I’ve been playing Street Fighter since II first debuted in arcades, and have a distinct memory of just being tall enough to reach the buttons on the cabinet as I fumbled my way through special moves I’d memorized from a magazine. Since then it’s been a constant presence in my life: on a trip to Japan I played hours of Third Strike in arcades (and got thoroughly dismantled), IV‘s online mode took over my life, and the 30th Anniversary Collection is permanently installed on every device I own that can run it.
So yeah, I was hyped for Street Fighter 6. After Street Fighter V‘s infamously botched launch, Capcom seemed to be on a mission to make amends and, at least on paper, have delivered. Where V was rightly criticized for releasing incomplete, 6 arrives with the lengthy ‘World Tour’ mode and a revamped ‘Battle Hub’ multiplayer mode.
First, let’s focus on the game’s many positive qualities. To put it simply, 6 delivers one of the finest fighting game experiences to date. The new Drive Gauge separates it from previous entries, giving players a new wealth of options when dealing with opponents.
At the tap of a button, you can launch a ludicrously satisfying armored Drive Impact that soaks up damage and breaks combos, hold a trigger to enter Drive Parry mode that repels attacks, or use the meter to power up every single special move in the game. This builds and improves on IV‘s Focus Attacks and V‘s V-Gauge system, vastly increasing your flexibility and rewarding smart tactical play over button-mashing. The tempo of combat is a little slower than Street Fighter V, though the Drive Gauge is going to make high-level tournament play fascinating to watch as the best players come to grips with its many intricacies.
Fortunately, it’s also relatively easy to understand for regular scrubs (like me). Also aiding new players is the faintly blasphemous option of ‘Modern’ controls, which ditches the six-button system, lets you toss out special moves at the touch of a button as well as execute auto-combos. There are hints of Smash Bros. to the way the game plays with these more accessible controls and, while series veterans will probably ignore it completely, Modern is indeed a viable way to play the game at low levels. That said, anyone taking this remotely seriously should graduate to Classic controls as soon as they can, as Modern feels like riding a bicycle with training wheels.
The character roster is also something special. The classic fighters have all been subtly tweaked in fun ways, though remain true to their legacy combat styles. Even better, there’s not a dud among the new challengers. My favorites are the Lady Gaga-ish French judo star Manon, who comes with some beautiful balletic animations; ‘medicine’ glugging combo-happy Jamie; and the intensely charismatic pankration fighter Marisa, who’s destined to launch a million “dommy mommy” memes.
Reviewers only had access to Street Fighter 6‘s online modes for a few days, though thankfully every match I played seemed to have minimal lag. Admittedly, I’m not quite as sensitive to the microscopic single-frame differences that can spoil things for top-level players, but at least for me, playing online felt pretty much the same as playing locally. I also loved the Battle Hub, which lets you interact with players outside of combat and play a selection of Capcom’s classic arcade titles.
In a perfect world, I’d stop here, as all the above makes Street Fighter 6 one of the mechanically sound and downright fun fighting games in years. But there’s a Godzilla-sized fly in this ointment…
The much-touted World Tour mode is essentially Street Fighter RPG. You create a custom-designed fighter and set out with ambitions to become the strongest fighter in the world. There are two large open maps to explore, you can learn moves from the cast, dress up your character with outfits that give you buffs, and generally inhabit the world beyond the fighting arena.
But, and I don’t want to mince words here, World Tour is a boring waste of time and I regret every minute I put into it. First and foremost, the quest design feels intentionally designed to infuriate. You’ll receive thrilling mission objectives like being asked to run around the map talking to four or five people, only for the quest giver to reveal that you didn’t need to do that at all. There’s a day/night cycle that forces you to repeatedly return to your base to click a button to change the time of day, piling on even more wasted time. The leveling system also leaves a lot to be desired. Fight an enemy more than five or so levels above you and you’ll do minimal damage while they annihilate you in one or two moves, meaning that repetitively grinding XP out of scrub enemies is practically mandatory.
Even the World Tour fighting never feels right. You can mix and match fighting styles and special moves from all characters, so for example, you can have Chun-Li’s base moveset with Ryu’s fireballs and dragon punches. It’s theoretically interesting, though, in practice, your customized player character will never feel anywhere near as good as one of the carefully tuned proper characters. The AI is also terrible, with most CPU enemies easily defeated by simply spamming the same moves over and over, not to mention that few of them have any counter to simply tossing fireballs at them from the other side of the screen. Part of the thinking behind World Tour must have been to quietly train players up for the multiplayer mode, though the AI is so easy to exploit I suspect most players will actively get worse at Street Fighter the longer than play it.
And then there’s the story. World Tour is hamstrung from the get-go by having a silent protagonist who can only awkwardly gesticulate at other characters, meaning you never truly feel like you’re interacting with the world. The overall narrative is powerfully dull and you’ll spend about 75% of the game having no idea what’s going on, just running around dull maps fighting an endless series of identikit goons.
I mean, say what you will about V‘s bonkers ‘A Shadow Falls’ campaign, but at least it wasn’t boring. The rancid cherry on top is that, in a truly head-scratching move, the Street Fighter cast doesn’t actually play a role in the story. You’ll briefly meet and chat with Ryu and co., though the main story characters are all original to World Tour and about as interesting as cardboard cut-outs. I saw it through to its limp anticlimax (which took me about 15 grim hours), and my recommendation is to skip it completely and focus on the multiplayer.
On the PC version I played, World Tour is also a technical failure. Although I could run Arcade Mode and multiplayer at 60 FPS, I had to select the option for World Tour fights to be limited to 30 FPS or face game-ruining slowdown. There are also pervasive and distracting texture issues throughout, with at least half of all objects rendering as blurry smears (this also occurs to a lesser degree in multiplayer), ranging from environment textures, character outfits, and even the globe on the travel screen failing to load properly. Waiting around in the maps doesn’t seem to resolve this, so something is going very badly wrong behind the scenes, on a technical level. At first, I suspected that these texture problems might be an issue specific to my PC, but I eventually discovered that other reviewers in the Battle Arena were also experiencing them.
Compounding all that is, even if World Tour functioned properly, it still wouldn’t look good. The open world looks as if it could be from an Xbox 360-era game. NPC models are often laughably basic, and the character cosmetics available to buy are mostly limited to bland street clothes. I shudder to even compare this to the gorgeous Resident Evil 4 remake, but both are 2023 releases running on Capcom’s RE Engine, and the gap in quality couldn’t be wider.
So where does this leave Street Fighter 6? It’s essentially two games mashed into one: a brilliant multiplayer title with a deep and complex fighting engine and winning characters… with one of the worst single-player modes in years crudely bolted onto the side. You can’t help but wonder what this game could be if the enormous amount of developer time and resources devoted to World Tour had been poured into more characters and stages for the multiplayer mode, but alas, here we are.
It seems inevitable that World Tour will be quickly forgotten by the fighting game community at large. This entry will go on to become a mainstay of major tournaments for years to come, with World Tour a failed experiment into how Street Fighter could tell a single-player adventure. But, for more casual purchasers, World Tour may well be the one mode of Street Fighter 6 they sink the most hours into, and its overall score has to take a substantial ding as a result.
We all know Capcom can deliver single-player genius, so I’m baffled that World Tour turned out this badly. Our advice is to stick to the brilliant multiplayer modes and hone your skills there, as at least that half of the game lives up to Street Fighter‘s glittering gaming pedigree.
This review is based on the PC version of the game. A copy was provided to us for review by Capcom.
Street Fighter 6 delivers a deep, complex, and satisfying fighting game bristling with fun new characters and an excellent multiplayer mode. Unfortunately, all of that's shackled to a truly terrible single-player RPG that stands as one of the most embarrassing things Capcom has released in years. If you're here for online play, you'll love it. If you want single-player action, stay far away.
Street Fighter 6