The title which became synonymous with videogames during the 1990s re-enters the ring, fresh for a fight on PlayStation 3. While there have been many games related to the colossal series, Street Fighter IV's numerical predecessor goes back as far as the late 90s, followed by a couple of remixed iterations a few years later. The fans - and Capcom's fighter - have never been hungrier for success… and the wait has been worth it.
With so many fighting games taking the leap into 3D, Street Fighter IV sticks to its roots, rendering the characters and backgrounds in three dimensions while keeping the gameplay on a traditional 2D plane. The result is an impressive blend of visuals and classic playability, complete with a mixture of old familiars such as Ryu, Ken and Chun Li, and new fighters such as female super-spy Crimson Viper, lucha libre wrestler El Fuerte and mixed martial artist Abel.
Using a hand drawn style, SFIV features a beautiful look that marries the second and third dimensions. Fighters look solid and are animated smoothly, seamlessly blending each movement fluidly, complimented by artistic ink smudges, sprays and effects. Backgrounds change dynamically as the rounds progress while the pyrotechnics of special moves, especially those which finish a fight, are spectacular.
Similarly, the presentation of SFIV is extremely polished, with nice touches such as the fully voice acted and animated sequences for each character's story intro and ending sequence and an increasing sense of drama thanks to a stirring musical score for when your chosen fighter tackles his or her nemesis. It all works to bring you closer to the game and envelop you in each battle.
Don’t call it a comeback
While its graphics and presentation take the spotlight during these opening impressions, its slick gameplay maintains these positives. Controls are smooth and intuitive with a set of on-screen menus to teach you the various special moves of each fighter. There's a challenge in learning each character's idiosyncrasies and the depth of the fighting system, which includes the ability to parry and counter attack, string combinations together and more, meaning there's plenty here for newcomers and veterans alike.
Fights are extremely tactical rather than button bashing chaos, making Capcom's title a thinking man's beat 'em up. Street Fighter IV is all about reading your opponent and acting appropriately before they do. Risky moves are rewarded with high damage if you pull them off, while threatening devastating consequences should you miss, meaning each attack must be considered carefully - although the quick pace of each fight keeps the tempo high and exciting.
There are even taunts which can be used for those who wish to show off during a bout, leaving you open to attack, although perfect to add a little spice and humour to proceedings, especially when it comes to online play where you can challenge friends and others on PlayStation Network.
The World Warrior challenges you
With its glut of different features (such as the ability to view artwork and animations, and the Challenge Mode, which puts you through a series of tense and varying challenges) and finely tuned gameplay, Street Fighter IV delivers a great fight. It looks the part and plays slickly, making virtual martial arts as fresh as it was way back in the 1990s. Capcom's beat 'em up goes the distance in brilliant form.