Note: As servers aren't currently on we can't yet test online play. As such, we'll come back with a score post-activation.
I don't care about frame count. I don't care about attack distances. I don't care that I'll never enter a Street Fighter tournament and have a chance of winning. What I do care about, is that Capcom's beat-'em-up is still the very best money can buy.
While there is, unfortunately, an elitist viewpoint when it comes to games of this ilk, Street Fighter's biggest selling point is how layered it is. Whether you're a seasoned veteran or disgusting beginner, there's something here for everyone. That's no easy task to pull off.
This has always been true for the series, however, and Street Fighter 5 does it more effortlessly than, potentially, ever. It doesn't hurt that it is built on the same foundations we all know and love - a dragon punch, for example, is still a dragon punch - but everything else has been designed with newcomers in mind. The damn thing even tells you how to move when you turn it on. That may make you roll your eyes, but it's indicative of how Capcom sees this instalment.
It's a wonderful approach, too, because there simply isn't a better fighting game than Street Fighter 5. Even sitting down and mashing the buttons somehow manages to make you feel an odd sense of satisfaction, and anyone who has the patience to actually learn the deeper mechanics is in for a treat.
Education is king when it comes to Street Fighter - picking a fighter and heading for a practice section is a wonderful challenge. You soon start to learn their strengths and weaknesses and before long can decide whether it's a character that's going to work for you. What sounds like a horrible slog is actually pure joy, and when you stumble across someone that just clicks you may let out a tiny noise of ecstasy. You can also start being a right dick and telling people: 'Well I only play Dhalsim because, you know, I'm a real Street Fighter player...'. You become *that* guy.
So while 4's influence is still there, important changes have been made that give 5 its own identity, the most apparent of which is the addition of the V-Trigger. Replacing 'Focus Attacks' from before, the V-Trigger opens up a hell of a lot more ways to not only defeat an opponent, but to highlight a character's personal identity as well.
Let's take Ryu as a starting point. Once his V-Gauge is filled, a quick press of HP + HK will initiate his V-Trigger. In this state, he not only does more damage, but also gains access to handy tools such as guard break. If you're more of an M.Bison guy, however, his power ups are centered around improved movement and new combos. It not only keeps every fight interesting - because the tide can be turned at any moment - but also allows each fighter to stand out. Even Ryu and Ken feel more different than ever. Think of that. Your tiny brain can't handle it...
It works, though, and it works well, allowing 5 to stamp itself on the franchise with the gusto you'd expect from a new numbered entry. Even the rather surreal story mode is interesting.
With a proper version coming as a free update in March (and more on that in a sec), the base game still offers tiny narratives that introduce you to the characters. These are very short - each offers around five or six brawls - but do feel unique... even if the dialogue and stories they tell are nuts. I think Ken's was something to do with going to a party just to beat up Ryu, but I can't be sure. They're fun, though, and hopefully highlight what Capcom plans to do with the more fully-fledged versions next month.
This, mind, is the real problem with Street Fighter 5. While the core of the experience is great, the trinkets around it do feel very bare-bones, mostly because the vast majority is coming via DLC. That's not the end of the world, especially as the simple nature of playing VS mode with a friend never gets old, but I would assume quite a few people will raise a single eyebrow thinking about the bulk of content coming down the line, even if it can be earned in-game using 5's built-in currency. Complicated and fiddly doesn't even begin to describe it.
But that's the world we live in, so either join the party or moan about it on social media. The good news is that, as ever, Street Fighter 5 is the leader of the pack, even all these years later. If the servers can offer a solid online playground, too, then we should all be very happy.
Although you won't be. Because Cammy's air attack isn't right. Or something. Gees...
Version Tested: PS4