Street Fighter IV Review 09/03/2009

Good fun, addictive but very tough for beginners.

I have never ever played any of the street fighter games. Although I am very much aware of the impact no.2 had on the gaming world, I never had the necessary system to play it/never really got into it etc. So Street Fighter IV is completely new to me, and this is why I had issues with it. The problem is that I was raised on Tekken, and Dragonball Z Budokai so the whole fighting process and button configuration was alien to me for street fighter. It took a considerable amount of long painful infuriating hours to get used to the controls, and I had to utilise several online sources for help and guidance, but after much perseverance things started to “click” and you very slowly start to see what all the hype is about. There’s a lot of disappointment here but if your punching thumbs are itching for a good brawl then it is very much worth your cash.

What’s good?

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Well luckily the fighting is the best thing about this game. If you want anything more than a one on one fighter then you will be let down here, as that is all its about. There’s a variety of different stuff for you to do, like story, versus, time trial, survivor and online modes, but they are all basically a simple one on one fight, and nothing new to anyone who’s played fighting games before. But that doesn’t matter as Capcom have solely focussed on the said genre, and you can tell. It is very difficult to get the hang of it if you have not played a previous street fighter game but when you start to nail combos and special moves more consistently it is a very satisfying process. In combat, you have pretty standard light, medium and heavy punches/kicks, throws, a “super” bar and “revenge” meter that represent your ability to power up normal moves, perform super moves or the most powerful ultra combos. You fill up the super meter by constantly pounding your opponent and fill up the revenge meter by getting your ass kicked. These add brilliant balance to the fighting and generally allow a battle to be 50/50 for most of the time. All special and ultra moves look awesome, are very satisfying and never get dull. There is also a counter move, called a focus attack, and a fairly unlimited ability to perform combos. Combos are brilliant here and not a set selection of moves, ala Tekken. The genius is that there is really no pre-defined method of stringing moves together which leaves you pretty open as to which moves can and cannot combine together. It’s very good at leaving you open to develop your own technique and combinations with your chosen character, which is excellent. What will work for one character will not work for others, so master your chosen fighter. There is real depth and focus here, and, like I said, when you get it right, when you nail your first special move etc it is an incredibly satisfying process. There’s a definite feeling of weight and impact when your fist contacts your opponent, which makes pounding the crap out of someone very satisfying. The lasting appeal of this is very high as there are further techniques that develop you into an expert, such as “focus attack dash cancelling” and “buffering”. When these are mastered there will be very few out there who will beat you.

The visuals are very impressive. To be fare though, they should be as it is in spirit a typical 2D fighter, on a system as powerful as the PS3. Each character is so very finely inked as you can see each finger and each bulging muscle on all of them. The character “Rufus” is particularly odd and well animated as he has a huge stomach that wobbles and ripples as he moves. It’s stupid but very well done. The animation is incredibly smooth and I have yet to experience any glitches. Your chosen fighter will contort his/her facial features when dealing out pain or receiving it. The backgrounds are a bit lame and I’m not convinced to the point of a lot of them (why would you be fighting in a brewery or laundry house?) but luckily you really don’t have time to notice the backgrounds. Overall, it is a very good looking game.

The legendary fighters are all back. The names that made the franchise famous in the first place, Chun Li, Ryu, Ken, E. Honda etc are all available, most of them from the start as well. There are some unlockable new characters but not many. Again though, this was to be expected especially as they had created all of these guys about 20 years ago and if they had altered/fiddled with any of the normal line up it would get badly received by fans. The point is however, fans won’t be disappointed, and new comers will be presented with lots of variety. Each character has their own signature moves, feels and fights differently. For example, Ken feels light on his feet and fast whereas Zangief feels heavy, slow and solid. Also, for example, someone like Sagat can pepper you with fireballs and other attacks whereas as Guile is a more defensive character, whos moves are based on tactics/reacting to the other opponent’s attacks. You reap the rewards for developing expertise with a specific character, and it encourages you to stick with and master them.

What’s bad?

The worst thing is that, if you are new to Street Fighter, the game is absolutely no help at all. If you’re a newcomer you can learn to play the game in the training arena, but it doesn’t really teach you how to do much. When first presented with the moves they do seem incomprehensible and it totally relies on symbols rather than words to display the skills. When displayed on a screen the symbols used don’t make a lot of sense, plus the displays are far too small so it’s too hard to ascertain in which direction your analog stick has to move. As an example of the move lists being crap, to perform Ken’s ultra move it says you have to move the analog stick from facing down, diagonally upwards to towards your opponent, twice, and press a punch button three times. When I first got the game I had to research on the internet how to do this as it did not work. It turns out that when three punch symbols are displayed it means you have to hit the “all” button (L1 and L2) for the punch or kick and that triggers the ultra move. It seems fairly obvious when it’s been explained to you but it is incredibly unobvious when sourcing information purely from the game or manual, especially if you are unfamiliar. I assure you, on that site alone I was not the only person asking that question. How hard would it have been for Capcom to explain that in a small caption somewhere? It so easily could have just said L1 or “all punch button” instead of fooling you with 3 punch symbols! I know they have to be universal linguistically to cut down on production costs, which explains the symbols, but they really are not good. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expecting to be spoon fed but this is almost like Capcom thought “sod the newcomers” or “if you don’t know don’t try” when developing this. I still cant figure out some of the moves such as Sagats “fake kick”. It simply has the hard kick symbol with an arrow next to it pointing up and down. What the hell does that mean? I can assure you that using hard kick in any form of up or down achieves nothing. I have (again!!!!) researched on the internet and a few guys have explained how to do it, but I am yet to succeed. I have mastered practically everything else in the game so I’m not totally sure it’s entirely down to my incompetence. If you are new to Street Fighter, learning to play really really sucks.

This brings me to my next point about the challenge mode that teaches you move’s. It teaches you, precisely, sod all. There is a mode, in challenge mode, which enables you to enter the training arena and prompts you to perform various moves and combos, depending on the character, to make sure you have got them right and teach you possible combat techniques. Despite what a lot of reviewers have said, I don’t see how this helps you in anyway. Instead of teaching/progressing your skills it simply tells you if you have correctly done the move or combo or not. If you are unaware of how to do it in the first place this is not, and never could possibly be, any help whatsoever. It’s like a teacher at primary/elementary school not teaching you how to perform multiplication, then demanding an answer to “3 x 4”. You can’t possibly know the answer as you have not been taught anything and even if you get it right its still guess work. It’s all very well saying “medium punch” then “hard punch” but simply performing these two moves together will not allow you to progress, as if your timing is off, even by a millisecond, then it won’t work. As the timing of performing moves is a mystery/not explained anywhere it becomes an almost impossible game of guess work that infuriates and disappoints. Why would have it been difficult to give you an option of the computer performing them as an example so you can see how it is supposed to be done and get your timing right? Tekken managed it. Maybe I am just too impatient, but at least if the option were there it would negate a lot of the frustration for such players.

The learning curve is massive. Apparently if you have played the previous street fighter games then this should be a piece of cake. I have not and initially I found it interminable. All the professional reviewers have stated that if you’re a newcomer to the franchise you can simply pick up and play, but its absolute rubbish. If you are a newcomer you are going to struggle first of all, a lot. The only way you can really improve is by fighting, not training, which means you will basically get your ass handed to you, even on the easiest difficulty, pretty much constantly for hours and hours, before things start to sink in. Plus the chances are you won’t have figured out any of the games cool moves either by that point, let alone perform them under pressure, and it draws a seriously fine line between being satisfying when you eventually master it and being just too annoying to bother with. I would recommend you stick at it, however, I would totally understand if gamers didn’t bother. It’s the sort of 50/50 Capcom should have avoided. I’ve been playing for over a month now and I am only just starting to beet opponents on the “medium” setting. How degrading is that? I really don’t see how hard it could have been for the game to give you a bit more aid.

HINT: If you are a newcomer and are interested in this game, and you should be, then I highly recommend you simply start off with either Ken or Ryu (I prefer Ken but Ryu is a better character). Put in some hours in the training room and learn to master their relatively simple moves. Don’t attempt at all to try other characters until you are consistently kicking butt with either of these two, as their moves form the most basic functions and timing for all other characters. Most others, Like M.Bison, are way more complicated. When you become competent with these two then you are ready to delve into everyone else.

The music is really annoying. The sound effects are really good and I even don’t mind the announcer, but the background music, in particular the intro song, is quite bad and irritating. It’s not of a poor quality it’s just awful, and sounds like it was produced by a middle aged balding guy on a Yamaha keyboard. Listen to the intro song and you will understand. It is truly diabolical. To cap it off you can’t turn it off; you can only turn it down to quite a low volume.

The Story aspect of the game is rubbish. The beginning and end of each characters story is played out in a short anime scene before you begin and after you defeat Seth (the big bad guy). These look quite nice and are very “anime-like” but tell you very little about the characters story. They are utterly pointless. I like the story aspect of games and character development, but if you (and I mean Capcom) really don’t have a decent narrative just don’t bother putting one in. It makes it worse by having a rubbish story than not having one at all. It does not really spoil anything, but I really don’t like half arsed efforts, especially where so much effort has been dispensed into the combat.

The big bad guy, Seth, is such a cheap character. The final boss in story mode, and one of the toughest characters to beat, is a guy called Seth and he is interminable. All his moves are designed to be irritating and unfair. I know he is supposed to be tough but often you literally don’t stand a chance. For example, he will warp anywhere randomly (you can’t predict it), normally right next to you and instantly perform a spinning pile driver throw. Although such a move is hard to pull off the CPU doesn’t need to waste time entering a command, so it’s far to quick to possibly react to. As I said he’s just cheap. There is no originality to him either. He looks almost identical to the silver surfer and has exactly the same background as “Cell” from “Dragonball Z”. He is a robot formed from data collected on all the other fighters and consequently uses all their moves etc etc. That idea has been done so many times its ridiculous and I would rather M. Bison was the main bad guy again, rather than this Seth idiot.

The game has too much of a hint of “button basher” about it. This is probably more personal preference than anything else, but I hate button bashers. I can’t stand trying really hard to learn moves and skills and having your ass whipped by your mate, who’s never played it, because he just hammers all the buttons. There’s no skill in that! Do not fear, as it is definitely more biased towards skill than button luck. However, for example, to perform Guile’s ultimate combo you have to hold diagonally down and backwards for an amount of time (the amount of time is totally non-specific), then move it diagonally forwards and down, then back to diagonally backwards and down, then straight to diagonally forwards and up and hit the “all” kick button. That does seem a bit overly complicated for my liking and unnatural for performing fighting moves via your fingers. I get it right about 60% of the time but you can very easily accidently perform something else which could leave you open for attack. In Tekken this very rarely happens as if you don’t do it quite right, it simply doesn’t happen. In Street Fighters defence though, I have got better at it and will probably get better at it as I continue.


I know I have slagged it off but, in its defence, all criticisms are based on the fact that I have never played Street Fighter before. But after a few weeks or so of practising, playing and losing, things start to sink in. You then start to create your own combos and nail the special moves more consistently and it becomes very satisfying and very very addictive. It has a very intrinsically well developed fighting system that, although simple, will take a lot of time to master, but will ultimately satisfy you when things start to “click”. Plus it looks brilliant. It’s just a shame Capcom couldn’t put in as much effort as they did for the combat as they could have done for other aspects of the game, and I don’t like the fact they just assume you’re an automatic expert. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you won’t be reading this, you will have got a copy ages ago and will be beating the crap out of someone on it right now, as it is pretty much overly and squarely aimed at you guys. If you’re new, like me, then I do recommend it as the more I have been playing the more I have begun to get addicted to it. It’s just so annoying that Capcom couldn’t provide more in terms of help or training. I really do not see how hard it could have been. I had to utilise a bit of online research and help but when you get over initial confusion and difficulties you will start to enjoy it. CA.


Is it user-friendly/easy to get into? – 5.0

No, basically. Most things are easy to navigate. However, the “moves” menu’s and combo training (challenge mode) are no help at all. The game is designed assuming you have played all the previous games. If this is not the case you are going to struggle.

Is the story any good? – 5.0

The character’s stories are all really crap, uninteresting, and very short. They are not offensive, just not interesting.

How does it look? – 9.0

Backgrounds suck a bit, but everything else is truly stunning and all animations are super smooth, as it should be.

How does it sound? – 7.0

Love the fighting SFX and character voices. Music is really tacky though, especially the intro song. It is truly diabolical.

Is it good to play? – 8.0

The best part (luckily). So many moves, combos and methods of fighting, you wont know where to start. Should have been easier and more helpful for beginners, however, and button mashers will prosper, which I hate.

When will I get bored? – 8.0

Although I’m not sure I will ever have the patience to truly master this one, most people will have many months of fighting before they even get close to mastering it. Fight people though, not the CPU.


Review created by C. Armstrong.

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