting game, and a new series high point for discerning brawlers, even if it hasn’t yet reached its true, exceptional potential as a product.
- Excellent fighting mechanics that appeal to both newcomers and veterans
- Stylish production values create flashy, appealing combat
- Robust, highly rewarding online multiplayer suite
- Launched with many play modes missing
- Unreliable multiplayer servers
- PC version has odd, annoying design limitations