If you’ve had the misfortune of being on a Discord call with me while watching Sifu in action, you’ll know just how excited I am for this game. Sloclap’s kung fu beat-’em-up resonates with me on a deep level, evoking memories of my black belt days practicing Shotokan Karate. Although they are different martial arts forms, the precision and intensity of Sifu’s combat bring back that familiar visual appeal. From the very beginning, Sifu had me hooked, but its true test lay in whether it would deliver an enjoyable gameplay experience.
After multiple playthroughs of a brief preview, Sifu is shaping up to be a dream come true. The fights are as satisfying as they appear in the game’s trailers, but there’s a layer of complexity beneath the surface that players can explore and master. Complex combos, skillful attacks requiring specific inputs, and a dynamic leveling system elevate Sifu from a simple beat-’em-up to one of my most anticipated games of 2022.
While the preview doesn’t divulge the game’s story, it provides a comprehensive look at the pulse-pounding combat that awaits players in Sifu. The first fight takes place in a nightclub, a familiar setting showcased in the game’s trailers. In this confined space, you can easily slam opponents against walls or find yourself at their mercy. This introduces the game’s stun meter, which can affect both the player and enemies. When enough hits land, both parties can be stunned, with enemies becoming more vulnerable to throws and sustaining increased damage.
In Sifu, battles demand more than simply depleting an enemy’s health bar. Some foes may be basic and dispatched with a few well-placed strikes and kicks, but others are formidable and highly trained. Confronting such opponents requires utilizing the full range of available attacks to gradually wear them down before delivering the finishing blow.
Combos rely on simple light and heavy attacks as the foundation, but there are more intricate options available. By combining button presses with parries or joystick movements, players can unleash devastating and precise strikes. An open palm strike to the abdomen can leave opponents breathless, while a swift sweep sets them up for a relentless ground pummeling. Dodging and parrying, albeit linked to the same button, can be executed rapidly, allowing players to seamlessly transition from offense to defense, even countering attacks from multiple directions.
The combat in Sifu offers a high skill ceiling that may not immediately click with everyone. When I first attempted to fight without a proper introduction, I was swiftly overwhelmed by groups of enemies. But by familiarizing myself with the controls and honing my understanding of attack and defense mechanics, I became capable of dispatching any enemy that dared to challenge me.
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When combat doesn’t go according to plan, Sifu’s aging mechanic comes into play. The game’s protagonist is spared from immediate death by a mystical pendant, but each fatal blow takes a toll, aging them incrementally. Starting at the youthful age of 20, the character can rapidly find themselves entering their twilight years if they neglect their defenses. However, aging brings wisdom along with it. As the character grows older, they become more adept at inflicting damage, exploiting their opponents’ weak points with the confidence borne from years of training. Naturally, they also become more vulnerable, but the process can be slowed down.
The protagonist’s age increases with each death, adding one year for the first death, two for the second, and so on. However, an impressive performance can reset the death counter. Players must tread carefully, dispatching enemies swiftly and skillfully while avoiding damage. This adds a constant pressure that forces players to pay close attention to their surroundings, identifying openings and knowing when to defend or disengage.
Sifu’s aging mechanic strikes a balance between frustration and reward. It turns players into glass cannons once they reach 60 years of age, granting them immense power but leaving them susceptible to fatal blows. Although I didn’t suffer outright defeat during the preview, the aging mechanic has the potential to transform any level into a downward spiral where health becomes a scarce resource.
Fighting with Style
Fighting in Sifu isn’t just exhilarating or pulse-pounding; it’s also an exercise in style. I can already envision players describing Sifu as a game they’d rather watch than play because it is a constant visual feast.
While the game’s art style may not appeal to everyone, its environments provide an engaging backdrop for thrilling combat. The nightclub presents an array of rooms to navigate, with the main dance floor awash in vibrant lights. Exploring further leads to discovering a pitch-black room where enemies clad in glow-in-the-dark gear provide a stunning spectacle even as they bear the brunt of your attacks. During a boss fight, the entire atmosphere shifts dramatically as the modern nightclub transforms into a besieged dojo. The scene adopts a red tint, fires flicker in the background, and tattered banners emblazoned with kanji proudly adorn the surroundings. This visual shift hints at an intriguing part of the game’s story and leaves me eager for more.
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However, it’s during combat that Sifu truly shines visually. Your character becomes a relentless machine, designed to systematically dismantle opponents with speed and precision. Each strike to the chest, throat, or arm joints carries weight and impact. Finishing moves that shatter bones or slam heads against interactive surfaces exude confidence from your character. Sifu manages to flawlessly capture the knowledge and expertise gained from years of training, vividly showcased in the protagonist’s movements.
The preview of Sifu was merely a tantalizing glimpse, a segment that I completed in 20 to 30 minutes but felt compelled to play through five times over. The game’s addictive nature has firmly cemented its position as one of my most anticipated releases in 2022. If Sifu isn’t already on your radar, it absolutely should be.
Sifu is set to launch on February 8 for PlayStation 4, PS5, and PC via the Epic Games Store.
- Bayonetta 3’s outrageous action has already captivated me
- Sifu’s combat pays homage to kung fu movies and masters