Street Fighter IV Review
Robust and challenging single-player modes, strong online multiplayer, and gorgeous visuals make this a must-have for any fighter fan.
Street Fighter IV's training mode will challenge even experienced brawlers to improve. Given that SFIV straddles the line between classic SFII and SFIII gameplay, there's bound to be some confusion about which of your old mainstay combos work and the timing that you'll need to pull them off. The training mode is an excellent resource and is one of the biggest jewels in the SFIV crown. Once you've chosen your character and your sparring partner, you'll be able to pose them in either a standing, crouching, or jumping position, toggle CPU control (and adjust its intensity), or give player two control of the action. There's even the ability to switch to your opponent's character, record up to 10 seconds of custom moves, and loop their replay. It's a great way to practice your evasion, attack timing, and counters without requiring another player or needing to search for online games. As you'd expect, there are plenty of switches to fiddle with here, including changing your target's block mode, stun frequency, ultra and super power-bar start, and regeneration levels. Live attack data can be enabled to show how much damage your moves are dealing, whereas input display can show you which way you're pushing the sticks and mashing the buttons.
A built-in move list is available through the menu and details all of your characters' skills, saving you the hassle of fumbling around for the manual when you can't remember if it's a double-quarter-forward fireball with a kick or a punch, or finding out which moves have EX variants or armour-breaking properties. Though training modes aren't new, the amount of control here will have a genuine impact on your game, and can be used to pinpoint, and subsequently correct, your play shortcomings.
Training mode aside, one of the single best features of Street Fighter IV is the Challenge mode, which is made up of several sub-modes. Old faithfuls such as Time Attack and Survival mode make an appearance and see you completing fight after fight to best your rival before the timer runs out or you empty your vitality bar. The new addition to Challenge mode is Trial mode, a multitiered training tool that will teach you not only how to perform moves, but also how to string them together to best deal damage. Although the Training mode gives you the full arsenal and space to try it out, in Trial mode you'll need to perform a specific manoeuvre or combo to continue. The five normal difficulty levels cover basic character-specific moves such as dragon punches, charge moves, and throws, but they get significantly tougher as you progress to cover specials, canceling attacks with focus, and stringing multipart combinations together. If you can get through these and feel up to the challenge, there are an extra five levels of bone-crushing general-purpose moves designed to help you improve your competitive play.
Street Fighter IV supports both online and offline multiplayer modes. In offline you'll be able to go head-to-head with a second player using your unlocked characters. Online you'll be given the choice of either friendly Player matches or Ranked games. Winning a ranked match awards you with battle points, which are used to both show off your prowess and help with the matchmaking process, though you can search for games beyond your skill level. Stat tracking will let you see your competitor's win-to-loss ratio for the session. And if you're after the true arcade experience, you can toggle online competitive challenge mode on and off to work with single-player. Just as you would expect in an arcade, if you're battling the CPU and someone issues a challenge, your game will pause and you'll automatically accept the invitation. Once the game has finished and you leave the multiplayer lobby, you'll restart your offline game from where you were. You can set it to either player or ranked matches as per your preference. We'd recommend leaving it off if you're keen to just play through arcade matches, given that we received back-to-back invites while reviewing. We played online against opponents with both strong and weak connections, and even at slightly less than full connection strength, you'll receive an offline-like, seamless fighting experience. Poorer connections are more akin to a slide show, although we did manage to find games with supposedly poor connections that played quite well. There's also no online tournament mode to be found here, a surprising omission given its inclusion in the downloadable game Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.
Though it was unavailable for us to test at time of review, Capcom has confirmed that at some time postlaunch a free download dubbed the Championship Mode Expansion Pack will be released and will let you record, upload, and download player match videos. The patch will also add three more point systems--Championship, Tournament, and Grade points--and improve matchmaking for beginner and mid-level players. We're hoping that the patch also addresses players who leave games early to avoid point loss, considering that currently there's no penalty for bailing if it looks like you're going to lose. Collectors also have plenty of work ahead of them, with coloured outfit variations, taunts, medals, icons, and text tags being rewarded for completing online and offline challenges. These can be assigned to your online profile and are unlocked by finishing games with certain percentages of your vitality bar remaining, dishing out perfect victories, or successfully performing reversals.
Street Fighter IV's visual presentation is outstanding. The art style appears a lot more adult this time around, swapping the bright Saturday-morning kids' cartoon looks of previous games for large, menacing characters with bulging muscles and environments with more muted colour palettes. The game's pseudo-cel-shaded character-art style uses thick black borders and splattered ink to great effect, while fast, fluid animation sees your favourite fighters dance across the screen with grace. Long hair flows and trails, facial expressions contort and grimace as you deal blows, and eyes bulge as opponents see an ultra attack successfully executed. We observed a few minor character-model clipping errors during play, such as legs passing through each other and the odd missed sweep when we were sure that we should have landed a hit, but these are small quibbles because they appeared few and far between. Battle environments are a mix of old and new, reinventing favourites such as Guile's airbase tarmac (complete with destructible plane wings), Blanka's jungle walkways, and Chun-Li's marketplace alleyway. New environments include a secret science laboratory, a highway underpass, a classic martial-arts dojo, and the rim of an active volcano.
Audio is a particular high point in SFIV, and though the J-pop soundtrack and cheesy intro theme will be driven into your head within minutes, it's also worth mentioning the subtle environmental effects that go otherwise unheard in the heat of battle. The cheers of crowds, the rattle of old trains, and the barking of dogs in alleys all help create a genuine sense of immersion. Purists are even given the option to choose between Japanese and English voice-overs during cutscenes and as characters enter the ring.
From our extensive play on both platforms, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game appear identical both in terms of visuals and performance. Even during the most frenetic battles, the frame rate remained solid. Both versions of SFIV offer an optional hard-drive installation, and though it lowered load times from about 30 seconds per game to the 10-second mark on the PlayStation 3, on the Xbox 360 it had no tangible effect, presumably because those loads are already around 10 seconds per match. Xbox 360 analog sticks seemed slightly easier to perform ultra moves with, though the Microsoft controller's D pad left plenty to be desired. By contrast, the DualShock 3 analogs felt slightly sluggish, but the D pad made double fireballs and ultra combos easy. Your best bet, of course, is to invest in a good arcade stick or one of the controllers designed specifically for this game.
Street Fighter IV will welcome you with open arms, whether you're a lapsed fan concerned that you've been out of the loop for too long or you're dipping your toes for the first time. Amazing presentation, intricate and enjoyable fighting gameplay, and long-term appeal with online play make this a must-have. Street Fighter IV is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of the fighting genre in this generation.
- Player Reviews: 210
- Game Universe:
- Marvel vs. Capcom (DC, PS, ARC),
- Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams (GBC, PC, SAT, ARC, ZB),
- Street Fighter Alpha 3 (PS, DC, GBA, ARC, SAT),
- Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO (GC, XBOX),
- Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (PS2, XBOX, ARC, DC, X360, PS3, IP),
- SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom (NEO, PS2, XBOX),
- Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (PS2, XBOX),
- Capcom Fighting Evolution (PS2, XBOX, ARC),
- Street Fighter Alpha 2 (PS, SAT, PC, ARC, SNES, MOBILE),
- X-Men vs. Street Fighter (PS, SAT, ARC)
- Offline Modes:
- Online Modes:
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
2 Players Online