Street Fighter 5 review

Street Fighter 5 wants you to have fun. It is fully aware of just how much giddy, gratifying, intelligent, enriching enjoyment it contains, and its primary instinct is to deliver that to you, as quickly and directly as possible, at whatever level you want to play.

Whichever end of the fighting game skill spectrum you currently stand on, do not take that to mean that Street Fighter 5 has been dumbed down. Hardcore, high-level players will find a vast amount of depth, nuance, and long-term malleability in its bold, immediate systems. And the less expert have a very long and exhilarating road of growth, improvement, learning and discovery ahead of them. The difference this time is that the clarity of Street Fighter 5’s systems and presentation has been tuned to near perfection.

Before a single punch has even been thrown, Street Fighter 5’s disdain for overly complex barriers is obvious. Gone is Street Fighter 4’s Focus Attack system, most crucially. The mechanic was intended as a get-out-of-jail free card in hairy situations, allowing hits to be safely absorbed and counter-attacked, but its secondary use as the primary means of setting up SF4’s most powerful, showboating combos ultimately gated away the fun of the higher-end game from all but the most dedicated and dexterous. In its place – literally, activated by the same, simple two-button press – is the V-Skill. Or rather, the many V-Skills. Because instead of bottlenecking creative play via a very specific route, a la its predecessor, the V system initiates the open, utterly freeform, ‘anything can happen’ play that Street Fighter 5 revels in.

Tap both medium attack buttons together, and your character will instantly perform a special move or attack unique to them. No stick or pad waggling required. And I do mean unique. These things are simple, but immensely powerful game-changers. Zangief, for example, can absorb damage in a similar fashion to the old Focus, but he can also do so while advancing, radically reversing the glacial grappler’s old problem with getting into attack range. Chun-Li will launch into the air at odd angles, throwing off opponents used to her normal jumping angle. M. Bison can grab fireballs out of the air and hurl them straight back. Ryu gains the ability to safely parry (and retaliate against) as many incoming hits as you can nail the timing for.

Free market

Holding out for Super Hyper Ultra Street Fighter 5: Turbo Wonder Edition? Don’t. There will be no traditional expansions this time. Instead, Street Fighter 5’s additional characters will be drip-fed into the roster as incremental updates. And in theory, you won’t have to pay for any of them. In-game currency — known as Fight Money — will cover the cost, if you’ve earned enough. But of course, real cash will also suffice if you don’t want to wait.