Sifu is a kung-fu-fueled beat-em from developer Sloclap, the studio behind the multiplayer martial arts fighting game Absolver. Sifu, however, is a single-player affair that follows a young kung-fu student hungry for vengeance against five martial artists who committed a heinous act. At a glance, the $39.99 PC game looks like it takes advantage of Absolver’s battles, but the gameplay mechanics have been streamlined to be simpler, and overall closer to the PlayStation 2 classic, God’s Hand. Sifu is brutally unforgiving, with a steep learning curve and steep retry options that can put some people off, but those hungry for a challenge—or love for a martial arts action flick—out of the game. Will leave
greatest form of flattery
Capcom’s God Hand was a flawed masterpiece, featuring great battles, an absurd plot, and the most goofy cast of characters in any action game. In particular, the game’s bob/weave evasion techniques, customizable combos, and intuitive controls gave brutal, punitive combat a satisfying uniqueness that appealed to some who played it. Sloclap clearly had an affinity for God’s Hand, as Sifu feels strongly inspired by it in many ways.
Your hero is on the hunt for a group of traitorous martial artists who have betrayed your family and dojo. This is your typical kung-fu flick revenge plot, though it does introduce some supernatural twists from the jump. You can check out the whiteboard in the game menu to see where the hero makes detective-like relationships to reach his goal. This board gives you basic backstories and character digests, without overpowering the game with additional story sequences or dialogue. In fact, Sifu is surprisingly minimalistic in all the right ways. Scenes of the event have some tough cuts, or long pre-combat diatribes; Everything you need to know about the game world is presented in the game.
Your fist does most of the talking in any case. You use the directional buttons to ask specific NPCs questions, but if you don’t want to hear what they have to say, you can easily smash them in the jaw with a bottle. You’re looking for revenge, after all, and there are a lot of punching bags between you and your goals.
Sifu uses a two-button combo system, with one button dedicated to light strikes and the other dedicated to hard blows. Combining these two buttons in different ways creates different attacks, and you can use XP to unlock additional moves. There are also some special attacks that let you modify your attack. For example, tapping backwards, then forwards, followed by a light attack results in a palm strike that pushes your target, which is enough for enemies to knock on walls or clear space. It’s good. A single input with a heavy attack initiates a sweep that knocks down weaker opponents. You can unlock a sliding sweep to travel to counter-punch enemies when you close the gap, or to use after a successful dodge.
In addition to health and damage, you need to manage the structure during melee. The structure has a mechanic similar to the currency system in Sekiro: Shadow Die Twice. Essentially, as you deal damage to opponents, you also weaken their currency, which is represented by a yellow gauge below their health bars. When this gauge is full, opponents’ stances are broken, leaving them stunned and vulnerable to a powerful finishing blow. The same is true for you. If you block multiple blows in a row, your structure weakens and eventually breaks down, leaving you wide open to receive an enemy attack.
You can parry or block on the defensive side. Tapping the block button stops incoming strikes, while holding the block triggers the guard. Both techniques have advantages and disadvantages. Parries block enemy attacks, giving you a chance to counterattack. Timing is tight, so you can easily time the deflection wrong and eat a knuckle sandwich. Guarding is a safer effort, but using it excessively quickly destroys the structure – and breaks the guard.
You can also evade attacks with a dedicated dodge button. This is a back-step by default, but you can effect movement with directional input if you want to avoid in a specific direction. Holding down the steal button initiates a sprint that’s ideal for creating space or setting up a lung attack. However, there are downsides to avoid. It does not provide complete impenetrability as is usually the case in action games; You can’t avoid attacks like Bayonetta or Devil May Cry. You can’t dive into the rush and dodge your way out of damage, as you’ll inevitably get stuck with a wrong swing during animation recovery.
butterflies and bees
The most important defensive tool in your arsenal is also the most subtle: knitting. While holding down the block button, you can tap down to bob and weave under attacks. Like God’s Hand, Sifu’s weave gives you imperviousness to high strikes, along with the added bonus of maintaining your position. As a result, you can counterattack more quickly than dodge. Weaving is a gamechanger, as it lets you defend in an aggressive, pseudo-aggressive manner that gives you the means to stand out among the crowd and dominate enemies in a stylish, utterly eye-catching way.
In addition, tapping forward during a block displays a hop that lets you avoid low strikes, but opens you up to any high strikes that may come up. Both of these abilities are integral to Sifu’s action, so it’s important to master them early in order to complete the game. Admittedly, the weaving and countering in Sifu isn’t as sharp or arcade-like as God Hand’s defensive options, but Sifu tightly balances the mechanics it offers. It’s a blast to master the core abilities, especially as Sifu throws increasingly difficult enemies at you throughout the game.
As you fight enemies, you earn meters that can be spent on Focus Strike. Holding the focus button slows the action, allowing you to target specific points for a powerful attack on your opponent. To use another God Hand analogy, these strikes are essentially roulette attacks: super moves that deal great damage or force an opening on your target. They’re a useful way to deal easy bonus damage, but in reality, this mechanic is the least used. There’s nothing inherently wrong with focus strikes, but I had more fun finding openings and letting fists fly than choosing targets to strike.
everything is fair
Sifu’s combat goes very well. Once you familiarize yourself with the controls and capabilities, your effectiveness is mastered. Sure, enemy types have their gimmicks. For example, female opponents have an absurd reach with their kicks, and they love sweep attacks. On the other hand, chunky, male bruisers love grappling. Like the classic, arcade beat ’em ups, Sifu demands that you learn these tricky enemy attack patterns. If you dig Roads of Fury 4, you know that remembering is just as important as action and reaction.
The environments are littered with powerful tools and weapons to use. You can grab bottles, bats, and pipes to use as weapons, or throw them at targets for damage. You can also kick and throw the above objects as well as chairs and small objects from the ground without picking them up. The animations are slick and smooth, and you can perform these actions mid-fight, resulting in terrifying, Jackie Chan-style combat that’s as impressive to watch as it is to play.
With that said, Sifu is a tough killer. You’re going to have to clean your watch over and over again, because the enemies don’t play well. You regenerate a small amount of health when you finish off an enemy, but there is no healing item to abuse outside of this small grace. You’re probably going to die a lot, and Sifu has a weird retry system.
The hero has a coin-laden pendant that revives him upon death. You can resume fights immediately after a fall, but doing so increases the age of the hero, physically changing his appearance. Aging is additive; The age of one resurrection is one year to you, the age of another two years to you, the age of the third to you three years, and so on. It also consumes pendant coins, the last one leaving you as a frail, elderly man with no further revival options – just a game over screen should you fall.
This system also affects the gameplay. The protagonist grows noticeably stronger as the character ages, but suffers from a lower health bar as a tradeoff. The older your character, the more structuring and recovery skills become available to you, but the system is ultimately a double-edged sword: You can dispatch enemies more quickly as an aging martial artist, but some Slip ups send you to your grave too soon. Functionally, aging is indistinguishable from a standard issuance system in old school games, and the aging of sifu carries a similar penalty. Fortunately, clearing an area takes you down one level.
Experience earned through fighting can be spent on health, stamina, or perks and new moves. Unfortunately, in Sifu, a game over doesn’t just force you to restart the level; You also lose any experience and skills you’ve earned. Skipping missions or watching the game on screen resets almost everything you’ve unlocked along the way, except for age-related skills you gain from idols (gaining health through takedowns, for example). If you want to keep abilities permanently, you’ll need to spend five times more XP than normal to avoid this penalty. This means you have to effectively complete an entire mission to earn enough XP to make one or two permanent purchases. If you’re particularly skilled at sifu, the ability to “hire” won’t be too much of a problem, as you won’t lose them very often. If you struggle, the system is brutally unforgiving and overly harsh. It would have been more satisfying to just double the skill’s permanent-purchase cost, and let you buy them only once.
Can your PC run Sifu?
Sifu uses a sleek cell-shaded visual style that lends a graphical quality to the characters and environments. To run the game, your PC must have an AMD FX-4350, Intel Core i5-3470, or equivalent processor; AMD Radeon R7 250, Nvidia GeForce GT 640, or equivalent graphics card; 8 GB RAM; and Windows 8.1 operating system. The game is 22GB in size, so it won’t eat up your rig’s storage. For an optimal experience, developer Slocap recommends a PC with an AMD FX-9590, Intel Core i7-6700K, or equivalent processor; AMD Radeon R9 390X, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, or equivalent graphics card; and Windows 10 OS. Sifu is an Epic Games Store release, and contains in-game achievements.
On a desktop PC with an AMD Ryzen 5 3600 processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU, and 16GB of RAM, the Sifu runs well at maximum graphics settings and 1440p resolution. Thankfully, the stutter and slowdown of most demo builds is not there in this full release. You’ll occasionally notice slight stutter when the game loads new assets while transitioning between regions, but performance is a relatively smooth 60 frames per second during combat. In terms of options, Sifu supports a few, including luminosity, render resolution, and Vsync.
get ready to fight
The Sifu has solid mechanical systems at work under the hood, providing a style that has been sorely missed since the introduction of God’s Hand nearly two decades ago. Brutal challenge, satisfying defensive options, and seamless environmental integration produce classic, arcade-like action that isn’t common these days. The high level of mastery and the tough-as-nails retry system also encourage replays, though some people may be disappointed by the game’s ability-buying system. Still, if you fancy deep, fast-paced fighting, consider the Sifu an immediate purchase.
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