Street Fighter IV

Playstation consoles have never failed to be supported by excellent beat 'em up titles, with Tekken providing the main attraction for many years, brilliantly supported by Soul Calibur, Virtua Fighter and more. As appealing as those games might be, there is one fighting series that has roots far deeper than even the King of Iron Fist tournament, with gameplay finely tuned over decades of intense play. Enjoying massive success during the 1990s, Street Fighter left an unforgettable impression with an entire generation of gamers and, despite being relatively quiet in the interim, finally returns in triumphant form with Street Fighter IV. After considerable time in the hands of veteran arcade gamers, the title finally makes it to consoles, and it's so well polished that it makes the Queen's silver look like it needs more attention.

Street Fighter IV

Firstly though, for those unfamiliar with Street Fighter, the game's controls: the style is very different to Tekken, with the Iron Fist bunch tending to have special moves and combos with strings of button presses to memorize. In Street Fighter, it's not about ten-button combos, but more about swift pushes of precisely the right move for the situation. With an airborne opponent charging through the air towards you, a heavy punch or kick in the air might be enough to stop them, while combat on the ground might feature rapid special moves, usually activated by a rotation of the analog stick, followed by an appropriate button press. As a result, the fighting in the game is far more technical and tactical in nature. In Tekken, it's possible to succeed with careful memorization and less strategy, but in Street Fighter, simple repetition of moves will not suffice. The only way to succeed in the game is to know exactly which move to use in any instant.

The buttons for controlling your character are nicely organized, with buttons allocated for light, medium and heavy punches, and the same for kicks. The left analog stick controls movement, crouching, walking, dashing, jumping and blocking, and any other controls beyond those basics rely on button combinations. At their most simple, the player can activate a throw by holding the light punch and kick buttons, the new Focus attacks (a move that simultaneously blocks an incoming attack and counters with a powerful jab) with the medium buttons, or even a taunt (called a Personal Action) by pressing both heavy buttons, but the main attraction will likely be the array of special moves. These powerful moves, have four tiers, beginning with a basic special, that can be augmented to an EX by charging part of an on-screen special meter (achieved by causing damage to your opponent). When the bar is complete, a Super move can be unleashed, causing immense damage to any enemy caught unaware. Finally, there are new Ultra moves. This might all seem like confusing madness, but the structure is relatively simple, intuitive and, in the case of the Ultra moves, an excellent way of balancing the game. Ultras are reliant on a second meter, also displayed on screen, this time charged by receiving damage from an opponent. The result is that, should a player take a significant beating, there's still a chance of recovering for a remarkable victory, thanks to the powerful Ultra move. The variety of opportunities to inflict damage means that players will be continually on their toes, and easily caught off guard if they lose focus for even a second.

Street Fighter IV

The special moves, and buttons used to activate them, are - of course - dependent on the selected character, and there's certainly plenty to choose from. The game might not have the huge roster of players seen in games like Tekken and Soul Calibur, but there's a good number to master and more to unlock, featuring old favourites that are literally famous in, and outside of, the world of gaming. Ryu, Ken, Chun Li, M Bison, Vega, Balrog, Zangief, E Honda, Dhalsim and many more all return for Street Fighter IV, and are accompanied by several new faces, including C. Viper, a slinky American, erm, babe, business-lady type, El Fuerte, an insane Mexican with crazy wrestling and cooking habits, Rufus, a somewhat large American with poor taste in clothing, and Abel, a rather more scary foe that will undoubtedly be adopted by many in the Street Fighter world. Unlocking everyone on the roster will certainly provide a challenge though, since the tougher characters to acquire will not only require repeated completion of the game on the tougher difficulty settings, but will also ask players to do so without using continues in the game, or by achieving a set number of perfect rounds. In summary, the game won't give up it's people easily.

It's not just the basic story mode, involving an intro and "outro" sequence for each character, and a traditional series of fights ending in a showdown with the final boss, that's designed to occupy your time though. The game is also filled with challenge, time attacks and survival missions, all designed to punish and reward you in equal measure. To unlock the games treasures (usually in the form of titles for your online account, colours for your characters to wear or personal actions your character can perform), you will be required to survive increasing numbers of rounds against increasingly challenging opposition, or perform faster and tougher move combinations in an impressive array of challenges. It adds a significant amount to the story mode, but it's inevitibly the versus modes that will keep people entertained the longest. Two options are available, with the most obvious being two players on a single machine, playing round after round of perfectly balanced fighting action. However, the major advancement of Street Fighter IV in the series is the online potential. The game allows players to take part in ranked or custom fights across the Playstation Network, with a medal system rewarding different types of victories or other significant events in each round. Street Fighter's multiplayer potential is legendary, and this game should not disappoint. As players take part in more ranked matches, the skill levels of each person will be more accurately determined, allowing balanced matches to be picked for players. It might not have the same atmosphere as two people in the same room, but there's huge scope for enjoyment.

Street Fighter IV

The game is not without its downsides though. It's true that the game is accessible at any level, but personal experience has shown that the game seems slightly uninterested in helping you learn. It's true that the various challenge modes, especially the basic ones asking you to perform specific moves, will train you in performing the right sort of moves, but it doesn't necessarily guide you as to the best situations for their usage. The game makes the assumption that anybody playing it has played Street Fighter before, which may alienate new players to the Street Fighter universe. This is made clear when the move-training challenges bypass the regular moves entirely and focus only on the moves unique to a particular character. As a result, on first reaching the final boss in the story mode, it's likely that many new players will face an infuriating challenge where no tactic appears to work. Skill will come with experience, involving significant practice against the toughest CPU and human opponents, but it is an unpleasant learning curve that could have been softened by the game. Still, that said, when you feel yourself improving, even if the advancement is only with a single character, the feeling of reward is great, and the scope for improvement in this game is near infinite. No matter how good a player gets, there will always be somebody better out there (well, except for perhaps one particularly skilled Japanese lad).

The other downer is something that the game never claims to take particularly seriously, and that is the visual side of things. Where it's important, the game is triumphant, in that the frame rate is rock solid, the move animations are seamless and fluid, and the contact and other interaction in the game is perfect. However, the various animated cutscenes, and the overall graphical style of the game are, though each quite different, both relatively basic in the modern era of games. It's entirely likely that games such as Soul Calibur and Tekken will be preferred over Street Fighter simply for their visual appeal, particularly when titles such as Soul Calibur have such incredible attention to detail placed on every character. The audio is a similar story, succeeding where necessary, through the provision of meaty sound effects, including impressive special move noises, but the voicework in general and the music in the game may grate quite quickly. On the musical side, the irritating pop rock menu music sets the scene for a poor soundtrack overall, while the voicework is very repetitive, and quite laughable in places. For example, a unique move belonging to Rufus, the Messiah Kick, leads to Jack Black-style hilarity as the massive man leaps through the air shouting "Messiah Kick!", which should undoubtedly remind many of Kung Fu Panda and other comedy characters. Were the voice more brutish, the move might be forgiven, but there's something undeniably camp about the majority of the voices, which seems inconsistent with the muscle-bound nature of many of the fighters.

Points of criticism aside, there's much to celebrate in Street Fighter, particularly since it is a fighting game that delivers near-infinite depth in gameplay. Much of the peripheral fairy dust is something the game simply doesn't care about, instead placing the focus on balanced fighting and incredible multiplayer potential. If you are able to get through the game's demanding learning curve, then there is a huge amount to enjoy in the game. If you've got a friend with well-matched fighting skill, it's an impressive offline versus game that could keep players occupied for tens of hours. Persevere with the game, and Street Fighter could bring great reward.

Game details

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Review summary


Ocean deep and smoother than a buttered penguin


Crisp, clear and colourful, though not advanced


Awful music, but good supporting effects


An infinite learning curve and a tonne of challenges



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