While the phrase is bandied around a lot, the consensus among many gamers was that Street Fighter V was unfinished in its initial release state. The first thing players saw upon booting the game on release was a main menu with half the options grayed out with a little note saying something along the lines of "Will be available June." Now, since July 1st, these gated off game modes and content that were promised after launch have been unlocked. The features include a main story mode, challenge trials, and a shop. Not only that, but a few of the technical issues apparent in the launch also been addressed over the last few months. As the complaints surrounding the title from a lot of reviewers came from the sheer lack of single player content and technical issues, I think revisiting and reevaluating Street Fighter V in its more complete package will be a worthwhile endeavor to see if perhaps I can more widely recommend this title in its current state.
The Content Updates
The lack of single player content was truly a deal breaker for a lot of the more casual Street Fighter fans, the included "character stories" were pitiful little visual novel type deals for every character that consisted of hastily cobbled together art and stories that all clocked in around 15 minutes per character with a handful of underwhelming 1 round fights scattered throughout. While this was better than nothing, it was evidently a last minute addition with little to no thought or care put into it. Some may argue that a story like this is not crucial in a fighting game; however, with a cast as infamous as that of Street Fighter, one would expect better care to be applied to writing a new chapter for such a beloved cast of characters.
The full cinematic story mode was added roughly a week ago and aims to give a substantial story experience that has remained conspicuously absent in SFV. The story, titled ‘"A Shadow Falls" is a dumb, cheesy, nonsensical but rather entertaining little romp, clocking in at around 2-3 hours, which is a respectable length for a fighting game. The thing that stands out most is the quality put into the Story mode exclusive AI, with future characters such as Juri and Urien being fully playable in sections of the story. Not only this, but the story only characters, specifically the "Dolls" all have specific movesets and combos that are not seen anywhere else in the game. While the story presented is all over the place, it hits all the notes it needs to and does appear to have genuine effort put into it.
Another piece of single player content added since release was the character trials/challenges. These trials are rather fun little additions, although feel somewhat lacking. Trial modes should be a staple of a fighter on release. They exist to teach basic execution and combos per character; perhaps the better trial modes include lessons on where best to use a certain attack or combo and give a basic outline of the character's gameplan. Street Fighter V gives a relatively mediocre offering with ten basic combo trials. The inclusion of trial demonstrations is a nice touch, although extra information, such as what frames one should execute the move on as seen in better examples of trial demonstrations like VF4 EVO, are not present.
The thing that boggles my mind about these character trials is how unoptimized they are. Someone aiming to do the trials hoping to get a good grasp on the character’s bread and butter combos will have to put in an extra bit of training on their own part to find the properly optimized combos that most other experienced players are using. For all of Capcom’s talk on release of making a game that does not alienate new players, the lack of crucial information and teaching tools required to teach new players fundamentals means exactly the opposite is sadly the case. In comparison, the recently released Guilty Gear XRD Revelator’s fantastic tutorial, shows that Street Fighter V’s effort is nothing other than mediocre.
Four new characters have been added to the cast since release: Alex, Guile, Ibuki, and Balrog. I personally did not have an issue with the initial roster of 16 characters, as every character was wonderfully diverse and unique enough to remain interesting. These DLC characters, however, have been a step beyond. In my opinion, every single character added to the game so far is absolutely stellar. While they are returning characters from previous Street Fighter titles, they all feel some varying degree of new and unique. Even those characters seemingly without any huge changes on the surface, such as Guile, still seem incredibly fresh in their own ways. Even those characters that have had a lot of options removed, such as Ibuki, do not feel handicapped but rather an interesting take on an established character.
With the rough schedule of one new character a month, these character releases have been the main driving force in keeping otherwise disillusioned Street Fighter fans coming back and playing every month. Each character costs 100,000 fight money or £3.19. I can understand why some more casual fans will not consider this a worthwhile investment, but for the obvious hard work put into every character so far, I consider this a reasonable price point. The ability to buy characters with in-game earned currency is a nice touch. However, unless you are willing to sink hours into online ranked matches daily, you will not be able to afford the DLC characters using only in-game currency. Most players therefore will be either purchasing the £25 season pass alongside the base game in order to access the four released DLC characters and the 2 upcoming characters Urien and Juri.
Now with the substantial content having been covered, let’s turn to the more incidental offerings. With both the story mode and challenges having been unavailable at the time of release, so was the in-game shop, which allowed the purchase of titles, outfits, outfit colors and stages as well as the characters themselves. The alternate costumes and colors are rather nice; however, the price of these extras certainly is not. Furthermore the season pass ONLY includes the characters and one alternate costume for each. Different outfit colors, stages, and other alternate outfits have to be purchased with the earned in-game currency, and there are even real money purchase only outfits. As if this wasn’t bad enough, around 10/13 of the different alternate colors for each character outfit have to be unlocked by completing survival mode on various difficulties. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea in theory, the survival mode is just straight not fun.
For those of you who don’t know, survival mode requires you to complete 20-50 back to back fights with the AI with no automatic health or meter refill between them, rather you purchase 1 perk that could be a damage buff, health refill, defense boost etc between fights. The AI becomes increasingly more challenging the later the matches and the higher the survival mode difficulty. At higher levels, however, the AI is just too hard. In a game that is largely about predictions and reading opponents, stacking a human against a calculated AI that reads inputs and reacts to them is inherently unfair. The hardest difficulty is a complete joke: people who complete the extreme difficulty most likely exploited the AI or utilized the online matchmaking as a get out of jail free card if they were about to die in survival in order to achieve this. Even top level players, such as Razer’s Infiltration, lament how arduous a task it is to go through survival mode again and again to unlock different measly colors for different outfits. At this point I would just recommend modding whatever colors you want into the game if you play on PC.
The Zenny currency promised early on in the game's life was completely cut due to potential technical issues. Zenny was supposed to be an in game currency purchasable with real money. However, after a few delays due to technical issues and potential safety concerns, the currency was disbanded in favor of direct transfers through the PlayStation store and Steam.
Street Fighter V has had monthly updates ever since release. While this is better than nothing, the slow trickle of fixes for core issues with the game leaves something to be desired.
Let’s start off with the most egregious oversites that Capcom has yet to fix. The PC version of the game, as of right now, does not in any way officially support PlayStation 3 or 4 controllers. As the two systems that this game was released on were PS4 and PC, most players I know invested in a PS4 stick hoping to be able to play both versions of the game. Now, basically every single PC SFV player I know is having to use controller emulators in order to play Street Fighter V. As I said in my full review, this is absolutely unacceptable. While this is not a deal breaker as 3rd party software exists to fix the issue, it is frankly laughable that Capcom has yet to implement proper DirectInput support, instead leaving it to the stick manufacturers and modders to make something so basic as a controller work with their game.
Another feature yet to be properly implemented is the player stat screen that is meant to provide a breakdown of player behaviors and general gameplan, along with their win to loss ratio, success in certain matchups, etc. These screens remains completely bare four months after release. These analytics were initially touted as a fantastic means of gaining a first impressions of a player before actually fighting.
As was the case at release, the gameplay is still pretty damn good. Myself and a lot other die hard Street Fighter players have their own personal niggles with the games mechanics,. but I still consider the game at its core to be very decent. However, it came into public knowledge recently that Street Fighter V has roughly eight frames of input delay. While this might not seem like much, it is double what previous Street Fighter titles had, with Street Fighter 4 and 3rd Strike boasting roughly 3.5-4 frames of delay between button presses and the action happening on screen. This may seem inconsequential, but it has been given as a reason for why a lot of more reactionary high-level players are finding adapting from Street Fighter IV to V a difficult one.
On a more positive note, a few of the technical issues that plagued the early release of the game have since been mitigated or fixed. A lot of the issues surrounding inconsistent or slow matchmaking, the plethora of rage quitters, and overall online match qualities have been addressed somewhat. However, random error messages in battle lounges and random signing out is still an issue. The known bugs, such as Alt tabbing changing the game host and potentially creating a worse connection for both players, are still apparent.
Street Fighter V has made a few steps towards fixing some of the critiques hurled at the game on release. However, these small fixes and content updates are just too little too late. Capcom released a statement saying that their main goal with SFV over the next few months was "completeness." Three months after release. Whereas I’m sure it wasn’t the development team’s decision to release the game in the state it was in—rather it was most likely pushed by Capcom in order to coincide with the 2016 Capcom Pro Tour—the game should have had at least another six months of development before release. While the game right now is fun at its core, it feels samey and somewhat of a let-down. A lot of players I know have just said they have no urge to play the game that much anymore. Street Fighter V should be the poster child, the heart and soul of modern fighting games; it may still be tremendously popular for such a niche genre, the real lack of content, technical frustrations, and the arguably less technical gameplay than in titles such as SF4 and 3rd Strike has resulted in hardcore players just losing interest in playing the title, only keeping a vague interest in the game due to the on-going Capcom pro tour.
Street Fighter V was never going to be perfect on launch, comparing the first edition of every single Street Fighter to the last is absolutely night and day—New generation to 3rd Strike, Alpha to Alpha 3, SF4 to Ultra etc. I have no doubt that the issues will be fixed along the life time of the game and will become a stellar title. As I stated before in my review, everyone who I would recommend the game to already has it. Unless you really wanted to experience the story first hand and will have fun going through easy/medium survival as a more casual player and are willing to wait for an undisclosed period of time for the game to include basic functionality, I would still hold off. Maybe pick it up on a sale at 60% off; you’ll need the savings in order to buy some of the most interesting characters.