Street Fighter IV Reader Review
Street Fighter IV Review, 360 (review system) & PS3
I have a confession to make before I embark on this review. It is something I have had to come to terms with over the years, even more so over the last few weeks. I am not a fan of the Street Fighter games. I�ve played them and enjoyed them to an extent, but I�ve never felt that enamoured with them. I was quite happy to ignore SF4, however my friends and the games media refused to allow that. Holidays had to be arranged with the release date in mind, gaming nights were booked up and challenges were issued, months in advance. The reviews were all good, some sites have given it a rare "10/10" - I couldn�t miss out on this and so decided to join in. Was it worth it? Does the game deserve the accolades? Sort of...
As I said, I�m not a fan of the Street Fighter series, the only time I got to play the games was at friends houses, where they had many hours, if not days, of practice with which to soundly beat me every time I picked up a joypad. With that kind of introduction it was never going to have a chance with me. I enjoyed the Mortal Kombat and Soul Calibur series, SC4 being my favourite beat em up to date and MK3 being the first I really enjoyed (I had that annoying three hit combo and net launcher move on Cyrax, down to a tee). My skill with these games is passable, I�m certainly not bad but I would not bet money on me ever winning a match. With beat em ups in general I enjoy playing against friends and beating the single player challenges. So that�s where I�m coming from with this review.
So let�s start with the basics - graphics and sound are all good. The game has a unique cell shaded style that really makes it stand out. Everything is 3D, all though you can only play from one side of the screen to the other, there is no depth to the arena�s, as well realised and colourful as they are. Special moves and combo�s result in pleasing screen filling graphical effects and more often than not, moments of comedy, where the temporarily frozen image on screen, results in an entirely amusing facial expression on the victim. It�s these little flourishes that add so much to the multiplayer experience, at least when playing with people in the same room. Like so much of the game, this is mostly lost when playing online or the single player.
The sound effects are crisp and fitting, the music is exactly as cheesy as it should be. The announcer voices are annoying and irrelevant and the voice acting is terrible. All the staples of a beat em game then.
In terms of what challenges the game has to offer, well there is an awful lot to get through. There are sixteen characters to begin with and several more to be unlocked. I don�t know really know how the new characters fit in, compared with previous games, but they all seem equally stupid/over the top/far fetched as any other characters. The impression I got from friends who are apparently in the know, was that they mostly play quite differently to the existing line up and they offer some new challenge and welcome variety. I found myself favouring C.Viper, a female executive in a weapon clad business suit. Like so many high powered female business executives, she shows no remorse or mercy as she electrocutes, burns and earthquakes her way through those in her way.
The single player has many different game modes to offer, split into arcade, training and six lengthy challenges. The training mode is a useful place to hone your skills and learn each new characters moves.
This generally doesn�t take too long, as the game uses a mixture of simple technique with impeccable timing, rather than complex series of button presses. This is the first beat em up I�ve played that seems better suited to the analogue stick than the d-pad. Moves are generally initiated by swirling the stick in a specific motion and hitting an attack key. The motions vary by character, but the premise remains the same. What is really important is when you execute the move, a slight misjudgement will leave you critically open to counter attack. Hardest of all to time right are the super and ultra combos.
During the fight you have three gauges - your health, your ultra meter and your combo meter. Health is as you would expect, the ultra meter charges as you take damage and the combo meter charges as you hand it out. Once the ultra meter has filled past half way, you can pull off an ultra combo. If it hits home, it will generally hit your opponent for half their health - it�s a match winning move, but you have to have taken a pretty solid beating in order to get access to it. Your opponent can block this and you can also just completely miss them. It takes longer to activate and is trickier than the other combos, so when you actually land one it�s a great feeling. The same can be said for the super combos. These are slightly weaker versions that are executed in a similar way, but drain your combo meter instead. You can also trade in some of your built up combo points to super charge your special attacks, making them hit twice instead of once.
This system works well and gives a losing player options even when the fight seems hopelessly lost. The simplicity of the controls means that mastering the game is a matter of learning to read your opponent and time your attacks.
All of this makes the versus game mode a joy to play. I got to test it out with four friends, with the usual winner stays on rules. Whilst I was easily the worst, it was still enjoyable to occasionally surprise them. There was a lot of taunting and laughter throughout the session, from that perspective this game is certainly a triumph.
As I mentioned before, for me there are two key areas, I�ve just covered the versus game play, so now a look at the single player game mode. Without a doubt, the most fun to be had here, is in the Challenges. There are three types of challenge, each has two difficulty bandings which are further split down into many increasingly tough sections. The challenges range from mastering moves and combinations of moves, against a static opponent; to having to beat a selection of opponents with only one health bar; to having to defeat several opponents within a set time. Winning each section grants one of the games many unlocks. Unlocks come in the form of titles, icons, costume colours and in game taunts.
There are hundreds of these unlocks - which is good and bad, I could not tell you what any of the titles or icons I�ve unlocked actually mean. The different coloured costumes are virtually unnoticeable and most of the taunts are pretty pointless, they don�t even have much comedy value either. I can�t help but think that with all these unlocks, they had the right idea but failed in it�s implementation.
The other single player game mode is the traditional Arcade mode, where you fight your way through increasingly tough opponents, uncovering a simple storyline as you progress, before fighting one or two boss characters to complete it. Completing the arcade mode typically awards you with a character unlock, so it�s the best way of getting access to the full array of characters available. Whilst this is the mainstay of any fighting game, its SF4�s single biggest failure. I�ve seen the reviews that grant this game full marks and having now played it, I can�t help but think those reviews were written by raving fans of the series, no normal human being could possibly find the arcade mode "enjoyable". Each character�s story is told through a mixture of in game and animated cut scenes. The in game cut scenes are nice enough, the animated ones are terrible. As is usual none of it makes any sense - so why bother? Either do it properly, or just don�t do it all. Having completed the arcade mode with numerous characters now, I could not tell you what the plot of this game is, or what the plot of any of the characters is. However, this is a beat em up, so it�s hardly the end of the world.
The cataclysmic failure of the arcade mode is simply the difficulty. For the most part you can work your way through the standard opponents, often you will encounter one character amongst them who will take many attempts to defeat, usually because their fighting style in the hands of the AI, turns out to be a perfect match for your own style and that of your chosen character. I personally found Zangief and Chun Li to consistently challenge me, but I know others have found various different characters to have this effect. This isn�t so bad, however what makes it more frustrating than it needs to be, is what happens after a defeat. What everyone wants to do in this situation is try the fight again, as quickly as possible. Rather than just giving you the option to do that, you have to tell it you want to proceed, then re-choose your character and their costume, before it plays the line-up animations and irritating announcer voices, before the match starts. I�m sure when reading this, it sounds pretty petty of me to bring it up, but really.. you try this game on arcade mode and you will see how quickly it really gets on your tits!
I have not yet got to the bit about this game that particularly upsets me. The final boss, Seth, is some sort of android that mixes a selection of moves from different characters, combined with the ability to teleport. Whoever designed this boss must have been sponsored by Microsoft and Sony to do it, the numbers of smashed controllers must be astronomical. I�ve heard of at least two so far and I�ve been tempted to destroy an inanimate object or two myself, when playing against him. Even on the easiest possible setting (the default is "medium", below that you have "easy", "very easy" and "easiest"!), he is a complete arse. The teleporting around makes it hard to line up any attacks (they are all direction based, you can start a move but he will instantly teleport behind you, making the move void). I can�t prove it but I�m sure he "cheats", ignoring blocks and special attacks when he is setting up his own. I�ve also seen him in the street kicking puppies, smuggling weapons to 3rd world dictators and I have it on good authority he was behind all the dodgy deals in the banks for the last ten years. It�s the cheapness of these boss fights that makes it so infuriating.
This effectively destroyed the single player for me, any beat em up I get will see equal action against friends and against the AI. The arcade mode is so poorly thought out, that I simply can�t be bothered to keep playing through it to get all the unlocks and accolades, my heart can do without the strain and my wallet without the burden of replacing smashed controllers.
So, in my humble opinion, I can only recommend this game to people who know they will extensively use it for playing against other humans, online or in person. If you like to spend a good amount of time beating single player challenges - be warned, this game is for the super human or the sadist amongst us.
8 / 10