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Street Fighter 6 review – the past and future of fighting games

Street Fighter 6 review – the past and future of fighting games
Street Fighter 6 – the new challengers are an impressive bunch (pic: Capcom)

The most beloved fighting game series in history returns, as Capcom tries to ensure that Street Fighter 6 is the ultimate challenger.

Learning from past mistakes is not something that comes naturally to most video games companies. Given the choice, most will bludgeon ahead, repeating the same mistakes and trying to prove the adage about the definition of insanity. Although Street Fighter 5 eventually became a great game it never fully overcame its weak launch, with its lack of single-player content, general sparsity of modes and options, and the fact that it was a PlayStation console exclusive. None of these are issues for Street Fighter 6.

Street Fighter 5 was also criticised for its poor online performance, but while Street Fighter 6 has seemed fine during the limited tests we’ve been a part of pre-launch, that’s something nobody will be able to judge for a few week’s yet. There were also complaints, somewhat less fairly, about too few characters, and in that respect Street Fighter 6 is only a small improvement, with a starting line-up of 18 instead of 16.

With four DLC characters already announced, Street Fighter 6 will inevitably be a very different game by the end of this generation, but there are two key questions right now: are the fundamentals solid and is it worth playing at launch? In both cases the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

The single-player modes of Street Fighter 6

Street Fighter 6 is split into three key sections: Fighting Ground, Battle Hub, and World Tour. As vague as the names may sound their definitions are very clear, with Fighting Ground offering the base Street Fighter experience via Arcade mode, local and online versus battles, and training mode – as well as the new Extreme Battle, which offers a range of gimmicky rules and obstacles to spice things up.

Battle Hub is a persistent online experience, presented like a virtual arcade (including a rotating set of various Capcom classics), in which you’re encouraged to create and customise your own avatar and take part in ranked, casual, and Extreme Battle matches. In short, it’s the live service part of the game, which is good in a way as you can just stick to online mode in the Fighting Ground if you want nothing to do with all that.

Although one in-game currency, Drive Tickets, can only be earnt another can be bought with real money to buy cosmetic extras. On top of the character DLC there’s also a battle pass planned, including both a free set of rewards and ones you have to pay extra for. In other words, every grubby monetisation trick in the book, but you can at least say that Capcom is being up front about it and has promised that everything you buy, apart from the new characters, is purely cosmetic.

Finally, World Tour is the main single-player story mode. Unlike the disappointing A Shadow Falls DLC for Street Fighter 5 this is almost a separate game unto itself, with the ability to create your own custom avatar (the same one from the Battle Hub) and tour around a variety of global locations, getting into fights and completing mini-games that range from the mundane to the enjoyably absurd. It takes a lot of obvious influence from Yakuza and we particularly liked how you have to use established special moves to get around, by leaping across gaps and over obstacles.

The idea is that you can become the student of any of the 18 roster fighters, learning their special moves and creating a fighter that incorporates the abilities of many different characters. World Tour is very rough around the edges, but the amount of effort that’s gone into it is obvious and, if nothing else, as silly as some mini-games seem they are often teaching you important fighting techniques without you realising it, Mr Miyagi style.

It’s not entirely successful though, as the one obvious flaw is that for a story mode the plot is entirely uninteresting and completely predictable. Capcom has also always had trouble characterising its fighters outside of the action itself and they all seem very flat and one-dimensional here – which isn’t helped by the fact that your custom character never speaks or has any personality of their own.

Street Fighter 6 – fighting with a custom character is a slightly flawed idea (pic: Capcom)

Street Fighter 6 character roster

In terms of the roster, there’s a solid mix of the oldest faces from the franchise and a number of new ones. You get the entire eight character line-up from the original version of Street Fighter 2, including mainstays like Ryu and Chun-Li, plus three additional fan favourites in Cammy, Dee Jay, and Juri.

Because technically he debuted in Street Fighter 5, as a bridge between the two games, new character Luke is counted as a returning fighter, even though he is, inexplicably, the face of the game. His bland visual design and obnoxious character may be off-putting but he is a very useful all-rounder and perfect for those new to the franchise, with simple to perform close and ranged attacks and a purposefully gimmick-free approach.

The other six newcomers are Jamie, Kimberly, Lily, Manon, Marisa, and JP – all of whom are interesting. Kimberly, the surprisingly chirpy ninja, is an early favourite, with her handy smoke bomb and teleportation attacks, and we also like Jaime’s take on the drunken master trope, as the more booze he downs the more powerful he gets (while becoming increasing dishevelled, visually).

Lily is a new member of T. Hawk’s Native American tribe and while she borrows several of his moves she’s also armed with two large clubs that can hit from a surprising distance. Manon is a French ballet dancer/judo master that also has a deceptively long range, Marisa is a giant-sized Italian fighter who uses boxing and wrestling moves, and JP is the new lead bad guy who knows Bartitsu – the martial art Sherlock Holmes was supposed to be adept in and which revolves around using a cane.

If you’re already worrying about how easy it’s going to be to pull off any of these moves the game has three separate control systems: classic, modern, and dynamic. Classic works the same as Street Fighter 2 always has, while the modern controls allow you to pull off special moves with much simpler button combinations that are reminiscent of Super Smash Bros.; dynamic simplifies things further, so you need just a single button press.

Obviously, you won’t be taking on any tournament champions with the latter but it’s a very good way to learn the basics and together with the excellent in-depth tutorials sees the game making a real effort to ensure it’s accessible for everyone.

Once you do start delving into the game’s systems it becomes clear that it’s not sacrificed anything in terms of depth, with the new Drive Gauge powering five different concepts that bring back several older Street Fighter mainstays, such as focus attacks and EX moves. Although what’s most interesting about it is that the gauge is full when you start a match, so it’s not just an advance technique that only experts will be able to make use of.

Drive Parry is especially useful, as is Drive Reversal – which is great for when you’re already blocking and under pressure. Meanwhile, Drive Impact is the extra powerful attack, activated by the two heavy attack buttons, that creates the swash of colour you see in many of the trailers.

Street Fighter 6 – Lily takes on Blanka (pic: Capcom)

The launch verdict for Street Fighter 6

Visually the game is impressive, not necessarily on a technical level but because it finds an effective balance between realism and the game’s more cartoonish roots. Characters’ features aren’t quite as exaggerated as Street Fighter 5 and yet things like Drive Impact and the backdrops – and the World Tour areas – maintain the goofy charm of classic Capcom arcade games.

Street Fighter 6 is clearly trying to have its cake and eat it, by being accessible to newcomers and incorporating a sizeable single-player mode, while also retaining its hardcore fighting game credentials. It’s a dangerous balancing act, that risks upsetting both sides of the equation, and yet Capcom has pulled it off very well.

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World Tour will probably be nit-picked to death but the fighting system itself is unquestionably superb. Like any multiplayer game, final judgement will not come until months from now but at launch this is an impressively fully-featured offering, that ticks every box – not out of a sense of corporate banality but because it genuinely feels like Capcom is trying to do the best by the series and its fans.

All fighting game sequels suffer from the intractable problem that the concept hasn’t had any genre-changing new ideas since, well… Street Fighter 2. That’s still true for this latest sequel, but it really does feel like the best entry since then and a brave new future for fighting games in general.

Street Fighter 6 review summary In Short: A far better launch experience than its predecessor, with an excellent fighting system and a wide range of options and features that transcend the usual genre traditions.
Pros: The combat is first rate, with a wide range of different options for every level of experience. Lots of worthwhile, and even innovative, single-player content. Top notch lobby and tutorial systems. The Drive System is great.
Cons: World Tour’s story and character work is pretty limited and the mode as a whole has some rough edges. Battle Hub’s live service elements can appear obnoxious.
Score: 9/10

Formats: PlayStation 5 (reviewed), PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, and PC Price: £54.99 Publisher: Capcom Developer: Capcom Release Date: 2nd June 2023 Age Rating: 12

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MORE : Free Street Fighter 6 demo out now on PS4 and PS5 as Xbox left out again

MORE : Capcom announces new Street Fighter movie as Resident Evil reboot rumoured

MORE : Street Fighter 6 full roster revealed with addition of Cammy and Zangief

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