In its fourth iteration, developers Capcom have dumped new gimmicks in order to create a focused, balanced and competitive experience based on the elements that have made the game a worldwide success.
Street Fighter IV is so well balanced, so well thought-out and so downright addictive it's hard to tell yourself to stop playing and actually get some work done. At times you're forced to think the game must have been in development for 10 years or more. And then of course you realise it has. It's essentially Street Fighter II with a lick of paint and rebalanced. The moves remain unchanged. A new focus attack mixes things up on the fighting part, allowing you to charge attacks and unleash them, breaking your opponent's guard and potentially starting a combo. A revenge meter also allows for the player most taking a beating to dish out a special move and get right back into the fight. They are simple tweaks that greatly improve the dynamic of the gameplay.
Street Fighter has personality in abundance. From the opening theme tune, to the beautifully animated player models and cheesey voice acting. It's cute and colourful with a hint of Hollywood hardness. All the classic faces are on the roster with a few new ones to keep things fresh. Each arcade run is accompanied with anime segments helping to tell a simple story. All the characters have unique taunts and phrases that they can spout in the heat of battle and the familiar captions return at the end of each fight, this time tuned to the type of fight and character faced. No matter how tough things are getting against either the AI opponents or fellow players online, you can't help but smile. Capcom absolutely nailed the look and detail you'd expect in a modern Street Fighter game.
One of the neatest things about Street Fighter IV is the ability to play the Arcade Mode against the computer controlled AI and allow challenges from opponents online as you play. Essentially this makes the experience just like in the arcade, with you solely taking on the computer while random opponents waltz in and drop a quarter. The online play is also, on the whole, entirely lag free and extremely competitive. You earn medals from each match (by meeting certain criteria) and also unlock new titles and icons, which can be placed next to your PSN ID in order to show off your personality to other competitors.
The arcade, VS (two players on a single console) and online modes would have been enough to earn Street Fighter IV our top rating alone but there are also a variety of survival, challenge and trial modes to complete, aswell as comprehensive score boards and stat tracking. Sadly, there are not a range of different costumes (these are being included as post release DLC) nor nearly enough stages but we hope Capcom use this game as a platform for regular updates. We'll be there to buy everything they throw at us.
Fighting games are well known for having ridiculously hard bosses. Street Fighter IV's boss, Seth, is a step too far though. At times, it feels like you can't move without getting attacked somehow. We understand the final boss is meant to be hard but, Seth is way more frustrating than difficult. We're not particularly skilled Street Fighter players, but even when playing with our favourite character we can only beat him on 30 second rounds.
Street Fighter IV is a difficult, difficult game just like its older siblings. That's fine. It's just a shame Capcom didn't use the latest iteration to include some form of indepth training mode. It's kind of difficult for new players to understand why they are getting beat by more experienced players and a tutorial could have helped with that.
Aside from the excellent theme song by Exile, the music actually within the game is a little disappointing. There are no memorable tracks like in Street Fighter II and what music there is serves little purpose but to flesh out the soundscape behind the commentator and speech samples.
While there are a good few stages in Street Fighter IV, they all start to appear a little too often after a few hours with the game. We've no doubt this is an area Capcom will look to flesh out via DLC but we wished there could have been a few more on the disc.
For what Street Fighter IV lacks in accessibility it more than makes up for in polish, charm and sheer playability.