Beast Mode, Baby!
HIGH Luke: 9 HP, 2HP, 214+PP, 214+HP, 236236+HK.
LOW The initial character roster’s extremely unambitious.
WTF Bring Crimson Viper back already, brigands.
Street Fighter V was an interesting one. Clearly the product of a company attempting to woo the competitive eSports crowd at the cost of casual players, there was a notable amount of backlash from casuals and hardcores alike that it felt unfinished at launch. Over time it clawed its way towards being a complete package, and now that it’s in a good place? It’s time to cast it aside and start anew with the sequel, Street Fighter 6!
That’s okay though. Street Fighter 6, at launch, is a significantly fresher and more exciting experience than Street Fighter V was, and the confidence in this entry is notable. From the character select screen where combatants swagger towards their bout with real panache, to the myriad graphical flourishes in each match that accompany important moves and match-deciding reversals, there’s been a lot of care and effort put into making sure that the experience is both solid and bombastic.
On the other hand, while it’s a little disappointing that over half the eighteen-strong character roster is lifted straight from Street Fighter II (more on that later) there are a few newcomers worthy of mention. My personal favourite is Marisa, a hulking female Spartan-style warrior who’s almost as big as Russian wrestler Zangief. Her attacks are powerful and can be charged by holding down each button to change their properties on the fly, and some of her specials grant super armor to absorb enemy hits without being knocked out of her move.
While I’m less interested in the other new faces, I did begin to warm to Manon, a French judo expert who treats the world as her fashion catwalk, practically dancing with her opponents as she hurls them around. With each command throw that she lands, her grappling damage increases, eventually hitting a peak where being caught does terrifying amounts of damage and it doesn’t decay between rounds.
The other characters are less my style. Jamie’s a drunken kung fu expect who powers up by drinking herbal juice, and cane-wielding gentleman JP’s a psycho power-infused zoning expert. Kimberly’s an ’80s enthusiast street artist with some decent ninja style combos up her ninja sleeves, and I find Lily too bland to even bother talking about… So I won’t.
Though the roster is ever so slightly dull at the moment, the visual overhaul is worthy of praise. There’s a notable step away from the cartoonish, exaggerated look of previous entries, though characters are still heavily stylized. It’s possible to see the bulge of Ryu’s biceps flexing as he unleashes his Shin Shoryuken during its execution cinematic, as well as the accumulation of sweat, dirt and minor bruises piling up as the match progresses. In short, it’s a great looking piece with attention spent on portraying each fighter in a cool and appealing manner.
Gameplay has also seen some fairly substantial additions. Beyond the combat being much improved with heavy, powerful blows and a style and pace that just feels ‘right’ for the genre, there’s some smart and interesting new features in play. First off is the Drive Gauge, which can be spent to power up special moves, perform parries or unleash guard-crushing Drive Impacts. Its importance can’t be overstated, as running out of Drive leaves characters vulnerable and limits their options while it slowly recharges. It’s so important, in fact, that there’s an entire visual effect dedicated to highlighting this temporary weakness.
The Drive Impact can also be a real game-changer. It absorbs up to two hits, and if it lands through an opponent’s attack, it will stagger them on the spot and leave them open for serious retribution. Moreover, if an enemy is bounced into the boundaries of the stage, they’ll rebound into a stunned state. It’s incredibly powerful in practice but vulnerable to throws, super attacks or even return Drive Impacts which mean that the person who threw it out first will be the one getting stunned when two of them clash head on.
Finally there’s a Drive Rush which allows players to cancel moves into quick dashes at the cost of some meter. I haven’t really come to grips with it during my time so far, but the players who had could whip out some truly outlandish combos that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Certain moves also have new properties throughout a Drive Rush — for example, Luke’s overhead can suddenly be chained into other moves, leading to a massive damage potential that isn’t possible without triggering one first.
These additions are great, and lead to dynamic fights where fortunes can turn in the blink of an eye, and a well-read counter can lead to wild damage being doled out. On the flipside, spending meter carelessly can lead to dangerous situations. Emptying the Drive Gauge may have seemed worth it for the extra combo damage at the time, but hitting the burnout state and having drastically reduced defensive and offensive options can be a real shock when dealing with a counterattack.
There’s one other huge change I’d be remiss not to mention — the addition of a new ‘Modern’ control method which makes doing special moves and supers far simpler. Purists like myself might scoff at it, but it does make sense given that it trims away some buttons so that the combat system’s more suited for console controllers instead of fight sticks. I stuck with Classic and moaned about not having easy access to Medium Punch since I have it set to left trigger, but Modern perhaps makes more sense for casual players who don’t mind losing a bit of flexibility in return for ease and simplicity.
Returning players may remember that Street Fighter V launched with almost no singleplayer content whatsoever, leaving solo players out in the cold. Street Fighter 6 is massively improved in this regard with a plethora of arcade, practice and training modes, as well as a resurrected the World Tour mode. The result is a hugely modified and fully realized package at launch.
This World Tour mode initially welcomes players to Metro City, where sucker-punching an old lady in the back of the head with an uppercut is every bit as socially acceptable as saying ‘Hello’. Taking place in the form of a third-person adventure, players will create their own unique avatar and be set loose in the world to follow their dream of learning what strength truly means.
They’ll naturally accomplish this lofty, nebulous goal by kicking bins over, punching unruly thugs in the face, buying stat-altering items or clothes, and jawing with a collection of Street Fighter legends such as Luke and Ryu who are only too happy to take players under their wing and teach them how to pull off a Shoryuken or two. Luke in particular comes across as an awesome dude, doing his best for his students while also espousing the values of videogames and junk food.
It’s a cool mode that lasts upwards of thirty hours for players who want to do everything, though it does end in a strange way that left me wondering whether I’d seen the actual ending or if I’d missed something along the way.
The player’s World Tour avatar can also be brought into online lobbies which consist of large arcade-style hubs with plenty of cabinets dotted around to challenge other players, spectate fights or stand in a queue to take on the winner of a given match. It’s a slick setup, with optional rotated arcade games such as Final Fight or Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo available during downtime.
While this is all pretty great so far, one slight issue I have with Street Fighter 6 is admittedly a personal one — I find ‘zoning’ characters incredibly boring to fight against. Seeing a Guile or JP turtle up and spend their time on the opposite side of the stage salivating with delight at the prospect of ticking down the timer with a prolonged poke and projectile war is a harsh and immediate turn off. I’d forgotten how much I disliked zoning characters, and after a ton of great, fast-paced matches in a row, these moments were like a sudden dash of cold water in my face.
While the roster could use some spicing up, Street Fighter 6 is a total blast overall and has captured my attention in a way that other recent fighters haven’t. It’s a fantastic game straight out the gate for both for solo and competitive players, it features excellent netcode that provides smooth cross platform online play across decent connections, and there are a bunch of exciting new gameplay tools and tweaks to get to grips with. Capcom have essentially knocked this one out of the park, and Street Fighter just feels right again.
Rating: 8.5 out of 10
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Capcom. It is currently available on XBX/S, PS4/5, and PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the XBX and S. Approximately 33 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. 7 hours of play were spent in multiplayer modes
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Mild Blood, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco and Violence. The official ESRB description reads as follows: This is a fighting game in which players assume the roles of international characters engaging in one-on-one fighting matches with other online players. Players use punches, kicks, and special attacks (e.g., fireballs, rising uppercuts, electric attacks) to drain opponents’ life meters. Combat is fast-paced and constant, highlighted by impact sounds, cries of pain, and bursts of light/paint streaks. A handful of bonus games (e.g., 2D side-scrolling games) depict small blood-splatter effects; other games depict blood on characters’ faces after losing matches. The game contains some suggestive material: female characters designed in revealing outfits (e.g., thongs, deep cleavage, partially exposed buttocks, chests covered by narrow bands.); some characters’ breasts jiggle during matches—camera angles sometimes highlight various body parts. One character fights in a Drunken Boxing style, which depicts him drinking alcohol from a gourd, stumbling and red faced; various moves/combos, badges/banners, and bio text reference alcohol (e.g., “Don’t Cry Over Spilled Booze”; “Intoxicated Assault”; “Immune to Hangovers”; “I Breakdance When I’m Tipsy“; “Swagger Step: Drink level 3 or higher”). A bonus game depicts enemy characters smoking cigarettes.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: This game offers subtitles. The subtitles cannot be altered and/or resized, but the background opacity can be tweaked for easier reading. As a fighting game, most of the onscreen action should be easy enough to understand without access to sound. There are certain sound cues that could give some players an advantage though – for instance, when Luke charges and times his special Flash Knuckle correctly, he’ll shout ‘perfect’ to indicate that the move properties have changed. I found this aspect tougher to gauge without the accompanying voicework.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls as well as several wildly different control schemes to choose from.