We were given an early SIFU hands-on preview opportunity to look at Sloclap’s next game after Absolver, yet another fighting game, but with a new story. Taking the role of a Kung Fu student with a pendant with mysterious powers you seek answers for your family’s murder. Fighting your way through a city full of numerous enemies, anger and revenge fuel your motivation in SIFU.
The one mysterious power of your pendant is that upon death you can rise up again to fight. However, once you do, you age; but with age you become stronger with the trade off of decreased health. Enemies normal, quick, and large will swarm you, sometimes with weapons, so it’s best to strategize your next moves.
A timed-exclusive on Epic Games Store and console exclusive to PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5, we were given a preview to try the new IP. Some early impressions of the game are here and we take a quick dive into what we played so far in our SIFU hands-on preview.
Platform: Windows PC (Previewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: February 8th, 2022
Price: $39.99 USD
Opening up, you start in the Wuguan which serves as a hub throughout the story. Here is where you can use the training room to hone your technique with hand to hand combat and weapons. Selecting missions is also done through this room and well as the overlook of the city you fight through.
In the preview, there is one section available to play called “The Club”, which takes place in a night club. Riddled with enemies, you seek answers for the whereabouts of a man named Sean. Upon interrogating defeated enemies, you find that there is an event called the Burning which requires passes to enter.
Additionally, this is the only segment that was available. Taking place somewhere around the first half of the second chapter the story has much more to offer. It feels like an ode to movies of the past breaking up crime syndicates and I am always down for that.
In the underground fight scene, people don’t fight fair. Nothing really hammers that home quite like the gameplay when you’re not completely equipped to handle it. You will fail and you will feel frustrated when you can’t do just the right thing at the right time. The game mechanics do not reward mindless button mashing and can be punishing until you learn it.
Some enemies will have unblockable attacks and they are devastating; Dealing with bigger enemies makes this apparent. You can dodge, block, and parry but will require a good amount of practice. During scraps, you can pick up weapons and use them or throw them at enemies to get a quick stun out of it.
Arguably, one of the best features we found in our SIFU hands-on preview is Focus, which allows you to target specific body parts on an enemy. Using it requires your Focus Meter to be filled beforehand but can be a lifesaver in certain scenarios. Through defeating enemies, you gain XP which are used to give you upgrades. Most upgrades consist of more combo attacks and other additions to Focus. Spending a bit more XP will keep them as permanent unlocks.
The combat is responsive but does require you to take a moment to fully understand it; Enemies can even sucker punch you or hit you in the face with a bat. The methodology in the fighting system is something to be heeded if you want to progress.
Other elements were present like finding small statues. Finding them grants one reward that you can choose from; they’re either restricted by age, score, or XP but serve as upgrades. A skill tree is present to find how you want to build yourself to take on foes ahead.
Detective work also serves as a way to find your family’s killer, and by collecting things for your Board you can track them down. At the end of the preview, you defeat a Disciple of Sean’s to get a pass; using it allows for forward progression but also gets added to your Board.
About four times throughout the preview, you encounter decision making which may give the same result or not depending on your choice. The most common are ones that are inquisitive, confirmation, or something a bit more aggressive. SIFU has done a good job in implementing them in appropriate spots and not in Mass Effect style scenes.
If I had to describe the game’s art style, I’d say it’s close to something like that of Valorant. Characters are distinct and unique looking, even the random thugs. Models for characters seem low poly but it’s the side effect of the art style SIFU uses, which isn’t a bad choice.
Neon and stage lights set the environment you play in, so a lot of blues and purples. The ground is littered with papers and walls are covered in posters and graffiti; seating areas are decorated with string lights that aren’t too bright but sets the mood. An item to note is that with all of the positives, an area of improvement can be the very rare stuttering on characters and locales.
Destructible environments like being kicked into a paper wall, table, or railing get disintegrated by your weight. It really adds into the bar fight aesthetic that I personally like. Needless to say, in the small segment that was playable, the game wasn’t too dim nor too bright and and everything coalesced nicely.
Since you’re in an underground fight club, music booms with speakers giving off the effect. Besides being a visual game, this turns out to be an audio queue type of game as well. Knowing when an attack lands and when the next random enemy might be approaching is key.
Voice acting in the game is very well done and gives the characters more emotion (anger mostly) and pain when they get beat up. Dialogue options are all voiced over and add to the story as it should normally; I should also note that there aren’t many opportunities, if any at all, to have full length conversations in the preview.
In the build with our SIFU hands-on preview, sounds of punching and kicking are normal sounding and not overexaggerated like in Batman Arkham games where ending an engagement is a loud sound. For this reason alone, I can safely say that I like this about it, coupled with the previous items.
Briefly I spoke about some minor performance issues, those are present in this build but will hopefully be resolved by full release. It was easy to run on my PC at 4K on the 1080 Ti but it’s hard to say that the performance might be linked to the DRM or not. Some minor things were the pop in when loading the city view from the window and stuttering but nothing much outside of that.
SIFU has been delayed and then slightly undelayed from it’s initial 2021 launch. The results are good and I think it’s made for a great product so far. Hopefully, everything after this goes smoothly and we get an even better optimized game for launch.
SIFU launches February 8, 2022 for Windows PC (via Epic Games Store), PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.