Game Review: Street Fighter 6 is a stellar return to form

I had spent the past couple of weeks wondering why it’s been a while since I had played a Street Fighter game. And then I remembered why. I loved Street Fighter 4 when it was released all those years ago. It was refined, fun and accessible. But Street Fighter 5 was a different story. Sure, we all remember the lack of content and controversial ads, but it’s sad that it never really recovered.

Street Fighter 6 feels like a complete turnaround in almost every way. It’s consistently fun, incredibly accessible thanks to newer control schemes and packed with enough content at launch to make your head spin. While I have a few gripes with certain modes, this is without a doubt one of the best entries in the long-running series and a stellar example of what fighting games can offer moving forward.

Punches in Bunches

When it comes to combat, fans of the franchise will feel right at home. It’s fast, fluid and visually striking, taking the vibrant colours and consistent effects to another level, thanks to some polished visuals and textures. But thanks to multiple control schemes including a Modern control set, newer payers can take advantage of easier combinations and moves, which now require a single button press as opposed to a three or four-button sequence. Returning fans of the franchise will more than likely take advantage of the Classic control scheme, which offers a much more traditional experience, giving you two light and two medium attacks across the four face buttons, and two heavy attacks confined to the right shoulder buttons.

Both Modern and Classic control schemes are allowed across all battles and modes, including online play, but there’s still a missing element to the Modern scheme. It simply feels limiting, in which combinations triggered by hardcore fighters can be cancelled by hitting the wrong button, therefore disrupting your flow. I feel as though the best way for new players to test the waters is to play is to jump into the Modern scheme, adjust to the controls, flow and pace, and build your way up to the free-form Classic scheme for the ultimate effectiveness in combat.

While almost all Street Fighter entries focus on a particular mechanic, Street Fighter 6 introduces the Drive System, and it’s fantastic. Characters have access to their Drive Gauge in the bottom left corner of the screen, which can fill up to three times. They can then use this gauge to dish out a number of special moves, including Drive Rush, Drive Parry, Drive Reversals, and Drive Impact. Drive Rush allows players to zip in and out of close encounters to disrupt their opponent’s attacks. Drive Parry blocks your opponent’s strikes and special abilities, while Drive Reversals allow you to shake an opponent off you when they’re dishing out the pressure. Finally, Drive Impact allows players to utilise an armour layer of sorts, that can absorb up to two strikes. When it’s used in the middle of a combo, it can stun them, leaving them open to pure punishment. Finally, Overdrive special moves serve as the more traditional power moves, which take one or two bars, depending on the move.

While it sounds simple, there is a bunch going on at any given time. But Street Fighter 6’s Drive System puts so much in the palm of your hands, that regular combat feels like the tip of the iceberg. As players become more invested and learn more of their character’s move sets, these systems become almost integral to overall progression and ultimately success.

Play it Your Way

Street Fighter 6 brings together 18 fighters at launch, with 12 of them serving as returning characters. The new six, however, are generally great. While returning characters are given new sets and abilities, these new characters provide some fresh looks and vibrant animations. I personally like JP for his overall style, but Kimberly feels like she’ll be the most popular, thanks to her teleporting abilities. Beyond the aforementioned two new challengers, Jamie, Marisa, Manon, and Lily already feel right at home within the Street Fighter family.

Right off the bat, Street Fighter 6 offers up various ways to play. If you’re more of a traditional fighting game fan like I am, then look no further than the Fighting Ground. This portion includes the traditional Arcade mode, where each character’s backstory is defined through animated stills. These stories are relevantly pointless in many ways but do touch upon certain existing relationships and scenarios between older characters which is nice.

Across either 5 or 12 stages, you can traverse the globe across various arenas and take on a range of both old and new challengers. Even the damn truck makes an appearance. Extreme Battles also build off this premise, pitting you against unique enemies like a raging bull, should you want a break from the regular roster. But should you want to train and flesh out your moves, fight locally against friends and online against opponents in ranked matches, this is the place to start.

World Tour feels like the biggest deviation for the franchise, but I’m not sure it always lands. Gone are the traditional cinematic cutscenes of Street Fighter 5. We now have an open-world RPG-infused mode to play around with, as players create their own character and rise up through the ranks of the Street Fighter roster. The character creator is also impressive, as you’ll be able to customise always any facial and body feature that you desire. That being said, I ultimately ended up making an even bigger and meaner version of Ryu, just because he’s my favourite character and because I can.

You’ll still interact with all your favourite characters, learn their moves, upgrade abilities and even earn statistically altering gear. The open-world hub environments are fun to explore and come with their own unique side objectives and minigames in between some main confrontations. You can even challenge random people on the street if you’re feeling rather mischievous.

It’s a great way to learn the ropes and meet the characters, but the story ultimately falls flat. I won’t spoil its biggest moments, but that’s because there really aren’t any. No real twists and turns, no real emotional attachment and no real payoff. I can respect it for being different and offering up some variety through its mechanics and systems, but I wouldn’t be picking this up for the story anytime soon.

The true silver lining, however, is being able to equip your character with all your favourite moves from an existing character on the roster, turning them into a super warrior throughout the campaign’s 20 or so hours. But because Street Fighter 6 is so mechanically sound, this alone feels incredibly rewarding.

The Battle Hub

Last but not least, we have the Battle Hub. This mode encapsulates the connected and online elements of Street Fighter 6. It acts like a large arcade-style social hangout where players can take their World Tour characters and put them to the test against others online in unique ways. Take a seat and play some older arcade classics like Street Fighter 2 and Final Fight, take part in altered Extreme Events with friends and customise your characters with new and fancy clothes. It’s much more of a social collaboration than a competitive outlet, which brings an entirely new layer to Street Fighter I never knew I wanted.

But it’s clear that Capcom understands how players develop and compete within these games based on the sheer number of new and old players. The older or hardcore players will surely flock to the Fighting Ground as I did, but it’s nice to see that there’s a new way for casual and newer fans alike to simply hang out because they enjoy the world, lore and mechanics, which extend to the variety and relaxed nature of the Battle Hub.

Visually, Street Fighter 6 is a delight. Colours are plentiful and vibrant, and textures are polished and clean, while impressive lighting effects and smooth performance cap off a rather consistent experience, that for me, remained relatively free from bugs, crashes, glitches and frame rate drops. Its soundtrack is also upbeat and uplifting, proving that the age-old franchise hasn’t yet lost its energy.

Final Thoughts

Street Fighter 6 is in many ways, the complete fighting package. It plays well, runs well and looks great. Not all modes necessarily land, but even those faltering additions add something of value. While the World Tour lacks any engaging story, it’s still fun to build your dream character. Even though the Battle Hub lacks that traditional competitive edge, it’s a great social space to be able to explore Street Fighter’s quirks and deep history. And if you’re a long-time fan like I am, the Fighting Ground portion is clearly that refined corner that allows that competitive spirit to flourish. But ultimately allows you to enjoy as you wish. Thanks to its multiple control schemes, it’s also incredibly accessible, making this the perfect iteration for both new and returning fans.


Highlights: Engaging combat; Drive System feels incredible; Battle Hub is heaps of fun; Looks sharp and runs well
Lowlights: World Tour mode’s story is lacking
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Windows PC
Available: Now

Review conducted on PlayStation 5 with a pre-release code provided by the publisher.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.