Street Fighter V is a Bare Bones Game That’s a Sign of the Times

The epitome of a game being launched as a platform, rather than a full-fledged new release.

Paul Tamburroby Paul Tamburro

Street Fighter V is the foundation of a game; had it been released in the previous console generation, players would have been left scratching their heads at just how little there is for them to do in it. The story mode, in its current state, is a selection of one-round, inexplicably easy fights tied together with illustrated storyboards. There’s no Arcade mode, either, leaving offline players with a rudimentary smattering of content. Considering Street Fighter IV was released on consoles all the way back in 2009, there’s a notable dearth of features for those who have been waiting for this sequel, and it’s disappointing to say the least.

That’s not to say that Street Fighter V is a bad game. The fighting itself is excellent, with it boasting a variety of improvements over its predecessor, but it’s arguably not enough. Pitchforks and fiery torches were pulled out for Evolve due to it serving as a vehicle for future DLC, though Street Fighter V is fundamentally no different. It’s a launching pad for whatever digital content Capcom will release for it in the future, with it having been left half-finished as a result.

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Following the release of the Mortal Kombat reboot back in 2011, I wrongly predicted that it was going to bring about a period of change for the fighting game genre. MK9, as it’s now known, featured a slew of modes including a lengthy story complete with fully animated cutscenes, a Krypt that players were tasked with exploring in order to obtain unlockables, and a Challenge Tower that combined the game’s traditional Versus co… sorry, Kombat with fun little mini-games and objectives such as defeating an opponent without blocking, or offing them with a specific special move.

I was convinced that Mortal Kombat 9 had embarrassed its competition as a result of this extensive fan service, and that Capcom – who had released the comparatively empty Marvel vs. Capcom 3 just a couple of months prior – would be forced to step up their game as a result. The underwhelming sales of Street Fighter X Tekken, which released in a wave of controversy regarding Capcom’s employment of on-disc DLC, seemed to suggest that people were tired of being nickle ‘n’ dimed by the company, and that the company’s focus would perhaps alter in order to assuage the money-grabbing perception of them. 

Capcom’s plans for Street Fighter V seemed to suggest that this would be the case. While the company still discussed the game’s future DLC prior to its release, they made a note of how it would no longer employ the business practices seen in previous installments in the series, where disc-based “Ultra” and “Super” versions of Street Fighter games eradicated the player base of their vanilla editions. It’s a welcome move, but one that we’ve now learned has come with the caveat that Street Fighter V‘s base game feels incomplete as a result.

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Capcom has announced that a full “cinematic” story mode for the game will be released as a free update in June, but that still doesn’t stand to justify how little there is on offer in the game at launch, especially considering that it’s the latest iteration in a blockbuster franchise that hasn’t received a fully-fledged entry in 7 years. In many ways it mirrors the launch of a new console, where you know that it has the potential to become great in the near-future, but by picking it up at launch you’re essentially investing in it at the worst possible time. There’s so little on offer, though there’s the promise that your purchase will be justified in the coming months, but you’ve already bought it when it is at its most expensive.

Street Fighter V is truly a sign of the times, with publishers and developers continuing to think of their games as platforms, overlooking their base games in favor of teasing consumers with what they can get their hands on in the future. Though Street Fighter‘s position in fighting game tournaments means that the game will have a lengthier shelf life than most, and will therefore be inundated with content in the near future, I do not feel that this justifies what is an incredibly lackluster offering of features at launch. The content model employed by Capcom for Street Fighter V feels like it’s deliberately empty in order to make its upcoming DLC offerings more worthwhile as a result, but consumers shouldn’t have to feel as though they’re receiving a husk of a game that they’ll have to fill by piling more money into it.