The Street Fighter series has been the king of fighting games for a number of years now. Major contenders for the crown included the Soul Calibur and Tekken franchises but nothing has really threatened that top spot. The thing is the Street Fighter series reached its pinnacle 18 years ago with Street Fighter II. There have been several iterations since then but each one has simply refined that game, made it faster, introduced new characters and further complexity. Street Fighter IV is certainly the definitive version, the graphics are stunning, the game-play is smooth and accessible and yet this is still the game you remember. There are some new bits and pieces and some brief cinematic excursions into 3D but for all intents and purposes this is still a 2D fighter, it just happens to be the best 2D fighter ever released.
Features (5 out of 5)
One of the first things you’ll notice about Street Fighter IV is that you can pick it up and play straight away. If you used to play as Ken or Blanka you can select those characters and all the old moves will come flooding back to you. The entire original cast is here: Ryu, Chun-Li, E.Honda, Zangief, Guile, Dhalsim even the baddies Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M. Bison. They are joined by a host of characters from other Street Fighter releases including Dan, Fei-Long, Sakura, Cammy, Gen and Rose. There are also hidden characters Seth, Akuma and Gouken and finally four entirely new characters, Abel, Crimson Viper, Rufus and El Fuerte. The choice and variety of fighting styles is staggering and the new characters make for really interesting additions. You can unlock characters by completing the game with each of the original cast.
While the game-play is similar to previous Street Fighter games and you can still pull off the majority of moves in the same way you always did, there are some additions. Chains of attacks can now be run together to produce devastating combos provided you slot them together correctly. Capcom have also introduced focus attacks, these are unblockable counter-attacks which can be charged up and unleashed on your opponent. Super combos and Ultra combos can be activated when your meter is charged up, either by taking damage, or by successfully beating up your opponent. They are fairly easy to pull off and they trigger the 3D camera cinematic view for special moves which are seriously destructive.
The game feels deceptively familiar but as you play through it the additional depth soon becomes apparent. The balance is excellent, characters have very specific strengths and weaknesses and it can take several games to really master a specific set of tactics. On the other hand the moves are easier to pull off than in earlier versions of the game and even novices will be able to enjoy the action immediately. To unlock all of the content you’ll need to complete the game with each character so there are hours of single player game-play here.
Graphics (5 out of 5)
The graphics are the main improvement in Street Fighter IV. The game-play may have been refined and tweaked but the graphics have undergone a major overhaul and the game looks absolutely fantastic. The characters are now rendered in stylised 3D and their animations are superb. The cartoon comedy element is still apparent with bulging muscles and hilarious expressions on their faces as they get knocked out. Eyes pop out of sockets and faces are hardened into steely grimaces as the combat unwinds.
The 3D sequences for special moves have the camera breaking position and zooming in to examine the characters close up. They are like mini-cut scenes and they look terrific but you never really feel part of the 3D view and this is still most definitely a 2D fighting game.
The environments have also undergone a major transformation with true 3D depth and a range of animated characters, vehicles and animals wandering around within them. There are more settings than ever before and the backdrops are much more dynamic even taking the odd bit of damage but this is pure polish and serves no other purpose. Many of the new setting are great although as a Scot I have to complain about the whisky distillery which features men in truly hideous kilt/dungaree costumes. Japanese interpretation aside the environments are impressive.
The visual effects are also stunning and they really add something to the action. Lighting effects, electricity and fire all look fantastic and more realistic than ever before.
Multiplayer (5 out of 5)
This is where Street Fighter IV really earns its money. The multiplayer allows you to battle friends into the small hours and gives the game an unlimited replay value. For the first time you’ll be able to play with mates online, which is a great addition for the series. The AI is massively challenging but nothing really compares to the challenge of battling another human or the satisfaction when you mash them up and win gloating rights. The fact you’ll be able to play online reduces the risk of the game spilling into real life violence which is another bonus.
The PC release has been delayed but the minimum requirements aren’t likely to be too taxing. A 2GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 7GB hard drive space and DirectX9 or above compatible graphics and sound should do the job. You’ll be better off with a dual core processor and an nVidia GeForce 7300 GS or a Radeon X1300 or above graphics card. The official specs are still to be announced so watch this space.
Overall (5 out of 5)
Street Fighter IV is a great fighting game and it is certainly the best in the series so far however gamers looking for something to re-invent the genre or really innovate may be left a bit disappointed. Graphically speaking it is gorgeous, the game-play is refined and there is plenty of fun to be had here but the 3D sequences are a bit of a gimmick and at the end of the day this still feels like an improved version of Street Fighter II. It is still easily the best fighting game currently available it just won’t be sparking a revolution.