The first one was good, the second was better, the third was terrible and there never should have been a fourth. Yes, you heard me right...there never should have been a Street Fighter 4.
I'm looking at scores for this game on other review sites and can't believe how much kool-aid they must have been drinking to give this game a 9; nevermind a 9 point anything. I simply don't care how many unlockables there are or how cool one of the mundane soundtracks is. The core of the game is highly flawed.
Let's begin the bashing shall we? One of the new features of SF:4 is supposedly the 3D backgrounds you fight in. To its credit, they do appear to have more depth to them giving you a bit of that 3D feel. What hasn't changed in the backgrounds, despite the work that must have gone towards creating such lavish 3D effects, is the people in them. It seems they were simply plucked out of Street Fighter II, given some new clothes, brought their friends and plugged right in. It never ceases to amaze me how two steroid induced monsters (we'll get into that later) fight in broad daylight, all the while a girl is jumping rope and never turns around to see what the chaos is all about. That is, until the fight is over and there is a victor. Couldn't they have come up with something more creative than anime rejects as background people fodder?
There must have been something entirely wrong with the way the Street Fighter characters looked proportional in previous games. You know, Ken and Ryu's physique looked mostly normal. Along with Guile, Bison, hell...even green-freak Blanka. They all must have followed in the footsteps of Barry Bonds or Sylvester Stallone to the nth power. Every single character has a ridiculous muscle bound look to them. Each one of them including, the once attractive Chun-Li, now looks like they're stuck in Incredible Hulk mode, minus the green - except for Blanka, poor guy.
The overgrowth of muscles must have had an effect on how limber the characters are. Let me focus on Chun-Li for a second. Chun-Li was one of my favorite people to play with in the earlier versions of Street Figther, especially SF:2. She was able to jump off walls, tip toe on your head, and do her spinning star kick damned near from one end of the screen to the next. Yes, she was an agile little minx. With her new found bulkiness she's seemed to have lost a good portion of that ability. Her spinning star kick lasts perhaps ten to fifteen feet before she's out of breath and once again upright.
What has changed for the better is the balance of damage done while fighting. Remember Sagat's good ‘ol "Tiger!" uppercut which would take damn-near a quarter of your energy when you happened to catch one of them in the jaw? Not anymore! Even in Zangief style: pick you up, slap you on your head, spin around thirty times and eventually use the top of your head like a jackhammer - the damage taken off is comparable to that of a heavy punch/kick. Hey, they got something right in this version!
Let's move on to the AI now. I played this on medium and I had to double check the difficulty to make sure it wasn't on super, uber, ultra easy. The volume of beatings I dished out was insane. I'm not an expert Street Fighter player...any longer, but it felt like I was playing in training mode and occasionally I would be attacked for good measure. Here is a prime example of how silly it was at one point. Picture it...a wonderful 3D background with anime rejects and two steroid junkie fighters getting ready to tear each other's head and limbs off. I'm Blanka and you can put whoever you choose to as my opponent. A jump, a kick, a throw. A few punches, a couple of special attacks and then I try something.
"I wonder how Blanka's electricity will work in SF:4?"
My curiosity didn't last long. I button mashed my punch buttons until I had no feeling left in my finger tips. As the blood stopped flowing, I kept my eye on the screen to see if my efforts would be worthwhile. Sure enough they were. My opponent did all of two things.
1) Walk up to me and pause for a second, almost like he realized it was a BAD idea to walk in to someone who has electricity surging out of their body...and then walk in to me.
2) To jump off the wall...hold your breath....yes, on top of me, electrocuting himself.
This went on and on and on. If I had one of those old Max controllers from the original NES days, I could have beaten this with no hands.
At least until I reached Seth. The round began and I was amazed at the speed he could get that first hit off. Back and forth we went, chopping down each other's energy bars. He'd win one round and I'd win one. You could almost taste the tension in the air on the final round. The round begins and in what seemed like mere seconds....it was over. He beat me like a red headed step child - which is truly fine with me. I'd rather have an opponent that is more competitive and makes me earn my wins than a drone I can simply practice my moves on.
A few more things that I found highly, highly annoying. Before and after each fight your character will say something. His or her mouth will be moving and words will be coming out. Only one minor problem: the mouth movement doesn't remotely match what is being said. It reminded me of the days of Voltron, Thundercats and especially Robotech. I'm sure the anime fan boys were in seventh heaven. Anyone else like me who prefers to have mouths match - even somewhat - with what they're saying, will be disappointed.
As if that wasn't bad enough you have text boxes appear at the end of a fight with a saying by the character. All I can say is....ESL. English was NOT the primary language of whoever wrote these sayings. While I was playing with my brother last night, one of the boxes appeared and had the word subjugate in it. Now I know I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but subjugate? I had to go and Google the definition to see what on Earth they were talking about.
There aren't enough unlockables, online play or anything for that matter to get me to say that Street Fighter 4 is anything anyone with prior Street Fighter experience will enjoy. Awful looking characters, annoying soundtracks, poorly done language translation and crappy AI. But hey, things could be worse! You could be playing 50 Cent's latest pile of garbage!
"Street Fighter IV (X360)" is on sale February 17, 2009 and is rated T. Fighting. Developed and published by Capcom.