“A work in progress”
It’s finally here. It’s been a long wait, but looking back it seems like only yesterday I was looking at surprise footage of alpha-build Street Fighter V and dreaming about what’s in store. A year later, and here we have one of the most high-profile fighting games in recent memory, after the most transparent development cycle I’ve ever seen in a fighter. Personally my most anticipated game of 2016, Street Fighter V is finally finished and in the hands of the public. Well, in the hands of the public, anyway.
Game Name: Street Fighter V
Platform(s): PlayStation 4/PC
Developer(s): Capcom, Dimps
Release Date: February 16, 2016
Street Fighter V is the latest in a long line of a classic fighting game series, a flagship franchise of Capcom, one that essentially what started the genre as we know it. Utilizing the Unreal Engine 4, this next generation of Street Fighter uses highly detailed 3D models and dynamic backgrounds to deliver impressive visuals to accompany the solid, 1-on-1 2D fighting gameplay that the series is known for. Capcom has taken a different approach to the game’s legacy, simplifying the core mechanics of the gameplay to make the game as accessible as possible, while adding in the ‘V-System’ subset of mechanics to give each character their own unique stamp on Street Fighter V that goes beyond the simple difference in moveset. The aim being to really personalize each character’s style of fighting, and add depth to a game that is so firmly rooted in going back to the basics of what makes fighting games great.
All that in mind, through my time with Street Fighter V I can firmly say that Capcom has accomplished that goal, if not much else. To start with the overall positives, the game seems very well balanced, is extremely fun to play with others in versus mode, and as a system, it definitely addresses the issues in mechanics that made higher level Street Fighter IV play difficult and/or frustrating to get into at times. Street Fighter V looks good, the characters are well detailed, the visual effects are great, the backgrounds are vivid, and the interactive street stage in China is still as cool as the first time I saw it. The soundtrack to Street Fighter V is solid, with some nice new music and good remixes on the old character themes.
Picking up the game and understanding how to play seems easier to do in this game than in any Street Fighter title before it, except maybe offshoots like Pocket Fighter. Every normal and special move each character has feels purposeful, and figuring out a character’s general game plan and play style is simple with a decent understanding of how fighters work and a couple hours of playing against others. Thanks to the newly added V-System and the variety in the roster choice, each character feels different, and everyone feels solid; even though some of your favorite characters may not have made the cut as of yet.
The concepts Street Fighter V use to create the framework surrounding the core gameplay are online connectivity and service based updating. The system is set up such that what you do, whether playing online or in single player modes, is tracked and rewarded with in-game currency (Called Fight Money), intended to allow you to purchase new content that has yet to be released. All new content can be easily patched in, so the game is essentially set to continually improve, evolve, and gain content as time goes on. Street Fighter V is fully crossplay functional between PS4 and PC, with all players on unified servers. Players can find and follow other players using the Capcom Fighters Network features.
Endless lobbies are replaced by Battle Lounges, a far more featured lobby system than what Ultra Street Fighter IV had. Lounge owners can customize the length of a set before rotation, set passwords, and private slots, enable or disable character select for speed matches using favorite characters, and more. Clearly, it’s intended that players be able to closely emulate the feel of running real casual sessions with this.
What Street Fighter V intends to bring to the table with these concepts is amazing: reducing the metagame to purely outplaying your opponent. Offering solid avenues to be recognized by not only the Street Fighter developers, but the player base at large through integrating an online service specifically designed to let players connect with each other as a community. Becoming a game that gives you more content the more you play it and the longer it stays supported. The problem is, most of this is not something Street Fighter V can offer at this time.
To say Street Fighter V has stumbled out the gate is the current understatement of the year. To be perfectly frank, most of the features that would make Street Fighter V great simply do not work right now. All of the online connectivity features are dependent on Capcom’s servers (including experience point progression and earning Fight Money). Those servers have been unstable since launch. It’s fairly similar to the issues that we faced during the first two Beta periods… said periods meant specifically to prevent these things from happening on the full release. Capcom Fighters Network is the main hub used to connect players with each other, as Street Fighter V’s own Fighter ID system precludes PSN and Steam’s friend lists. That service has worked sporadically, if at all. I was unable to find any of my friends on launch night, and some of them I still can’t find through CFN.
The options the Battle Lounge system presents are cool in concept, but right now they’re practically useless. Lounges currently only support two people each, flying in the face of the game’s packaging itself, which states that up to 8 people can play together. On top of that, the invite system is inconsistent at best. Both of those issues are secondary to the lounges even working, to begin with. Often times lounges disappear or disconnect at random, and on multiple occasions, I’ve found myself unable to create a lounge at all or even view any created lounges. All the server issues make it prohibitive to play this game with a friend online, and it’s impossible to play with more than one in a session.
This leaves you with the random matchmaking that runs in the background, similar to how it was in the Beta periods. Also similar is the rough spots due to server instability, with it possibly taking upwards of 15 minutes to find matches at times, if you get any at all. Ranking matches are always random and feel just like the beta in simply getting matched with someone that may or may not be close to your rank. Whatever the special ranking system Capcom promised is, it’s not very prominent or explained well as far as I can tell, and there’s nothing in place to prevent or punish ragequitting, which defeats the purpose of ranked play.
Playing in matches online on PS4 leads to frame drops on most stages, even in the most stable of network connections. Often times the servers will not pick up the match results, which cause you to lose out on experience, League Points, and Fight Money. Though there are kudos to be given for Capcom implementing Lab Zero’s driver allowing Legacy PS3 controllers to be used, that driver wasn’t well implemented, as PS3 controller users experience input drops and delay.
On PC, Legacy fight sticks and Direct-Input PS3/360 controllers/sticks are not supported. Capcom is working to address those issues (to take a look at those upcoming patch notes, check out our other article here) , but until then you’re out of luck if you were planning on using those older controllers and don’t want to shell out the money for newer X-Input hardware.
If you’re someone keen on getting your practice with the A.I., someone offline without a player 2 handy, or someone that cares about the story in your fighting games, you won’t find much for you here at all. There’s no standard arcade mode. Single player is limited to Survival and Story modes, with no option to fight the CPU in versus mode. The A.I. for those modes is pretty laughable, and Story mode simply gives you 3 trivial one round fights and a few minutes of still-image cutscenes for each character. Capcom has promised a fully cinematic Story mode free of charge, but that’s not scheduled to be available until June.
Speaking of not yet available, The daily challenges to earn additional Fight Money won’t be available until March, but neither will the in-game store, so there’s nowhere to spend the Fight Money you accumulate right now anyway.
The ‘Bustling Side Street’ was the first Street Fighter V stage in existence and the only one with interactive cutscenes and stage transitions. None of the stages since having anything like that at all. It suggests cutbacks in development for the purpose of rushing the game out.
Essentially, playing the full release of this game feels little different than the Beta periods. Not just in lack of features, there’s little difference between the characters from the most recent Beta build until now. Capcom answered concerns of the characters being toned down with each consecutive Beta saying that the Betas weren’t reflective of the final release’s balance, but if anything the characters have only been further toned down. They’re all solid, and capable with respect to each other, but a lot of the high damage combos and interesting tools and properties that made the characters feel exceptional earlier on seem to be muted and scaled-back. Point being, there’s not really anything new for those of you who’ve put time into the Beta concerning the characters either, other than F.A.N.G. being playable.
With the issues in playing online with friends, the single player content being so sparse, and the overall lack of additional content compared to the most recent Beta period, the most significant thing you pay for is local versus. This launch feels very similar to another high-profile title panned for its ‘patch in the game later’ approach.
In the end, the product Capcom offers us right now simply doesn’t come close to living up to the ambitions and goals it set for itself. This is not a complete game. While I find the framework of what Capcom is trying to do compelling, ultimately it is just a framework. Even fleshed out it wouldn’t measure up to the lofty ideas that were the concepts in the alpha through early beta stages, but that’s something secondary when what we have now doesn’t even work properly. Hopefully, the rolling updates will bring this game up to snuff, and I’m happy to revisit it should the content and fixes those updates bring do so.
But right now a hope is all it is.
Failure to Launch
It's Street Fighter under there, just not quite completely cooked
Street Fighter V has the makings of greatness, really. It's a solid fighter in it's core mechanics, it being a service means that it can continually improve, and Capcom has all the tools they need to drop in all the content and features you could ever want. But I can't base a review on what doesn't exist currently, and the fact of the matter is this game wasn't ready for release.
It's unacceptable to sell an incomplete game at full price under the justification that the rest of the game will be patched in eventually. The silver lining in the situation is Capcom's pledge that all future updates and gameplay content will be free of charge. But unless you're a competitive, tournament player with access to local competition I simply cannot in good conscience recommend buying Street Fighter V in its current state.
As a diehard fan, it breaks my heart to say that.