Sloclap is no stranger to the game when it comes to action games. When it released Absolver, which many consider better action games in recent years, it made people notice. This scrappy studio that came out of nowhere had shocked the gaming world with this in-depth game that features lots of fighting mechanics. Sure, it was tough, but it was a game that grew on you. With Sifu, Sloclap is looking to recreate that experience with Sifu.
From what I’ve played already, Sifu is right there with Absolver, if maybe not as “hard.”
I know Sifu!
The Sifu preview build dropped me off on a short level where I processed my way through a club and provided me with a sizable amount of combat. Here, I learned the hard way that Sifu is not going to be a walk in the park.
Attacking in Sifu is straightforward. You have access to a low and high attack, a block and parry, and a dodge. Using the block and pushing in a left/right direction will let you slip through attacks, sort of like a boxer would weave through punches. While timing a block button press will allow you to parry and counter with a flurry of hits. If you manage to daze an enemy, you can get in a grab to knock them away or perform a takedown that provides you with a bit of health back. The takedowns also have some brutal animations and vary depending on your location. Doing one in the middle of a floor will perform a beatdown while doing one near a wall will result in you bashing an enemy’s head into said wall. There are plenty of other animations as well.
There’s a focus meter that’s located on the bottom left of the screen, which builds up when you land successful attacks. Once you’ve gotten enough meter, you can unleash several attacks that are guaranteed to hit and not only delivers some damage but are good for getting out of a messy situation. Getting hit on the other hand will rob you of whatever focus meter you’ve amassed.
As for blocking, it’s not always a good thing to do and you can be punished trying to block everything. Similar to another game, Sekiro, if you continue to block attacks, eventually you’ll be subject to a guard break. Leaving you dazed and open to attack. But this also works two ways; enemies that continue to block can also have their guard broken and wide open for a nasty combo or takedown.
In addition to your attacks, you’re able to pick up objects to use, such as bottles, bats, and sticks. These can be used to beat opponents, or you can hurl them towards them. There are also other objects that you can kick towards enemies, knocking them to the ground and landing a free attack. Throughout my time with Sifu, I’ve found that using these objects significantly helped my chances of survival. Just don’t assume they are sure hits, as enemies can and will dodge them at times.
Combat is similar to the Batman Arkham series; you’re never fighting one enemy and will constantly be surrounded. Except here, enemies don’t provide any tells that they’re about to attack you. There are no symbols above their head or anything, so you’ll need to pay close attention. The combat is meant to feel as if you’re outnumbered and underpowered, yet you’ll have to figure out how to survive. It goes along with the theme of the game. Initially, I thought that I could fire off a few attacks, varying them up, and that would be it. Except, that wasn’t the case, and very rarely were you able to land a few hits without them being blocked. Tougher enemies could block and counter with their own attacks. While others could break out of attacks, get a second wind, and do their best Super Saiyan impression. Becoming empowered, tougher, and with more health.
There were also two tougher enemies that served as the mid and final-level bosses. While the mid-boss wasn’t much of a challenge, the other character ended a number of no-death runs as he was not only able to block, parry, and counter my hits. But he was also much stronger and could even perform attacks off of walls. It was so cool to see, but not as such when he countered pretty much everything.
Get back up and fight!
When you’re knocked down, and it will happen, is when you start to see that there’s more to Sifu that meets the eye. While you start off as this younger fighter, when you take a fall, you will be given an option to quit to continue. Continuing will start the aging process, and your character will visually start to age. Depending on how many times you’ve had to continue will determine your age. For example, when you start the preview, you are age 20. If you have to continue, you’ll be aged to 21. If that happens again, it will be age 21 plus the two continues; aging you to 23. The more you continue, the more the death counter climbs, and the older you get. You’re able to drop the number of deaths by defeating harder enemies, but you won’t be able to roll the age counter back.
However, the only way to become more experienced is to die. Dispatching enemies will earn you XP, which can be used to acquire new skills. However, most skills can only be used at a certain age. It’s a double-sided sword; do you die and learn better techniques or do you try for that no-death run? Sometimes that decision isn’t up to you as you will take a fall more than once. Getting better at combat and learning new skills sounds amazing, but getting older has its disadvantages. The older you become, the less health you’ll have. Meaning you won’t be able to take as much damage.
Eh, no one said this was going to be an easy game.
Pretty but deadly
The visual presentation of Sifu is both minimalist, but at the same time looks beautiful. Everything I’ve seen so far has a unique look and feel to it, while the animations do a great job of conveying the mood and combat. It may not look impression looking at a screenshot, but seeing the game in action is a completely different thing. Every punch, kick, and grab are pleasing to watch and critical of providing the atmosphere in the game.
I wanted more
The preview is short but satisfying. Every time I’ve played, I’ve gotten better, at the cost of reaching the end sooner. I even managed to find an area that I originally missed the first couple of times I’ve played the preview. All in all, this small size is a good indication of what to expect when Sifu does get released. Judging from what I’ve played, Sifu is going to be quite the popular title, especially for the challenge it will offer. Also, there won’t be able difficulty toggles. Still, I don’t know if the enemies will get harder as you play or if they adapt to how well (or bad) you do.
I do have some concerns
While I enjoyed my time with the preview build of Sifu, I do have some concerns about the current status of the game. A game like this requires smooth controls and a camera that doesn’t get in the way or obscure the website. Sadly, the controls are clunky and not responsive in certain situations. A good example is when you’re surrounded. While you can push in the direction you want to attack in, there are times where the character refuses to look in the other direction. This can result in the enemy getting an easy hit on you. Sure, you can dodge and force the camera to reset, but if you’re surrounded, dodging isn’t always possible.
The lack of any jumping attacks is puzzling. I can understand that Sloclap wants to keep the combat grounded, but enemies can at least vault over objects and attack you; while you can’t. Hopefully, that is something that will get added later on. Lastly, the sounds seem muffled, and I’d like them to be more pronounced or visceral. Letting me know that my attack had connected or it was blocked or parried.
Besides that, Sifu looks to be on track for an enjoyable martial arts title that fans of gaming and those old-school Kung-Fu Saturday shows are going to eat up.
Sifu is will released on February 22, 2022, for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC (Epic Games Store).