Street Fighter 5's big global beta is going live tonight and - if all goes well, unlike last time out - it'll be playable throughout the bank holiday weekend. Two of team Eurogamer got on the regional beta test last week, and met up earlier this week to talk through what they played. So, without further ado and thanks to a slick copy and paste from our chat logs, here's Street Fighter pro Wesley Yin-Poole and Street Fighter idiot Martin Robinson to guide you through their thoughts.
Martin: Hello! From now on this is all going on the internet.
Wesley: Hello! I'll try my best not to say something stupid then.
Martin: I might even copy and paste some of the other stuff from our chat logs. So let' s say goodbye to our jobs now
Wesley: No don't do that. Ever.
Martin: Too late. Done. But after everyone's gone through all that incriminating stuff, let's talk STREEEEEEET FIGHTER FIVE!
Wesley: Street Fighter V you mean. The V is very important.
Martin: Oh sorry, Street Fighter V. You're right. There is actually a very long discussion we had about what the right styling is - we don't typically do roman numerals on Eurogamer. But Street Fighter V is an exception. Is it V for victory?
Wesley: It's V for Very Important Game. No it's V for V-Gauge. Did you use it much?
Martin: I did. Before we go into specifics, I think it's worth pointing out something more general - Street Fighter V feels very, very different.
Wesley: Maybe that's what the V stands for.
Martin: Ha, indeed. I hadn't played it before - the beta, when it got up and running was my first experience.
Wesley: What was your first impression?
Martin: Surprise! After the reveal I thought it looked a bit too similar to 4. But it feels very, very different to play. The difference between 5 and 4 feels as pronounced as the difference between 3 and 4.
Wesley: As with most Street Fighter games, to the casual observer they all look and feel pretty similar. Ryu looks the same, a fireball is the same input command. I thought that about Street Fighter 5 at first, but when you dig into it you notice all the differences.
Martin: The differences between characters feels much more pronounced, as well. Which is where the V-Trigger comes in - rather than sharing a trick, everyone's got their own.
Wesley: When I first played Street Fighter 5 I thought it was slow, but they've either sped it up since before Gamescom, or I was just wrong.
Martin: Yeah, you played it a while back, right?
Wesley: Yeah. I first played it before E3. But the recent beta felt a lot faster to me. Certainly the rounds end quicker, and that has a lot to do with the increased damage, I think. You do a hell of a lot of damage in Street Fighter 5, so the rounds can end in the blink of an eye.
Martin: It feels more brutal. As time was limited with it, I'm not sure how much of that is systemic, and how much of it is just how much chunkier it looks, and the improved animations. It still feels relatively slow, too - I'd be fascinated to see how the older build compares. A lot of people have been saying this from the start, but I get big Street Fighter 3 vibes off it. That's a very good thing, in my book. The slower pace, and the fact it's a lot more brutal, play to that.
Wesley: And there are elements of the Alpha series.
Martin: I didn't play Alpha so much. How does the V system compare?
Wesley: You can spend one bar of your V-Gauge to do a V-Reversal. You push forward and either all three punches or kicks while blocking. It's great for getting out of the corner, for example. I found myself not using it so much though, because my muscle memory is still stuck with Street Fighter 4. It's similar to the Alpha Counter from the Alpha series.
Martin: I went back to Street Fighter 4 and it was eye-opening. Also I was shite. It's amazing how quickly you can become accustomed to a new game. Birdie's another tie to Alpha. He was always a bit rubbish in that though, right? I remember he looked cool, but no-one ever really played with him. This time, he can kill you with snot.
Wesley: He was never top tier, but he's a hell of a lot of fun in Street Fighter 5. And his normals are devastating. He's got an amazing and easy anti-air, and his standing hard punch and standing hard kick are devastating. I like him! His design is brilliant, too.
Martin: God, your level of engagement is so much deeper than mine. I'm mostly 'it has more graphics and the punches are better'. Also I like it when Birdie uses you like a skipping rope. There, that's some hardcore analysis.
Wesley: Ha! Well I agree. His Critical Art is the best in the game so far. It's so humiliating. If you K.O. with it, you leave your opponent in a mini crater with their legs poking in the air.
Martin: There seems to be more of that incidental detail in V. I never got the noodles on my head.... Or anyone else's, for that matter.
Wesley: I never got the noodles on my head, but I was kicked into the bus more than a few times. They just drive off with you inside. The ultimate insult.
Martin: Cripes. Do you have to swipe your Oyster too?
Wesley: Birdie never swipes. He does flick his snot at you though. Which is the best idle animation in a fighting game ever.
Martin: I still love Dudley's rose! Speaking of animation - AND SPEAKING OF SUPER-SMOOTH SEGUES - there's so much more flow in Street Fighter 5. Going back to 4, it seemed quite stilted.
Wesley: Yeah. It's interesting Capcom moved to Unreal Engine 4 for Street Fighter 5.
Martin: Some of Chun-Li's combos just run together like silk. A lot of Japanese devs are going with UE4. It's working well, I think.
Wesley: Certainly there are a lot more visual effects now.
Martin: It still looks like a Capcom game, which is important.
Wesley: The sparks when you hit the neon lights in the Hong Kong stage are cool.
Martin: I *love* the London stage too. Although apparently some of those trains advertised might be fictional. The Royal Guardsmen that just stand about King's Cross concourse playing trumpets are real though.
Wesley: They go to Dover and Portsmouth, don't they?
Martin: Is there a train from King's Cross to Dover? This is the real burning question from the beta.
Wesley: This warrants an investigation. It's definitely supposed to be Kings Cross then?
Martin: I think so. I don't know why I think so. Also there is a train from King's Cross to Dover Priory, so ignore me.
Wesley: My favourite part of that stage is London Pub. I wonder how long it took Capcom to come up with that one.
Martin: There is actually a pub near Russell Square called London Pub.
Martin: Maybe Yoshi Ono stayed in the Travelodge it's opposite once or something. The other mystery's about the animal at the centre of the New Zealand stage. This is my level of analysis, Wes.
Wesley: IT'S NOT A SHEEP!
Martin: I think it's a wolf in sheep's clothing. Some people think it's a ram. These people are wrong.
Wesley: IT'S NOT A RAM! Whatever it is, it's the stuff of nightmares. If I lived in New Zealand, I'd be worried they'd come for me in the night.
Martin: I guess we should talk some more about what it's like to punch people.
Wesley: Perhaps, yes.
Martin: Who did you main in the beta? Having no imagination, I stuck to Ryu, with a little bit of Chun-Li too.
Wesley: I played a lot of Birdie after giving Ryu a decent go. I like grapple characters, and Birdie wasn't in Street Fighter 4, so felt particularly fresh. What I love about this game is how meaty it all feels. Every punch that connects feels like a proper smash. There's almost a stagger as the game zeroes in on each hit.
Martin: Yes! It's enough to make you wince. It's a lot more about close-up combat too. You can't sit back as much as you could in Street Fighter 4. You need to get up close and get your fists dirty. It'll be interesting to see how that changes as they fold more characters in. Obviously getting up close to the likes of Birdie when you're playing as Ryu isn't that smart.
Wesley: Here's an interesting thing: Street Fighter 4 was often criticised for being a defensive game.
Martin: This seems very much like a response to that, then.
Wesley: There also seems to be an attempt to make mid-range footsies less important.
Martin: What's the footsies game? It sounds sexy.
Wesley: It's the idea you try to manoeuvre yourself into a position to successfully poke your opponent with certain attacks knowing if you land one you can set up a combo or knockdown or mix-up or push them into the corner. Street Fighter 4 revolved around this to a degree.
Martin: Not as sexy as I hoped.
Wesley: I feel like the range on Ryu's crouching medium kick has been reduced, so it's harder to poke with it. Ryu's crouching medium kick is an easy set up for a fireball and Critical Art, so it's one of his most important attacks. Characters seem to recover more quickly from being knocked down, too. So, I feel like Street Fighter 5 is a game that rewards offensive play, those who rush down and get stuck in.
Martin: I definitely felt that too. And didn't spend most of my time in the beta wondering whether someone at Capcom will get Chun-Li a bra before the next test.
Wesley: Ah yes. Her boobs do some pretty crazy things in character select. I thought Capcom had said it was a bug from a previous build.
Martin: Back to your point, though, even a novice Street Fighter player like myself can sense that it's a much more offensive game. I'm just pleased that it already feels so distinct from 4. It's already its own game, and has already stepped out of the shadow of its predecessor, which isn't bad going.
Wesley: Yeah. I wondered whether we even needed a Street Fighter 5, since 4 was so good, and still is. But maybe it's time.
Martin: I definitely feel it's time. It was great having Ultra Street Fighter 4 on PS4 - once they'd fixed it, that is - but it just gave me an appetite for something new. I genuinely can't wait to get stuck in again when they do the next proper beta test.
Wesley: Did you try Nash? He's the hipster choice, so I imagine you did.
Martin: Yes! I was expecting a charge character, so was surprised when I played him. And I played him while riding my fixie around the living room and drinking a craft ale.
Wesley: His Critical Art is so hipster. His hair is so hipster.
Martin: That cyborg look is also very much in around Broadway Market these days.
Wesley: This is why I like Birdie: down to earth. He loves bananas, doughnuts and energy drinks. And he doesn't care what people think. He's the anti-hipster choice. So you wouldn't like him, Martin.
Martin: So basically Birdie vs Nash is me vs you in real life?
Wesley: Yes. It is.
Martin: And you'd absolutely tonk me.
Wesley: I'd consider flicking my snot at you.
Martin: I'd be honoured to be knocked unconscious by your snot. No footsies games though, Wes.
Wesley: No pokes, either.
Martin: THIS IS GETTING TOO SEXY. One final thought. It feels weird to be playing this before arcade location tests have really taken place.
Wesley: It's like a right of passage for Japanese fighting games.
Martin: I was looking forward to seeing it in the wild - I guess it's just indicative of a changing market, and obviously arcades are dying in Japan. But it just felt a bit like the end of an era, with this being the first Street Fighter to lead on a home console.
Wesley: Capcom has to move with the times. I quite like the business model they're going for. You pay for the game and get a decent number of characters, then you pay for more characters when they're released. It's kind of like Street Fighter meets League of Legends. Bit like Killer Instinct on Xbox One, which I enjoyed.
Martin: It's smart, yeah. And the foundation looks very, very good. I'm pleasantly surprised in more ways than one with what Capcom's doing with it.
Wesley: They've promised they won't release loads of different versions of Street Fighter 5, too, which is important. They overdid it with 4.
Martin: Which splintered the userbase, yeah. I don't think this will be the breakout success that 4 was.
Wesley: I think it will be a different kind of success, a longer term success.
Martin: A lot of people got back into fighting games with 4 - there was a nostalgia effect - but that's not here this time.
Wesley: That's very true. But there is a gap on PS4 for a big fighting game, and this could clean up.
Martin: I just hope the goodwill hasn't been damaged too much by Ultra Street Fighter 4 on PS4 - which is now fixed - and the beta screw-up first time around for V.
Wesley: I think it'll survive that. Birdie won't be denied.
Martin: I can't wait to get going again. And it's frustrating to have to wait 'til next year to play the final thing proper. They're all good signs.
Wesley: Hopefully the global beta test will work this time. Because that New Zealand stage animal needs further study.
Martin: We need to know the truth, Wes.