It’s no secret that Street Fighter V got off to a disastrous start, and despite years of improvement, its flawed foundation made a comeback difficult. In contrast, Street Fighter 6 is a thorough response to the failings of its predecessor, defined by well-thought-out central mechanics, formidable single-player offerings and a plethora of smart decisions that make for a powerful opening punch.
There’s a lot to look forward to for those primarily interested in duking it out against other players; Between the snappy pace and the wealth of strategic options, it’s a joy to play. The biggest addition is the new Drive system, which elegantly combines multiple mechanics such as powered-up special attacks, cancellations, and defensive maneuvers under a shared resource. This meter starts out fully stocked and automatically refills, providing access to a large arsenal of options, but leaving you vulnerable when it’s low, setting up a compelling risk/reward dynamic that It all depends on the conversation.
Additionally, the game’s pace feels more deliberate than Street Fighter V’s, making for rewarding back-and-forth exchanges for its more cerebral elements to shine. In particular, the extended range of normal attacks makes careful poking battles more common, and attacks are less advantageous when blocked, meaning attackers cannot single-mindedly conduct their offense. The 18-character roster is also a slam dunk, combining returning favorites with cleverly designed newcomers to provide a variety of playstyles and degrees of complexity. Each has a strong move set, and nearly every fighter has a unique gimmick that can turn a match.
For example, Menon is a grappler whose command becomes more damaging each time one lands, making him an impressive speed-based character, while Jamie is a Drunken Master-style wrestler who with each chug Gets new moves. Every major character archetype, from Zoners to Rushdown characters, is well represented here, meaning players shouldn’t have a hard time finding someone who speaks to them. While only time will tell how the metagame shakes out, Street Fighter 6’s starting roster and core system provide an excellent platform to build upon.
And for those less interested in playing against others, the most notable mode is World Tour. This immersive single-player story lets you explore a semi-open Metro City filled with fisticuffs-loving weirdos, side quests, and RPG-lite progression. In addition to being an enjoyable weird adventure, it also successfully introduces and tutorials some of the game’s deeper systems while offering a richly satisfying range of brawls.
Battles in World Tour take place thanks to the unique attack patterns of enemies and how each enemy is combined with optional objectives that provide bonus rewards. Best of all, your avatar can learn abilities from the main roster, allowing you to combine the best elements of grapplers, zoners, and rushdown characters into one hilariously broken fighter. I was really surprised by how much there is in this mode, and it took me over 25 hours to reach the credits. While World Tour isn’t perfect — some fights feel overly chaotic because of how they deal with being sandwiched between multiple enemies, and the overarching storytelling leaves a lot to be desired — it’s a great option for new players. Solid entry point that won’t interest those interested in testing their mettle online for much to do.
Furthermore, the abundance of inclusions shows an impressive degree of polish. There are multiple control schemes aimed at beginners, party settings, a robust training room, arcade mode, accessibility options, and a fully realized lobby system. Well-implemented rollback netcodes, instant rematches, and the ability to queue for online play from almost anywhere make Street Fighter 6 easy to log in and play.
As a series of fighting games kick off, each new Street Fighter comes with weighty expectations. Street Fighter 6 confidently lives up to this hype, catering to neophytes and genre veterans alike by offering the widest array of offline offerings the franchise has ever seen with a flexible set of core systems and a diverse cast. Between its cohesive aesthetic, bounty of clever features, and crisp central gameplay, this is one of the most impressive entries the genre has seen in some time.