Capcom saw your Street Fighter 5 complaints and threw the kitchen sink at its vastly superior successor. Street Fighter 6 is a live service game that will grow and expand over the course of the entire generation, but those anticipating a light, half-hearted effort at launch will find one of the most robust, feature-rich fighters of all time. This is an exceptional package that even takes the time to try and onboard newcomers, and while a few minor issues prevent it from securing an unexpected Perfect, it comes about as close to a Flawless Victory as fans could have possibly hoped for.
First, though, the follow-up would be nothing without a robust gameplay system to wrap its karate belt around – and that’s where Drive Impact enters the arena. This powerful paint smeared special move can be used by all 18 characters in the launch day roster, and will break through blocks and a maximum of four counter-attacks at the expense of using up a slice of the Drive Gauge. This, specifically, can be used to punish opponents caught in the corner, and when it connects, will open up your rival to supreme punishment – assuming you have your chosen character’s combos memorised, of course.
That said, it can easily be countered with a simple throw or by using the Drive Parry, which again draws from the Drive Gauge but actually replenishes some of the all-important resource when timed perfectly. Parries can be followed by Drive Rushes or Drive Reversals, which enable you to effectively turn the tables on your opponents when you successfully anticipate their attacks, adding to the mind games that already make the series so compelling. Backed up into the corner, for example? Well, a Drive Impact’s probably coming – but trying to predict when your opponent will use it is much easier said than done.
The thing that makes this system a success, at least from our perspective, is that it’s consistent across all characters, so you don’t need to relearn the mechanics for each individual fighter. Personally, we much prefer this to the V-Trigger system that bloated in complexity in Street Fighter 5, where each character had slightly different buffs and advantages depending upon which version of the move you selected. Even though reaching the upper-echelons of competitive play will still require a level of dedication most players won't want to invest, wrapping your head around the basics is much easier.
In fact, this effort to effectively onboard newcomers is consistent across the entirety of Street Fighter 6, perhaps crucially with its inclusion of Modern controls. As we’ve already alluded to, this is a deeply technical title, and the mind games are as much a part of the combat as the button combinations. Still, while it may make sense to you that a Shoryuken can be successfully utilised as an anti-air attack, actually inputting the complex control stick directions to execute it isn’t always easy. That’s where this new control scheme comes in.
A little like Super Smash Bros, the Modern controls will assign special moves to a single button and a direction, meaning you’ll still need to understand when to use them, but won’t need to worry quite so much about the complicated execution. The system also streamlines combos, and while your damage output will be debuffed compared to those playing with the more traditional Classic controls as a result, it can level the playing field to an extent. We’ve battled a couple of Modern controller players online and struggled against their consistent execution, although we did find their approach more predictable overall, and this allowed us to get the upper-hand on occasion.
One thing we will say is that actually toggling between Modern and Classic controls can be cumbersome, and the menus are one of the minor things we’d count against the game. In trying to unify three main modes – World Tour, Battle Hub, and Fighting Grounds, all of which we’ll detail imminently – the user interface can feel like a bit of a muddle, and after numerous hours of play we’re still not entirely sure how we change our profile’s Title, despite seemingly unlocking dozens upon dozens of them during the course of our review sessions.
Fortunately, those complicated menus also make way for a lot of content – and single players especially will be particularly thrilled. We can confirm there are traditional Arcade gauntlets for every character, including artwork panels, special stages, leaderboards, and unlockables. Furthermore, in keeping with the onboarding theme, each character now has a playable guide, which not only introduces their moves and how to perform them, but also illustrates the contexts in which you might find them useful. It’s truly fantastic stuff, and it’s shocking that a series like Street Fighter hasn’t had more robust training content like this in the past.
We should spare a moment to discuss the roster, which includes stalwarts like Ryu – bearded and topless here – as well as newcomers like Kimberly, a sprightly graffiti artist with hi-tops and a Walkman. There’s a genuinely good mix of combatants, all bringing something a little different from a gameplay perspective, whether it’s the paddle-wielding Lily, a diminutive travel fanatic with tornado-style special moves, or the demonstrative Marisa, an Italian beefcake who exudes brawn. Pretty much all of the additions feel more distinct and memorable than Street Fighter 5’s, with perhaps the exception of Rashid – who, tellingly, is coming to this title as part of its first season of post-release content.
Admittedly, those newcomers do have a little more opportunity to establish themselves with World Tour, a flabbergastingly well-executed RPG-style story campaign that sees you exploring the mean streets of Metro City in an effort to learn the meaning of strength. It’s here that you’ll cross paths with various characters from the main roster, and you’ll be able to assign different moves and abilities to your custom avatar in order to create your own fighting machine. The questing is mostly rote, but the script never takes itself too seriously, and the Easter eggs – specifically those pertaining to Final Fight – are so plentiful that it’s hard not to fall in love with the sheer stupidity of it all.
We’re not suggesting for a second that you should buy Street Fighter 6 on the strength of this single player mode alone: the longevity of the release will always rest with its versus content. However, as an added extra it goes above and beyond, save for some minor graphical ugliness in a handful of scenes. Crucially, it also continues the theme of onboarding, as there are various side quests and minigames all designed to help you to master the mechanics of the release, whether it’s learning how to effectively execute charge attacks by karate chopping bottle tops or by learning quarter circle motions by making pizza. Bueno!
And once you’re done learning the meaning of strength in single player, you can show off your avatar online in the Battle Hub, which is an interactive lobby filled with playable arcade cabinets. Here you can take on friends or strangers, faff around with DJ decks, or even indulge in a little retro gaming. The amount of things to interact with is unrivalled, and during our pre-release tests across a variety of multiplayer modes, we’re happy to report we’ve had almost zero issue with the rollback netcode, which feels practically imperceptible to local play to us. We should stress, however, that we’ve been playing on very lightly populated servers.
The fact that we’re worrying we haven’t even mentioned Extreme Battles – madcap, party-focused modes with unorthodox rules and stage gimmicks, like raging bulls – this deep into our review is testament to just how much content is stuffed into this release. It’s an extraordinary package, and one that’s only poised to expand with consistent updates and support from Capcom over time. If you’d have told us the starting point for Street Fighter 6 would be this feature-rich when its predecessor released, we simply wouldn’t have believed you.
Street Fighter 6 is an absolute humdinger of a sequel. Capcom has created a fighting system that has all of the tactical depth professional players expect but managed to make it fairly easy for casuals to wrap their heads around. Not only that, it’s introduced smart ways to onboard newcomers, including a simplified control scheme and a great suite of tutorials, which even extend to the very enjoyable RPG-inspired single player story mode. A strong roster of starting characters, near-flawless rollback netcode, and a seemingly never-ending selection of content – including interactive online lobbies with playable retro games – round out another unbelievably impressive effort from the seemingly unstoppable Japanese publisher.