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Game Review: Street Fighter IV
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Street Fighter IV
Street Fighter IV
Genre: Fighting
Rating: 12 (VSC Rating)
Publisher: Capcom
Format: Xbox 360, PS3 (Coming soon to PC), Arcade

Chances are, you’ve already heard about Capcom’s legendary Street Fighter series – Street Fighter 2 was/is the benchmark for almost every 1v1 fighting game that exists today. If you haven’t, then you’re either not a gamer, or haven’t set foot in an arcade in the last 15+ years.

SF2 is quite possibly one of my favourite games of all time – it is (in my opinion) one of the most polished and flawless fighting games to date, even if it’s 2D. The game’s combo system and tactical gameplay makes it fun for beginners to pick up, and great for hardcore players to arrange tournaments around (which in turn makes for some amazing viewing).

Capcom haven’t been able to match the original Street Fighter 2’s quality for a long time (the closest they came for me was Street Fighter Alpha 2), and in the development of their latest release; Street Fighter IV, you can tell they’ve gone back to the roots of the series. Capcom did attempt delving into the world of a 3D Street Fighter before, with the Street Fighter Ex series – these, although good in their own right, were overshadowed by games like Tekken and Dead or Alive.

Street Fighter IV isn’t strictly a 3D game though – there’s no sidestep or dodge option a-la Tekken & Soul Calibur (is it bad that the deliberate miss-spelling of Calibre still annoys me?). SFIV’s 3D aspects are purely aesthetic, and I personally think this makes the game much better. It cuts out the over-complicated aspects of 3D fighters, and gets back to the bare bones of caving your opponent’s face in.

Speaking of the visual aspects of the game, SFIV is luscious – the characters look great: muscles ripple, eyes bulge and Chun Li’s thighs are as ridiculous as usual. Pulling off an Ultra Combo is particularly satisfying as you’re treated to some great 3D camera swoops while your character bludgeon’s his/her opponent to a bloody pulp (with the exception of Gouki/Akuma’s raging demon moves which traditionally black out the screen while you land a 15 or up to 30 hit combo of ultimate death depending on if you use the special or ultra version).

From the opening introduction, the game’s visuals don’t fail to impress – while playing through the arcade mode, you’re treated to some anime sequences when viewing a character’s story and ending. These, although a little spartan on animation sometimes, are still much more welcome than the static images of old. And it seems the storyline for each character has had a facelift too, but this is most likely to help incorporate the game’s newcomers.

Speaking of which, the game’s character list boasts 25 fighters, although 9 of those are unlocked by playing the game to certain criteria (Akuma & Gouken are particularly tricky, requiring a certain number of super/ultra finishes and perfect rounds… along with no losses).

The above tasks only help to increase the game’s replay value and general longevity in my opinion – having all the characters available from the start leaves nothing to achieve. Though to mix things up a bit, Capcom have included a Challenges mode, in the form of Time Trials, Survival and Trials (learning character combos etc). These challenges start off fairly manageable (on the normal setting), and build up to some near impossible button presses – I miss my six button Genesis/Mega Drive pad! lol.

The game’s new characters are great too – they don’t feel like re-hashed versions of old favourites which we’re so used to in fighting games.

Crimson Viper is a damn fast fighter, with some scorching techniques that cause problems for users of slower characters like Zangief.
Abel is fearsome, even though he’s a hand-to-hand fighter, he’s still fast, and the techniques are devastating when they’re strung together.
Rufus is like a quicker, more agile & comical version of Zangief, and he uses kung fu, which looks a little bizarre sometimes.
El Fuerte is all over the place – almost as much as Vega & Chun Li… he’s a Mexican wrestling fighter that seems to enjoy cooking.

There are a few other new characters – the main one being the boss, Seth. And in keeping with tradition, Seth’s AI goes from “Please beat the crap out of me” to “I’m going to cane you so quickly you’ll be down before you blink”. He’s not quite as irritating as Gil from Street Fighter 3 though, and his pseudo washing-machine of death ultra move always makes me laugh when you splat against the screen.

One other notable newcomer is Gouken, who is otherwise known as Ryu & Ken’s master “Sheng Long”. And yes, like other Street Fighter geeks out there, I let out a little “Squee!” when I found this out, as this has been used many many times by Capcom and the gaming media as an April fools joke.

Looking at playability, SFIV definitely matches the original SF2 very faithfully. Special moves seem to be a little easier to pull off (Zangief’s 360° spin required for a spinning pile driver comes off quite easily now), and the more complex combos require some pinpoint timing. The AI can sometimes be infuriating at times, but they always are in fighting games. If I haven’t had a strop and turned the game off a couple of times, then it’s not worth playing! lol

Overall I think Street Fighter IV brings Capcom back to the forefront of 1v1 fighting games again – the old & tired 3D fighters need to pull out some impressive punches to beat this one. For both beginners and hardcore tournament gamers alike, SFIV is a triumph. And for some reason, UK retailers are listing the game at nearly £10 cheaper than normal, so snap it up now while you can!

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