Street Fighter 5 came out today, ending a year's worth of hyped build to the next iteration in the world's premiere fighting series. Perhaps predictably, things have not gone perfectly for Capcom, between high demand flooding servers, official fight sticks not working on PC without tweaks and a lack of content. This alongside news that the highly anticipated story expansion will be only an hour or two long has dulled what should be a great celebration of what is, by all accounts, an incredible 1v1 experience - when it works.
Take a look at the purely technical side in our Street Fighter V Port Review.
First: those servers. Well, it's just the way of things now, isn't it? Company builds big, intricate game that takes constant advantage of the majority of people being always online, which then inevitably crashes as soon as the game is available for general sale. Logging in is unreliable, connecting to games can take a long time and I've seen four different error codes across my Twitter feed just today.
Capcom are working on it, of course, but it's not as simple as just plugging in new servers until it works. At one point they gave out entirely and booted everyone off. Game producer Yoshinori Ono personally apologised via Twitter, while the official SFV Server account that kept people aware of statuses during the beta has now moved into a full support role. Their last tweet indicated the servers are up, but there may still be problems:
Our servers are up, but some may experience intermittent disconnects. We apologize for the inconvenience.— SFV Server (@SFVServer) February 16, 2016
To make matters worse, the single-player content available at launch, while announced beforehand, has taken some off-guard with its basic nature. There is no way to, for example, fight a series of increasing-difficulty AIs in best-of-3s. There's no tutorial beyond the basics, nothing to teach the special abilities of each character other than a no-hand-holding training mode. While you can go through character stories, all the AI is set to very easy, the matches are best of ones and they start with your character fully powered rather than meterless. They also aren't very long, with just four matches at most a piece. The only way to learn, it seems, is to go online and face the tidal wave of beta players, ex-pros, long-time fans and the odd other noobie. That is, if the servers work.
Blood-stained icing on the poor, bruised cake are the reports that Playstation 4 arcade sticks, those officially produced by Capcom, Mad Catz and Sony to be partner gear to the game and heavily pushed in pre-release marketing, do not work on the PC version. The specifics elude me as someone who has used sticks but doesn't know the science behind them, but basically there are two kinds - Xinput and Dinput - of which SFV only supports X. Sticks that use Dinput straight up don't register properly in-game. In this year's most horrific bit of irony, old Xbox 360 sticks will work without a hitch. Thankfully, there are already community tools available (here's streaming superstars TeamSpooky recommending one, if you're having trouble), but it's a level of customisation that shouldn't be required.
Hell, Capcom didn't even manage to fix that hilarious player-two boob-physics bug that has been known about for more than six months, as, er, investigated by Eurogamer:
It's just not up to the standard of the game which is, by all accounts, utterly fantastic at the one thing it's trying to be - a competitive and spectator-friendly 1v1 fighting game. It's promised that it will expand in the future, but the latest news, as reported by VG247, is that the 'cinematic story experience' is cinematic in length too, being all of 1-2 hours long. It is difficult to make lengthy single-player experiences for fighting games, with the Mortal Kombat and Injustice games that are kings of that area rarely managing more than six to eight - but they also have a tonne of extra features, like the Krypt and Challenge Towers of MKX, that SFV lacks.
For some, it won't matter at all. I, for example, am going to get the same enjoyment out of the game whether it has a thousand hour intricate story to match Game of Thrones for drama and deaths, or if I only ever play it online. The fun of SFV will mostly come from watching players far better than me battle it out for big prizes and bigger glory. For the more casual crowd that Capcom may have been trying to attract, it's more of an issue, particularly those who were hoping Capcom's latest interation would ease them into the complex world of play, counter-play, footsies, special moves and reads. Probably good for the folks who make online guides, mind.
It's not the end of the world for the game, especially with the promised improvements on the way. Capcom have got to get the servers sorted, obviously, then the launch of the shop, extra modes and first DLC character needs to go perfectly next month. From there they should be able to ride a wave of constant improvement, especially if they can regularly patch out bugs and in support for more controllers. They're working like an Early Access title, one that happens to be one of the biggest esport releases of the year, which meant they couldn't delay the six months the game clearly would have preferred. Nobody would have wanted to change half-way through the competitive year.
We'll keep you updated as the months progress, on this and the pro scene. Hopefully the latter makes the poor launch worth it.