Going into this I’ve had a hard time deciding what my final opinion of SF 4 is going to be, incidentally each change of decision was affected by my previous win/lost record for the night. Before I begin I would like to make 2 points known about my familiarity with the series.
1. I’m a complete SF noob with the last one I played was SF 2 on the snes over 14 years ago. The second the series started adding alphas and isms was when I threw in the towel.
2. I’m playing on the 360 control pad which mars the experience somewhat. For fighting game aficionados either the fight stick or fight pad is the way to go.
With that said I’ve been bouncing back and forth between what I have to say about SF4 and I think I’m ready to talk. Street Fighter 4 is currently the worse game I’ve played this year so far.
I’m going to guess that ending the review like that won’t make me too popular so I’ll go into detail. Don’t be fooled by the talk from fans or the designers that the game is now casual friendly as it’s not. The game still relies on the same determining factor of skill that is seen in most fighting games. That is the mastery of frames per second, which determines how long an attack takes to hit and that time frame that the person is helpless. It doesn’t matter how good you are, or if you memorize every attack combo there is, without knowing this one fact you will not be able to compete at this game. For example let’s take one player who has a special move that takes from initializing it to the player has control again 3 seconds. Now let’s add in the opponent who has a regular attack that takes 2 seconds from start to player control to complete. If the enemy blocks that attack and uses their attack they will be guarantee a hit every time without fail. Doesn’t matter the skill level between these two players as with that knowledge the second player will win. Now this is just talking about the basic rules of SF4, I haven’t gotten to the actual balance yet.
For fighting game fans SF4 is probably a good game, for someone like me who analyzing the design of a game, SF 4 is a horrible game. The fact that there are character tiers is a glaring sign of imbalance in this game. There are some characters who are complete counters to others making the fight completely one sided. Some characters are just overwhelmingly powerful that I’m surprised they made it through play testing. In light of all this Capcom has made the completely stupid decision to allow players to view what the other person is picking which given the information I’ve presented gives the player who picks last a huge advantage. I was hoping that SF 4 would be the first SF game that I could get into and enjoy, I was wrong.
I wish that fighting games move away from this crazy analysis of frames per second to differentiate skill and focus on actual player skill. SF 4 is full of layers of mechanics such as attack priority which I think both the fans and designers believe that it adds complexity. Instead it just creates a jumbled mess of rules that A. The game never explains to you and B. is once again some secret handshake that all the hardcore players know about. Another thing that needs to be mandated in my opinion for any fighting game with these hidden rules is that they need to be explained either from the manual or in the training mode.
For the fighting game fans who have all that I mentioned down to a science SF 4 is a game they will love, for those of us who were looking for a way into the series don’t even bother, as we are faced with a mountain of hidden rules and shoddy mechanics to get through. SF4 gets one too many repeats of the phase “Sonic Boom”.