Street Fighter V Review Diary – Multiplayer or bust?

So, I’ve had Street Fighter V for a week. For most games, especially a fighter, that’s usually plenty of time to polish off a review. Except I can’t really do that with Street Fighter V, because I’ve not been able to play anywhere near a finished product. That’s not to say there isn’t lots to say on the game’s single and multiplayer content so far.

We already knew the proper ‘Story Mode’ complete with cutscenes, wouldn’t be coming until Summer, but that was always seen as an extra, something we don’t usually get with an SF game anyway. It was fair to assume a selection of the usual modes would be on the disc from day one, but many are missing or ‘coming in March.’ Once these modes are here, and there’s no denying they damn well should have been on the disc from the start, I’ll be able to give the game a finished review with a score rating, much like I prefer to do with Telltale’s episodic games – not exactly a comparison I was expecting to make.

So what do you get for your money right now? At its core, the fighting is fantastic, but let’s talk modes for now. The ‘Story’ mode currently offers a few prologue levels with two, three or four single round fights for each character. There are some poorly illustrated scenes in-between with some truly awful dialogue, which at least crosses the line of ‘so bad it’s good’ a few times. The difficulty is set to the lowest setting and it’s all over in a few minutes for each character, leaving you no time to get a feel for anyone.

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Survival mode is an oddly balanced beast. Instead of earning health back through your score, you’re presented with a range of boosts for the next round to buy with points earned so far. These might be special gauge top ups, or a random choice of low, medium or full health replenishments. On easy mode, you’ll race through the ten rounds without issue. Go for Medium though and you’ll need to cover 30! This is all the more frustrating because the first 25 are incredibly easy, and then the AI learns to block and comes at you for the last five. After dropping the ball on round 28, I didn’t feel like going back again. You can imagine how daft the round count gets for the higher difficulties. There’s just no need for so many rounds, the difficulty just needs to be spread evenly over fewer bouts.

The Training mode is very basic right now. You can access your combo list from the pause menu, adjust gauges and set the AI to dummy or sparring modes and practice your new moves and adjust to any new inputs as some characters have drastically changed.

And that’s your lot for AI fights. There is no Arcade mode where you fight (let’s say ten) best of three rounds bouts against different AI characters with a chance to retry from the same level if you’re defeated. I’m not confusing this for the upcoming Story Mode; this is a standard part of any fighter, the basic right to enjoy a series of risk-free brawls to hone your skills. Survival mode is a poor way to enjoy yourself as there’s no room for experimenting with new combos, or trying out new characters. You can’t even choose to have a single fight against a specific AI opponent.

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So, within an hour of tearing the plastic off the game and gawping at the gorgeous 3D lenticular sleeve (a 365games.co.uk exclusive), I’d finished the story prologues for a few characters and put Ken through his paces in the Survival mode and thought I may as well crack on with the online game.

Despite some widespread online problems reported over the last week, my sessions so far have been relatively smooth. Matchmaking is the main issue as I’d often have to wait a few minutes between fights, but once we went toe-to-toe things looked much better.

Out of ten fights during that session, I only noticed lag during one of them -two brief pauses which thankfully didn’t resume with any on us on the receiving end of a cheap combo. As with any fighter’s single player content, I found myself woefully unprepared for the ferocity of the fights online. I took a fair few beatings, but thankfully notched up a few victories too, but they were all with my go to character, Ken. Oddly, there’s no character select option in ranked/casual matches, instead the game chooses the one you previously selected as your favourite in your profile settings. Inevitably, this puts the game into FIFA territory, where most play as Barcelona or Real Madrid online.

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I’m not saying everyone in Street Fighter is playing as the same two characters, but it’s fair to say that most only use their favourite and never play as anyone new. There’s too much at stake I suppose with League Points up for grabs. Casual matches should at least have a character select mode and encourage players to roll the dice with the random character select option, which is at least present for local multiplayer. Capcom really need to add a Rematch option for players not wanting to head back to the menu after each fight too.

Thankfully, Capcom did include local multiplayer options. So, I quickly drafted some friends to come round and help me test it over the weekend. Rather than spend the days before trying to learn the move sets for the different characters, I decided to leave it be, so I could be on equal footing for the new or unfamiliar characters.

So, when the pads were charged and beers opened, we dived in for a few bouts with our old favourite characters and then eventually got stuck into the newbies too. The lack of a manual with the retail version of the game is very disappointing as swotting up on combos between bouts has always been a part of the experience. But no, nothing. If it wasn’t for the character combo cards given away as a freebie with this month’s Official PlayStation Magazine, we would have been pausing the game every few minutes, which pisses on the flow of things to say the least.

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The random select option doesn’t reveal the fighters until the next screen, and there’s no way to back out and re-roll. This is a pain if one person regularly gets their favourite and some poor bastard (hello) gets Birdie three times in a row! So you may want to highlight a random person by rolling the d-pad around for a bit instead.

Playing local multiplayer in Street Fighter V really brought the best out of the game, with even unfamiliar characters coming into their own after a few hours as we weaned ourselves away from our old staples. If you’re able to play with friends on a regular basis either for gaming session nights in or simply as a way to decide who washes the dishes, Street Fighter V really warrants a place in your home. It’s the most fluid fighting system on PS4 and makes the rigid inputs of Mortal Kombat X hard to go back to.

Mortal Kombat X batters it for content though at the moment, so I’m eager to see how March’s free updates beef up the game. Expect a Challenge mode which should work better than the vanilla training options and we’ll be able to see how much the in-game Fight Money is worth once the in-game store opens too. Capcom recently said they’re looking into a traditional Arcade mode, which would be a serious boost for a player like me who want a better way to play with the full roster.

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As things stand, Street Fighter V is a very solid fighter once it gets to the arena. If you’re going to get stuck in online or are planning on playing locally with friends, then you should absolutely dive in now as Street Fighter V is one of those ever-green fighters that’s fun for the hardcore and button-basher alike (although the latter will get smashed online). If multiplayer isn’t much of a factor for you, it may be best to wait to see how March’s content pans out.

I’ll be covering the new content extensively next month and will be looking to slap a review score on the game. After all, our review scores are for games we have, not the ones they hope they’ll become. Next time, I’ll provide an update on the online performance and you can expect verdicts on other elements not covered today like the new V-Triggers, new fighters and the graphics.

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Platforms: PS4 (reviewed) | PC
Developers: Capcom
Publishers: Capcom

This review diary was made possible by the lovely folks over at 365games.co.uk who supplied us with a copy of the game with their exclusive lenticular 3D sleeve.

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