Street Fighter IV represents a welcome return to form for the famous fighting game.

Street Fighter III was a hard sell for both fans of the series and new challengers alike. While the legendary Street Fighter II was a global phenomenon that launched action figures, aniamted shows, and a wonderfully cheesy live-action movie, the series' third installment was much less popular than Capcom had hoped.

Thankfully, Street Fighter IV evens the playing field for a wide range of potential players with a spectacular fighting engine that creates an incredibly accessible experience.

Don't know how to parry attacks, juggle combo, or fire off an EX attack? To have a blast in SFIV, you don't have to - just pick up a controller, throw a punch, and let the good times roll in this easily accessible, yet equally deep brawling experience!

Street Fighter IV: one Hell of a show

With the exception of some lame anime cinematics in the game's arcade mode, the presentation in Street Fighter IV is simply incredible. The wide assortment of levels shines fantastically in vibrant 3D, with subtle touches and backgrounds details all adding to the fun.

Onlookers cheer in the background, set pieces collapse as fists fly, and shopping carts rattle with every earth-shattering blow.

These stylistic choices really give each match an extra bit of flair, and the specific details etched into each one of the redesigned levels from Street Fighter II are just brilliant, truly playing on gamers' nostalgia factors.

My favourite part about arcade mode is that each fighter is punctuated with custom win quotes, as well as a pre-selected Rival Fight against another World Warrior.

Those fights alone have more depth than some of the paper-thin stories put forth by the campy anime sequences, especially in the case of characters like El Fuerte and Crimson Viper.

Even the quality of the voice acting in these cut-scenes seems disturbingly random for such a highly stylised game, but many cinematics are thankfully skippable. I dare you - just try and make it through Blanka's story with a straight face.

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Street Fighter IV: parrying no more

While the World Warriors have been done in 3D before via the infamous EX series on the PlayStation, the blocky figures never quite captured the lively and often-times hilarious animations of their SFII counterparts.

It's not enough that the entire SFIV roster looks good, but their facial reactions during a relentless beatdown are absolutely hilarious.

Seeing my opponent's eyes pop out of their sockets after a brutal KO brought me back to those old glory days in the arcades. Speaking of which, pulling off a solid win in SFIV is nowhere near as difficult as it was in the oft-overlooked Street Fighter III.

Even though everyone's moves have been tweaked to fit the new battle system presented in SFIV, it still feels sweet, simple and best of all, natural.

One of the greatest aspects of SFIV's combat is undoubtedly the absence of parrying, replaced by Focus Attacks and EX moves. No matter what you do, you can never gain a complete advantage over another player simply because you're a tournament level Street Fighter maniac.

Focus Attacks aren't invincible, EX moves are easy to pull off and even button mashers will be able to rack up some damage as long as they know the difference between the face buttons and the joystick.

Heck, I even lost a round against someone who hadn't picked up a controller since the SNES days! But don't think SFIV is a button-masher's paradise - if you have skill, you definitely have an edge.

The inclusion of Ultra moves also eliminates the one glaring problem with most modern fighting games: once you fall behind, it's tough to catch up, much less win. With the new Revenge meter evening up the matches, one-sided fights can actually be won if the resulting Ultra moves are used judiciously.

NEXT PAGE: a black belt

Street Fighter IV represents a welcome return to form for the famous fighting game.

Street Fighter IV: black belt

Like any modern fighting game, SFIV has unlockables everywhere. Aside from the already beefy roster consisting of the original 12 World Warriors from SFII, you can unlock twelve more as you progress through the game, not to mention a wide array of alternate costumes.

There's also a nifty movie gallery with all of the prologues and endings to each character's respective story. If that doesn't keep you busy, then the extra modes such as Time Attack and Survival can definitely help players hone their skills.

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Street Fighter IV: hooked

A diehard fan of the franchise through and through, Street Fighter IV is better than I could have hoped for, as I've been openly skeptical about the game for months.

After clutching my copy of SFIII: Third Strike to my chest for so many years as my last memory of the late and great franchise, I feel like I can finally let go and try something new, yet familiar.

At the end of the day, that's really what this Street Fighter is: it's a title that's built for newcomers, yet tweaked for old school vets from the arcade and home console days.

If you like fighting games, don't hesitate to pick this one up; heck, even if you've never thrown a "Hadouken" in your life, it's worth getting.

Chances are, you'll find yourself getting hooked.

GamePro.com

Street Fighter IV review: Specs

  • Windows PC
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft Xbox 360
  • Windows PC
  • Sony PlayStation 3
  • Microsoft Xbox 360

OUR VERDICT

Street Fighter IV is exactly the sequel that tournament players, series fans and long absent gamers have been waiting for. The fighting system is truly unique, letting casuals and experts equally enjoy the Street Fighter experience without getting bogged down in techniques and precision timing. There's no question about it - buy this game and join the worldwide tournament.

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