Published on February 25th, 2016 | by Christian0
Street Fighter V – Make Me A Match
I‘ve been playing fighting games off and on for a long time, but the genre and I kind of split ways on the last console cycle. A combination of bad internet, nascent matchmaking services, and a lack of local competition made it pretty much impossible for me to wring any satisfaction out of them. I tried a number of games, but every time I was met with bad net-code and long waits between matches. Having recently acquired decent internet, I decided to check out the fighting game scene again. Although Street Fighter V’s matchmaking left an initial bad taste in my mouth, my experience has been good overall, so I’ll be sticking with this one.
First, lets get the bad stuff out of the way. It’s not new information that this game was rushed to market in service of the tournament scene, and it shows. The single player story content is indefensibly anemic and embarrassingly low-rent. Story mode for each character consists of a few bouts against brain-dead AI (no difficulty options, either) interspersed with poorly drawn and voiced scenes that play out with zero context. Survival mode is little better, consisting of an increasingly frustrating slog to unlock additional colors options for each fighter. This stuff may as well not exist, but seeing as to how it is completely optional and not the meat and potatoes of the game, all I can really criticize Street Fighter V for in this regard is not having any meaningful or interesting single player content. How bad it is doesn’t detract from the experience I am looking for, but it doesn’t add to it either.
Second, Street Fighter V’s matchmaking is atrocious. Matches are fast, with rounds frequently ending in 20-30 seconds. That means you can look forward to maybe 90 seconds of fighting before being dumped back out to matchmaking. This would be fine, except that I’m experiencing matchmaking times of 3 or 4 minutes between oppponents, and that’s on the low-end of some of the complaints I’ve seen online. For some people it’s not working at all. This is me playing during peak hours on the east coast of North America. I would be happy if I could just match into random ranked and casual matches without having such a long wait. It’s a shame that Capcom couldn’t get the most basic mode of their game right. On the bright side, I did manage to get a lobby set up and had some fun interrupted matches against a friend last night.
I’ve got a few additional nitpicks, but it’s minor stuff. The dithered shadows make characters look terrible at times. Having to press a button to confirm that I want to search for matches again makes no sense. It should default to searching again and have you push a button to cancel searching. Like I said: minor stuff.
Let’s end on a positive note and talk about the good. First, the characters (with exception of Ken who barely even looks HUMAN) look amazing and animate equally well. While not the best looking fighting game I’ve played (Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN), Street Fighter V is still an incredibly attractive game. Shitty dithered shadows can’t ruin wonderful interpretations of old characters (Dhalsim, Zangief) and some pretty rad looking new characters (Laura, Rashid). Fights look dynamic and exciting while simultaneously remaining uncluttered and easy to follow. It’s a great looking game.
There have been some improvements on the gameplay front as well. Gone are the vicious link timings of previous games in the series. If you couldn’t do combos in previous Street Fighters, I have good news, you probably can now. Execution has long been a barrier for new players in fighting games, and while I’ve always been able to do the inputs for special moves I’ve struggled with combo timing, which limited me greatly in terms of what characters I could do well with. Not having to worry about timing so much has allowed me to start exploring concepts like zoning, footsies, mind-games, and character specific match-ups. You know, the stuff that actually makes these games interesting. Combos are easier now, but they’re still not trivial, and some more complex combos that utilize the new V-Trigger mechanics will still provide a rewarding challenge for people who want to master them. It’s a step towards making the game more accessible without stripping away depth or complexity.
Last, and I want to end on this because it is a critically important component to the enjoyment I’ve had with this game: the net-code is fantastic. I’m old and slow, so maybe I’m not noticing the lag in my online matches, or maybe I’ve been blessed to only play against opponents with decent connections, but online matches feel great. Is it as good as a local opponent? Impossible. Is it good enough to feel like I can compete against just my opponent and not also our internet connection? Absolutely.
For now, I’m satisfied with what this game is on the basis that when it works it works splendidly. If you’re on the fence I don’t think there’s any reason to hold off on buying the game aside for financial reasons. If you have the money, get in on the ground floor now so that you can keep up with the competition as more characters get added and the player base matures. Hopefully Capcom will get the matchmaking sorted soon as well, but 10 days after release it is in decent shape.