Skip to main content

Street Fighter 6 is the best a Capcom fighter has ever been at launch

Our full review of Street Fighter 6, and yes, it's the best any Capcom fighter has ever been on day one
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

The world of Street Fighter has never made much sense. It resembles our own, including iconic landmarks that we get to see in the backgrounds of stages, but it’s also a world where a gang of scrappy martial artists are the last line of defense against a dastardly dictator wielding an ancient and malevolent power. Military might? Low-orbit missile strikes? None of that can compare to an uppercut to the toe. And now, you can deliver that uppercut to pretty much anyone walking down the street and start fighting them.

Street Fighter is more literal than ever before – or at least as literal as it can get without punching the pavement hard enough to deactivate screensavers. The World Tour mode finally gives the characters a street to explore – one where practically every inhabitant has trained their fighting skills and are ready to throw down whenever you offer to test them out.

Shoryukens, spinning bird kicks, screw pile drivers – even your average salaryman on the way to work is ready to throw a hadouken. In a world where dictator M. Bison has been defeated and peace is slowly returning, the martial arts masters and heroes are now humble educators, teaching the next generation what they need to know to protect themselves – and the world – from the inevitable reemergence of psycho power. Did I mention you can uppercut anyone in the street?

Despite having taken itself very seriously at times in the past, Street Fighter 6 is goofy and funny. Delivering a hard strike to a random citizen as they go about their daily business to start a battle is genuinely hilarious, even down to the inevitably silly outfits you’ll be equipping your avatar with to boost their stats. This is not the epic adventure to save the world, like Street Fighter V’s A Shadow Falls story mode attempted to be – and that’s honestly a relief, because Capcom just can’t get it to work. Instead, this is a Street Fighter RPG that tutorializes the rest of the game.

And that is where people are going to divide. World Tour is great, and it’s squarely aimed at everyone that hasn’t learned to play Street Fighter yet. Capcom saw you playing through the Mortal Kombat story religiously at every release, never bothering to learn a single character’s full moveset, and yet you loved it and couldn’t wait for the next. But instead of giving you a disposable three-hour experience with some flashy cutscenes, everything here is geared towards making you a better fighting game player.

Side quests task you with getting knockdowns or making a backward recovery, minigames act as tutorials for both motion and charge input types – things that will likely come as second nature to experienced fighting game players, but if you’ve never truly sat down and put the details into practice, then you’ll find this to be the most gentle introduction to the series that there ever has been. For that purpose, it’s genuinely excellent – even if it is still just, well, okay.

street fighter 6 glhf (20)

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic tutorial, but as a Street Fighter RPG, it’s just serviceable. Street Fighter fans will get their kicks from designing their own fighter, from the detailed character creator to the huge variety of clothing and customization options. You even get to pick a “style” based on one of SF6’s roster, which includes all of your normal attacks, then you can mix-and-match special moves from across the roster. Dhalsim’s Teleport mixed with Zangief’s Screw Pile Driver? It’s all possible, and can lead to some truly ridiculous builds. That’s right, builds – for you to take online in (brilliantly) unbalanced Avatar Battles.

If you’ve played the Open Beta for Street Fighter 6 then you already know what to expect, but the online battles I’ve experienced so far in the game’s Battle Hub have been near-flawless. A combination of rollback and delay-based netcode has been refined here to the point that almost all of my recent online fights felt as close to local games as you could imagine. You’ll want to make sure your connection is as strong as possible (ethernet cables, please), but the netcode here seems capable of overcoming challenging connections and still providing solid games. It could go belly-up at launch, of course, but that seems unlikely.

The final of the three main modes Street Fighter 6 has to offer is the Fighting Ground, which by itself is a more robust offering than what Street Fighter V had at launch. No joke, there is at least an Arcade Mode in here, which even incorporates the short character story artworks that you might remember from SFV. It’s a much better place for them to sit, offering some actual replayability if you decide to go back on different difficulties or increase the number of rounds.

street fighter 6 glhf (3)

As a package, it has all of the modes and features that you would want, either as a fighting game fan, or a more casual player that’s just here for a single player experience. But I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. You know what you actually want to hear about. Sure, I could spend all day here going on and on about how World Tour is a beautiful love letter to Capcom’s fighting game history, with references fans won’t want to miss, but it is a cute afterthought as far as I’m concerned – it’s the new mechanics that you need to grapple with.

The Drive Gauge is the big change to Street Fighter 6, and many of you reading will have already played about with it in the beta sessions. Characters all now have an attack with Super Armor, Drive Impact, that will push back blocking foes and even crumple them against walls for free hits. Drive Parry will eat through your gauge while you turn your foes' attacks into boosts for your Drive Gauge – though you will take far more damage from throws. Drive Reversal makes it too, which is essentially SFV’s pressure-escaping V Reversal tool given a new lease on life.

But it doesn’t stop there. Hold your Drive Parry, double tap forward, and you will burst into a Drive Rush, sending you forward at speed, allowing you to quickly mix up your opponent. Any attacks you connect will also be given advantage frames, allowing Ryu, for example, to be able to combo out of his overhead attack. Similarly, double tapping forward on hitting with a cancellable normal move also activates Drive Rush, and this can be chained for more mix-ups and huge combo extensions.

street fighter 6 glhf (8)

Instead of Drive Gauge being a comeback mechanic, like SFV’s V Gauge was, you start with the meter filled out, and it also handles your Over Drive (formerly known as EX) Special Moves. This also frees up your Super Gauge, allowing you to potentially combine several Drive techniques with Over Drive attacks and finishing a combo in a Super Art – perhaps even two, if you’re smart enough with your links.

It’s all very exciting, but losing your Drive Gauge entirely puts you into a Burnout state. Your character can still hit just as hard, but loses all access to Drive Rush, Drive Parry, Drive Impact, Over Drive attacks – all the drives, gone. This puts you in an incredibly vulnerable position – especially when against the wall – because while in Burnout, you also take Chip damage from all attacks, meaning that even if you’re blocking, your opponent can take the KO. It’s another layer to think about – are you willing to burn your Drive Gauge on aggression, even if it means you’ll Burnout faster, and potentially be put at a disadvantage?

Those are just the techniques introduced in Street Fighter 6 that apply to the whole cast – do we even need to get started on the characters? Established fan favorites like Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, and Guile all make the cut – as you would expect – but newcomers like Kimberly, Jamie, Manon, Lily, Marisa, and JP manage to make things feel entirely fresh. Even returning characters like Dee Jay have had enough changes to make them feel like new. The cast is still missing some classic archetypes – now that Bison is dead we really need a Dictator-like, and a boxer wouldn’t go amiss – but we will have at least one of those ticked off when Ed and others enter the fray in the first year of DLC. You really need to get to grips with a character for yourself to make a judgement, but it’s hard to imagine that you won’t find someone with moves you’ll love in SF6.

street fighter 6 glhf (9)

There is one elephant in the room though, which is monetization. Street Fighter 6 will include a Fighting Pass – a battle pass, essentially – and Fighter Coins, which will be a premium currency used to purchase new characters, costumes, and colors. Drive Tickets will be similar, but will only be earned in-game. Gear for your avatar will be available at a potentially premium price, but we’re promised that it’ll only ever give your avatar a cosmetic makeover. It’s impossible to say what players will deem to be a fair price for premium in-game items, but even if the Fighting Pass and in-game store were totally absent, Street Fighter 6, as it is, is fantastic, and the best a Capcom fighting game has ever been at launch.

Seriously. We know SFV was barebones at launch, with even that aforementioned story mode being a post-launch download and not an Arcade mode or even a way to play a three-round 1v1 match against the CPU. But even the best Capcom fighters haven’t been this good. The last game to even come close might be Street Fighter 4 or Marvel vs Capcom 3 – but this? Street Fighter 6 genuinely feels as good as fighting games can possibly get on day one.

From the mechanics to the characters, and even the visual flourishes that adorn every attack, Street Fighter 6 is peak fighting games. This is a traditional, grounded fighter that feels entirely modern and fresh thanks to the Drive Gauge and everything that surrounds it. No mechanic or meter feels wasted, everything in Street Figher 6 has been honed to a fine point. This will be the best fighting game of 2023, and perhaps even of the generation.

Score: 10/10

Version tested: PS5

  • Technical performance: 10
  • Art and visuals: 10
  • Audio and music: 8
  • Mechanics and systems: 10

Street Fighter 6 technical breakdown

If you’re on PS5 or Xbox Series X you’re unlikely to fret over technical performance at all. PS4 and Xbox Series S owners, meanwhile, just might need to turn on a 30fps cap for World Tour battles. By default a 30fps cap is in place on console in World Tour mode. It’s worth turning off, especially if you’re on PS5 or Xbox Series X. World Tour’s fights take place pretty much anywhere in the open world, but like most fighting games, will still encounter slowdown if you’re running under 60fps, which is a tough challenge for less powerful consoles and PCs. Steam Deck is a decent option for the game, surprisingly, though you should expect to run at minimum settings to ensure normal battles hold a steady 60fps.