Virtually speaking, if you’re one of those worshippers of melee combat chances are that you saw yourself forced to purchase a console in order to rid of your brawler tendencies [pun intended]. While console gamers have been "Generation Spoiled" during recent years in the area of beat ‘em up games, the PC platform has seen few, if no blockbuster titles at all.

Fortunately, the wait has now come to an end. It took Capcom slightly more than four months to finish the PC conversion, but Street Fighter IV represents a tour de force on the PC as it does when enjoyed on one of its console siblings – end of story [provided that you’re the proud owner of a quality gamepad, naturally]. As the icing on top of the cake, Capcom found it suitable to enhance the visual appearance of the game [think Anti-Aliasing, Anisotropic Filtering, and above-HD resolutions as compared to the console versions] plus add a benchmark function revealing exactly how many FPS [Frames per Second] your hardware achieves when delivering that old skull-breaking Hadoken to your favorite adversary. Our Intel Core i7 Extreme 965 based test bed with 6 gigs of DDR3 memory and an XFX Radeon HD 4890 video card delivered a consistent framerate in the vicinity of no less than 100 FPS at a 1920×1200 resolution with all the visual settings maxed out. Just for the fun of it, we also threw in a monstrous three EVGA GTX 285 FTW Edition cards and achieved in excess of 240 FPS, just to get that vindictive Ultra Combo right… whoever says that higher framerate doesn’t make the difference never played a fast paced game such as this one.


Legendary Ryu is back in Street Fighter IV – albeit featuring a younger and more visually slick appearance (press photo from Capcom)

Online game play spans across the globe and is driven by the well-known and badly executed Microsoft Games for Windows Live initiative, promising to solve your need for the occasional adrenaline rush through matchmaking. Regrettably, my game disc was delivered without a valid key for playing online, and seeing that the game is still unreleased at the time of writing I simply couldn’t venture online. Provided that the matchmaking is equivalent to how it all plays out on my Xbox 360, further refinement would definitely have done the game some good; occasionally, you are up for a serious ass-whooping simply because the system pairs you with a considerably more adept opponent.

Training: Ryu vs Ken
More than two decades since its inception, the newest contribution to the Street Fighter IV franchise still holds true to its origin. In focus: A classic fight between Ryu and Ken (source: Own make)

In spite of a few flawed titles in the Street Fighter franchise (quality has not exactly been the predominant characteristic of this series since the third installment), Capcom’s latest release offers gamers nothing short of a redefinition of the something-of-a-cult fighting game. Traditional one-on-one combat has never been as purified and joyful an experience as here, yet one should avoid the obvious caveat of oversimplifying the game. That is, while newcomers are likely to find it satisfying and fairly straightforward to battle their opponents with traditional attacks, i.e., dragon punches, fireballs, and the assortment of throws, hardcore players will work at understanding the highly technical elements of the game in order to move one step closer to fully mastering it.

Abel vs Ryu
Abel – a fighter without memory of his past – seems fond of tossing Ryu around (source: Own make)

Besides the new Focus system – e.g. allowing players to deliver a dreadful charged attack simply by holding down Medium Punch and Medium Kick – the Super and Ultra meters deliver attacks capable of breaking this reviewer’s jaw in two. In order to charge the Super meter, you must land attacks on your opponent and unleash so-called Super Combos. Yet, the most dazzling maneuvers are seen when the Ultra meter is fully charged, providing you with the opportunity to perform both an avenging, eye-catching, and extremely destructive Ultra Combo capable of turning the state of things upside down. A Fighting Stick is highly recommended in order to carry out the most complex combos optimally, albeit a gamepad will work for your Average Ryu.


Wait a second… is Street Fighter IV a 2D or a 3D game? Or both?

2D or a 3D or 2.5D? Old school arcade feeling is back with SFIV
2D or a 3D or 2.5D? The genuine old-school arcade feeling is back with SFIV

Depending on your definition, Street Fighter IV is either a 2D or 3D fighter; actually, some inventive individuals have dubbed it a 2.5D title. Facing facts, the game is taking place on a 2D plane, yet the models/visuals are 3D. We’re highly impressed by the complete visual expression as it provides a rebirth of 2D, so to speak, yet the virtual martial arts presented here does not detach itself from the well-known visual expression of the predecessors. Furthermore, animations are indeed spectacular, and Ultra Combos are likely to leave you begging for more.
 
Albeit fighting is in focus, the underlying plot is served through very brief and – regrettably – rather silly anime cut scenes, obviously targeting the most eager gamers to whom the high-speed pace of an arcade setting is crucial. When you’re playing through the Arcade mode, each character is associated with an introductory cut scene as well one which is shown upon completion when you’ve wiped the floor with the final boss. Disappointingly, Capcom should have delivered both better anime and avoided the pitfall of producing a lackluster and superficial story. In our verdict, this lingers as one of the sole points of criticism of an otherwise luminous game.

Out of a total of 25 playable characters, Capcom includes classic fighters counting lead character Ryu, the American patriot Guile, your very own Muyai Thai nightmare Sagat, private investigator Chun-Li, as well as the Russian pro wrestler Zangief. Furthermore, it’s seen itself fit to include newcomers such as El Fuerte, Rufus, Crimson Viper, and Abel who are generally well coupled to the plot and the uptight inter-character relationships. Certain characters are stronger than others, yet remarkable results can be realized even with a relatively simple fighter. Nonetheless, the most astonishing achievement is quite possibly Capcom’s astoundingly well balanced characters – making e.g. a fight between the monstrously huge Zangief and tiny Sakura an unpredictable experience.

Players looking to harness the maximum game play for their money will find the venture for unlocks highly addictive while the variety of Challenge modes – including Survival and Time Attack modes – certainly enhances the gaming experience. Additionally, the included Training mode proves to be a practical point of departure for unskilled fighters looking to grasp the more advanced combos.

Overall, Street Fighter IV certainly shares common characteristics with its predecessors, but it also introduces an appealing share of innovative fighting techniques in order for you to get more aching thumbs than ever. Particularly, the all-new “layered” nature of the game deserves acclaim, as new players are capable of constantly delving deeper into the tasteful martial arts presented here – peeling off one layer at a time. They are likely to continuously become flabbergasted by the depth contained within this fighting game. It does this without disappointing the most hardcore players who can skip right to the core experience.

Charying combos is followed by the effective zoom-in animations
Charging combos is followed by the effective zoom-in animations – Ryu’s charging up a vindictive Ultra Combo – the “Metsu Hadoken”
After the combo discharge... whole scene errupts... we love the Motion Blur / Depth of Field zoom-in-and-outs
Seconds later, Ken is having a really bad day – during the combo discharge… the whole scene errupts… we simply love the Motion Blur / Depth of Field zoom-in-and-outs…

Conclusion

With a – possibly – refined online matchmaking system and a replacement for the downright unsatisfactory anime cut scenes, Street Fighter IV could have been unadulterated excellence. No less than nine years since the last well-renowned Street Fighter installment (and more than two decades since the franchise was conceived), it will just have to do with being the most outstanding beat ‘em up game for the PC currently available. While achieving this, it can also be fairly argued to be the best game in its genre for just about a decade now.

Using our proprietary TCE (Total Cost of Entertainment) measuring system, we arrive at a score of 25. This score is actually going in reverse, with the perfect score being zero, and well, a not-so-great score being anything more than 300. The translation is very simple: We estimate that you are going to get some good 20 hours of sheer fun, and at a price of 49.99 USD, this game will cost you $0.25 per hour of fun. According to our standards, this is considered Gold Value.

Street Fighter IV will be released for the PC on July 3rd, and if you want to rekindle your spirit with the childhood beat ‘em ups, there isn’t any better way than playing some Street Fighter.