Street Fighter 6 PS5 PlayStation 5 Hands On Preview 1
Image: Push Square

We can all admit it: Street Fighter 5 was a huge disappointment. As a one-on-one fighting game, the release was exceptional, but Capcom completely forgot about the audience beyond pro players – and the sequel suffered as a result. While the Japanese publisher would go on to make respectable improvements to the release over time, the damage was done on day one, and it’s a fear the firm looks unlikely to repeat.

After spending an entire afternoon with Street Fighter 6 last month, we’ve never been surer of a title delivering a total knockout than this one. The sixth entry in the long-running series is absolutely impeccable: from its chunky, obsessively animated character models through to its painterly backdrops and penchant for hip-hop, the outing oozes class. We’re not even going to complain about the fact that Capcom released a playable demo while keeping our hands on preview embargoed until today. #NotBitter

We wanted to come at our demo from a purely single player perspective, and so we politely declined the option to play multiplayer with Capcom’s friendly PR team. Here’s the bottom line: Street Fighter 6 will be a competitive game first and foremost, and the vast majority of players will get the bulk of their play time out of competing locally and online. That’s fine, but Street Fighter 5 was such a failure from a solo perspective that we wanted to see how its successor truly matches up.

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And there’s really no contest: over the course of about five hours we had a blast exploring the suite of traditional modes contained in the neatly named Fighting Grounds, before beginning our adventure in the new single player mode World Tour. While this wasn’t a finished build, everything felt robust, fast, and easy to access – this is an alarmingly polished package, with care and attention invested into every facet, including the menus.

So first and foremost: shock horror, there’s an Arcade mode. You can play through the ladder in either five or 12 battle permutations, and while we weren’t allowed to see the endings, we can confirm each playthrough starts with some unique artwork and voice over, and is broken up with minigames – including one where you fight a truck. “Oh my car!” No, more like, “Oh my friggin’ truck!” (And yes, Capcom, you should add in that VO!)

One thing that impressed us a lot are the Character Guides. These, accessible under the training section, teach you the intricacies of a specific character, and give context to their moves. The idea here is not just to teach you specific combos or abilities, but why you might want to use them and when. For the pro players among you, this is all probably all self-explanatory, but for the mere mortals among the rest of us, it’s useful information built into the game.

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You can take control at any point by pushing the touchpad to practice, while the tutorial text has a sassy style to it that adds flavour. As such, none of this feels dry, and it’s all part of a concerted effort from Capcom to actually teach you how to play the game. Pair this with the inclusion of Modern Controls – which we personally don’t like but should at least help onboard newcomers – and we appreciate the efforts.

We should also mention at this point – although it feels like a given – that the combat is immense. We spent a lot of time playing as Lily and Cammy, two characters not in recent betas, and we had an absolute blast familiarising ourselves with their special moves and finishers. An afternoon is simply not enough to dig into the nuance of Street Fighter 6’s systems, but needless to say we’re highly optimistic about the competitive scene for this release.

But that competitive scene, as we’ve already alluded, will only truly keep a small sub-section of the game’s audience captive – and that’s why we’re similarly enthusiastic about World Tour mode. This scrappy, frankly wacky single player mode sees you creating a character and completing quests alongside other recognisable Street Fighter heroes in an oddball RPG-like adventure where you can equip different clothing sets for statistical boosts and much more.

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The writing is laugh out loud funny, as gang members nonchalantly declare how they obscure their faces with cardboard boxes to prove they’re “serious about the thug life”, and the whole thing strikes a camp tone. You can, for example, partake in minigames where you need to input combos to make pizzas – it’s all as ridiculous as it sounds. And as you run around town, you can strike pretty much any of the civilians square in the jaw to start traditional battles.

We don’t expect this mode to be the package’s main selling point, but it’ll undoubtedly add some meat on the release’s bones – and after how light Street Fighter 5 was overall, that’s not a bad thing. There are even some party modes here known as Extreme Battles where you have to deal with random encounters like rampaging bulls, and while we don’t expect these options to be enabled during the Capcom Pro Tour any time soon, it’s fun to see such silly, throwaway options incorporated.

With a live service model promising new content beyond launch, Street Fighter 6 is already threatening to be the biggest and best entry in the series yet. We’re incredibly impressed by what we’ve played so far, and we’re relieved to report that Capcom isn’t just pandering to the pro players this time – it’s a game even casual fighting game fans should be able to enjoy. While we appreciate the release’s longevity will stem from esports, the avalanche of single player content should give everyone a reason to get involved.

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Were you one of those disappointed by Street Fighter 5 at launch? Will you be picking up Street Fighter 6 when it picks a fight with PS5 and PS4 later this summer? Throw a fireball into the comments section below.