Street Fighter 6 hands-on preview: How Capcoms fighting game is fit for a new generation

Playing any fighting game for the first time is always a bit of a messy experience. You’re dealing with new characters and, as is often the case, whole new systems that underpin the combat to give a game its particular flavor – it can be a bit much to take onboard, let alone get a proper feel for what it’s actually like. But Street Fighter 6 is different. Capcom’s upcoming fighting game combines a load of elements from the past 25 or so years of Street Fighter games into a melting pot, and the result is an experience that feels equal parts comfortable and familiar but also fresh and exciting.

The first thing you notice about Street Fighter 6 is how heavy all the hits feel. Everything has a noticeable ‘hitstop’ to ensure that the impressive animations really emphasize the impact of all the kicks, punches, and legendary special moves. The characters still have their super exaggerated features, and Capcom’s proprietary RE-engine shows itself to be extremely versatile, with Street Fighter 6 having a hyper-real look to it. The characters certainly look more realistic than ever before – but they’re still at their cartoon-y, unrealistic, superhero proportioned best. Despite Street Fighter’s long-standing connection with urban culture, Capcom is really leaning into it this time. It should reek of that “Hello, fellow kids” meme but honestly, it really works. It’s a perfect fit for Street Fighter 6, which looks and sounds fantastic.

Testing the Street Fighter 6 roster

Street Fighter 6

(Image credit: Capcom)

Street Fighter 5 was very heavily weighted towards its comeback mechanic – the V-Trigger. In Street Fighter 6, you come out of the starting blocks firing. You don’t build your meter to facilitate a big comeback, stealing a round from the brink of defeat, but instead start every round with a fully stocked Drive Gauge. You’re on the front foot from the word go, and Street Fighter 6 is geared around how you use this meter – rather than how you gain it. The Drive system offers you five whole ways to spend this meter, all of which are reminiscent of the core mechanics from previous Street Fighter games. 

You’ve got access to moves that are similar to Street Fighter 5’s ‘V-Reversal’, Street Fighter 4’s ‘Focus Attack’ and the ‘Dash Cancel’, and, of course, Street Fighter 3’s memorable and exciting parry. There’s a lot of freedom of expression, particularly in how you might use these mechanics to influence a fight, and there’s a nice flow between them. For instance, successful parries actually gain the meter, which in turn will allow you to burn more on other elements. You now also have an individual meter for your Super moves, which has three levels, allowing for two super moves that are less powerful but can also provide added utility like damage buffs and one big, cinematic spectacular super which takes a whole grip of health off your opponent.

Series stalwarts Ryu and Chun Li, as well as Street Fighter 5 debutant Luke and brand spanking new character Jamie were available for selection in this hands-on demo of Street Fighter 6. Ryu and Luke have had the least work, largely playing like their Street Fighter 5 equivalents – albeit with the odd tweak here and there, not to mention some different combo routes and moves. But Chun Li is quite different. Sure, all of her expected moves are present, but she now has access to a stance that sets her up to use six possible attacks, each attached to the standard three punches and kicks. These include her low-profile slide that goes under fireballs, and a big kick that launches the opponent into the air which allows her to jump up after them and follow up with a flashy combo. 

Jamie, perhaps because he is brand new, was the most interesting. His mixture of Drunken Boxing and Capoeira attacks get more varied and deadly as you drink, which leaves you vulnerable. He has four levels of drunkenness, which net him everything from a dive kick to a command-grab that stuns the opponent and leaves them open for a full combo, as well as adds more hits and damage to his normal special moves. One of his main moves offers you the chance to end its chain of hits with either added damage or a free level of drink, so there’s a lot of strategy around increasing the drink level whenever you can and being aware of what he can do per level. Lifted from Guilty Gear Strive, there’s now an indicator of how challenging a character is to play as on the character select screen – one of many ways Capcom has made Street Fighter 5 more inviting to new players.

Taking control

Street Fighter 6 screenshot

(Image credit: Capcom)

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The ‘Modern’ controls have been a bit of a talking point since they were announced. They appear to offer a nice point of entry for a total novice, or someone who is largely interested in the single player content. In essence, it works by allowing special moves to be performed by pushing in a single direction and with a single button press – with the classic six button Street Fighter control scheme being reduced to three, using the remaining face buttons. Automatic combos can be performed by holding R2 and hitting one of the attack buttons for light, medium, and heavy damage; supers, throws, and the remaining systems are on the shoulder buttons. It certainly makes things way easier, and the auto combos can give new players a feel for what a character can do – but there are some major restrictions. 

For instance, Chun Li simply cannot do the iconic Spinning Bird Kick in this mode. There’s no input for it. To be fair, it usually is used in more complex combos rather than thrown out on its own, so it’s exclusion makes sense in that regard, but it is clear this mode is to just get people to the table and allow them to enjoy the game they’ve just dropped £70 on, regardless of their skill level. How Street Fighter 6 incentivises players to make the jump to the classic control scheme is yet to be seen and, honestly, it might not even be part of Capcom’s plan. It might be enough for some players that they can finally enjoy a Street Fighter game, and feel as if they are involved in all of the exciting moments that come from competitive fighting game play. Oh, and for anyone worrying about the return of 3DS Street Fighter 4’s Guile with the one button, no charge Sonic Booms, never fear – Chun Li’s charge fireballs are performed by holding back and pushing the special button.

Street Fighter 6 certainly leaves a great first impression. It feels instant (even more so if you’re using the Modern controls) and satisfying from only a few games and already hints and some real depth and creativity for players to experiment with as they learn the game and improve. In the coming months we will no doubt find out more about the characters, the online play and of course, the World Tour single player mode but even in this extremely barebone state, Street Fighter 6 gets all the important things right and wants as many people as possible to enjoy them.

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Want to learn more about Capcom’s 2023 fighter? Here’s why we believe Street Fighter 6 is leveraging the past to create what could be its best entry yet.

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