I hate that feeling. You know the one you get when you wait for what feels like an eternity for a game to come out. You pour hours into watching videos and reading articles that get you hyped up until your excitement reaches boiling point. You tick off the days, excruciatingly waiting for that release date. And then when the day finally comes, you’re met with disappointment. You face denial, urging yourself to give it another hour, waiting for something to click. But nothing ever clicks. It happened to me playing Fallout 4. It took me almost 80 hours to realise Fallout 4 was not the game I wanted it to be. And it’s kind of happening to me right now with Street Fighter V. It hasn’t clicked…yet.
Firstly, let’s get one thing out of the way. Street Fighter V is a good game. In some ways, I could argue with anyone why, at its core at least, SFV is one of the best fighting games on the market right now. It’s an addictive, fun, and more accessible Street Fighter game than any of the series that’s come before it. With easier mechanics and leniency with button inputs, the barrier for entry is certainly lower than its predecessor. It also helps that SFV is absolutely gorgeous. But what Capcom gets right with the gameplay and looks, it gets totally wrong by releasing a shell of what the full game should be; a game that claims to be newcomer-friendly, but makes no attempt to retain their interest.
We’ve been promised a full story mode, with over an hour of cinematic cut scenes to help new players fall in love with the lore and characters of Street Fighter V; a single-player experience that will rival the excellent story mode found in Mortal Kombat X, but that’s not coming until June. Instead of a proper story mode, what we have instead is a place-holder that you would hardly even call an Arcade mode. There are costumes that can be unlocked too, but we can’t even use them yet because the in-game shop won’t be available for a month, and for some bizarre reason, you need an in-game shop connected to a network to use costumes offline. We can unlock colours, but that involves grinding out the pretty dull survival mode. There’s a half-arsed tutorial, but no fleshed out trial mode at release to teach you each individual character’s moves and combos. You’re just thrown in the deep end from the get go. For a game that’s supposedly newcomer-friendly, it’s almost shocking how little content there is tailored for them.
But you know what; SFV is a really good fighting game. It’s just clear where Capcom have placed their priorities. They’ve released the game earlier than they should have to get it ready for the competitive scene. Capcom Cup isn’t far away, and the pro players need time with the game. And as a hardcore fighting game fan and FGC follower myself, it’s a move I understand. To be honest, even the network and connectivity issues the game is suffering from aren’t that much of a problem for me because I’ll always have my FGC buddies to challenge offline. It’s the only thing we really care about.
But what about my non FGC friends who I promised would love Street Fighter V? Or the younger generations enticed by the fanfare, spending their £45 only to find there’s hardly any content here? I know, I know, fighting games are all about competitive play – blah blah. Trust me, I understand; I‘ve watched every Evo tournament since 2012. I watch pretty much every major there is in the run up to Capcom Cup. I’ve been playing SF4 since vanilla, and I am a former top 10 Xbox Live ranked player and a top 5 ranked player on Steam. My point is that Capcom have done so much to market this game as a chance for new players to get into Street Fighter and make the FGC bigger and better than it’s ever been, and they’ve introduced a bunch of gameplay changes to make it easier than ever to learn the game. Yet they seem to have done very little to justify anyone other than hardcore fans to buy SFV.
Still, there are positives. Fighting games evolve over time, and with patches and fixes, the network issues will get better. Balance changes will be made to keep the game fun and competitive, and as more and more content gets added over time, we’ll have a much more attractive package for newcomers. But by that point, the divide in skill level between those players and the ones like me who have been playing SFV since the beta will be so massive, they’ll play one, maybe two matches online, and then never want to play SFV ever again. It’s a catch 22 for Capcom.
Ultimately, I think this game will click for me. And once Capcom iron out the issues and start rolling out the content, I think it’s going to click for the rest of the FGC too. I’m just wondering whether all of the new players Capcom seemed so keen to attract in the first place will allow enough time to let it click for them.