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March 12, 2009
Street Fighter IV - PS3 Review
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Chun Li in her own gorgeous stage.
It was Christmas 1992 and my family were on our annual Gold Coast Christmas holiday. I had $140 in my pocket, was staying with my Grandparents, and on the second day visited the shops where I saw Street Fighter II for SNES. It was a game I had been eagerly anticipating and I forked over the $129.99 to get a copy (which left me $10 for the rest of the holiday!). Fortunately, knowing it was due out, I had brought my SNES to Queensland. Street Fighter II was how I spent my next two weeks!

While I absolutely loved, and still love, that game I never really followed up that love with Street Fighter 3 and its many iterations. I moved onto "superior" 3D games like Toshinden and Tekken. Sixteen years on an Street Fighter IV is finally here, and once again I am psyched for this series. The developers have promised to bring the series back to its core fighting, and the 2D gameplay is a fresh change these days.

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Another very impressive SFIV screenshot.
The events and storyline in Street Fighter IV actually take place between those in Street Fighter II and Street Fighter III. While there has never been much of a story as such Capcom released the following tidbit recently. The year after the legendary World Warrior Championship (Street Fighter 2) suspicious incidents begin to occur, and behind it a mystic organization is on the move in the shadows. Those chasing and being chased in the complicated middle of friendship and betrayal. Now, the curtain rises and a new fight begins.

So there's a bit of a story, but you could probably fit everything into a single A4 piece of paper, so let's look at the important part - the gameplay. Street Fighter IV retains the 2D gameplay despite the fact that the game has elements of 3D graphics. The biggest change to the gameplay is the that the "parry" system from Street Fighter III has been dropped altogether. In its place is what is called a "Saving" System (or "Focus" system in America) which sees a four step gauge fill up. This can then be used to unleash special attacks which immobilise the opponent, or go towards the EX Specials which make a return. Super moves will also return in the game, and Ultra moves will also be incorporated however the developers are working out how to best include these in the game.

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American boxer Balrog appears in Street Fighter IV.
Hang on? I though this was meant to be simpler like the originals. That's what we thought too but Street Fighter IV is actually quite a complex beast. While you can button mash until your hearts content, you probably won't get past the first couple of levels in the arcade mode.

Gamers returning to the series from previous titles will certainly want to know which characters made the cut in this game, and there's quite a few. Blanka, Chun-Li, Dhalsim, E. Honda, Guile, Ken, Ryu, Zangief, Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M.Bison make an appearance from the arcade game, Dan, Fei-Long, Sakura, Cammy, Gen and Rose are additions to the home version, while there are four new characters, and three bosses (which I won't spoil). IN terms of the new characters Street Fighter IV includes French martial artist Abel, American female Crimson Viper, Mexican luchador fighter El Fuerte and Rufus one fat bastard that makes E. Honda look like he's been dieting for years!

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Two old foes battle in SFIV on PS3.
In terms of gameplay this game is millisecond perfect. Admittedly we haven't played Street Fighter for a few years now, so we're not up to the standards many other games will be but it wasn't long before we were performing some pretty impressive moves, and getting to grips with the new EX Specials. As always this game is all about the timing, miss a move or block by a fraction of a second and that's all that could be required to turn the match on its head (if you want to see one of the best moments in Street Fighter history then check out this video). This is a finely tuned game and whether you opt for the bulky but powerful Zangeif, the balanced Ken or Ryo or the lightning quick Sakura each has their strengths and weaknesses.

As well as the arcade mode the developers have included a Challenge mode which is a series of trials which can be used to learn the moves, and hone your skills. It's not as detailed as we would have liked, but is a welcome addition to the home game. PS3 games will also be kee to hear that while the game doesn't have a manadatory install, there is an optional 5GB install which speeds up the load times considerbly, and which we recommend if you have the hard drive space.

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Blanka decides to jump on Dhalsim!
One of the big selling points of this game is the inclusion of online gameplay so you can battle your friends, or strangers, over the iternet. The lobby system is pretty painless, and the game manages to reward those that achieve good results with a points system which takes into account you wins and losses, and the quality of your opponent.

Unfortunately I can't say that Capcom's lobby system is the best. Do a quick search, find some games and they will be filled before it has time to accept you as a combatant. The network signal strength is almost always low resulting in some lag. Still, there has been some occasions when I have created games, and been lag free with some tremendous results. We should also point out that the developers are releasing downloadable content which at the moment include new costumes for many of the characters. These costumes cost a few dollars - something which I struggle to agree with given we have to pay $120 for the game to start with. It is possible, although not confirmed, that we may have new stages or characters as downloadable content in future. Capcom have confirmed a free downloadable "Championship Mode" which will include a replay mode, a new points system and an enhanced tournament matching system.

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Two favourites are in the game.
As you would have seen from the surrounding screenshots Street Fighter IV is a visually impressive title. While the game retains a 2D gameplay the visuals have been updated for a 3D look at times with the intros of characters, and some of the special moves seeing the camera pan around the fighters. The animation is superb with some of the most fluid moves ever seen in a video game. The backgrounds, while a little blander and less animated then we would have hoped are great recreations of many locations seen in previous games with several new ones as well.

There were a couple of very minor disappointments with the visuals in this game. First in direct comparison with the XBox 360 the PS3 version suffers from some very minor missing elements such reduced effects or incidental details. Having said that you won't notice these unless sitting side-by-side and even then you'll be hard pressed to spot them without close scrutiny. There are two other disappointments, the first is that there was occasionally some clipping errors with fighters bodies passing through the others. I would have hoped that could be resolved. Finally, and most disappointing, are the anime styled cut scenes which do almost nothing to tell a story, are poorly animated and, to be honest, look like they were slapped together at the last minute. What ever happened to the 50GB of storage space on the Blu-Ray media?!

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Newcomer Abel about to smash Balrog?
Audio in the game is a bit of a mixed bag. The games announcer is excitable enough, while the music is varied and fairly good in quality. Where the game falls down is the speech from the fighters which is only adequately delivered, but poorly scripted. Oh, and the boy band opening song?! What gives??

If you're a beat 'em up fan then there is no question that you should get out and buy Street Fighter IV. Visually impressive this game retains the precise gameplay that has made the series so highly regarded. If there is one surprise it's that the notion that this is 'back to basics' doesn't quite hold water, you will need some skill to do well. Still, it's great to see Capcom back on top with this fantastic brawler. Go buy it.

Review By: Dave Warner

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GRAPHICSVisually this game looks quite superb with a blend of 2D visuals, 3D visuals and cell shading. Cut-scenes disappoint.
SOUNDMusic is pretty good, and varied, but the speech is a bit corny still.
GAMEPLAYThis is one of the best brawlers ever released. It plays superbly.
VALUEThere are a tonne of fighters, and solid online, but no quest modes like Namco's titles.
OVERALLNot quite as simplified as we hoped Street Fighter IV remains a great fighting game worthy of being in your collection.

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