capcom street fighter 6 impressions hands-on preview

Preview: I played a full build of Street Fighter 6, and it can’t get here soon enough

Roomba will wipe the floor with you

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I’ve had the pleasure of playing Street Fighter 6 multiple times since its initial reveal, just one short year ago. I first checked out the rad-looking sequel during the summer of 2022 at Birmingham’s VS Fighting tournament, then later that year at EGX London. I’ve also had the good fortune to take part in both beta tests and, as previously reported, I have been left in a pretty excitable state from each experience.

A fortnight ago, I was kindly invited to Capcom’s UK headquarters in order to check out what was, more or less, the full and final build of SF6. And, by the end of my short time spent with the complete game, my anticipation for this scrapper has, more or less, reached something of a eye-twitching, hand-scratching fever pitch… Or maybe that’s just the coming of summer pollen. Who knows?

While there were limitations placed on what I could and could not play, (so save yer gripin’), as well as what I may or may not reveal, I was given the opportunity to check out one character’s arcade mode, a healthy chunk of the “World Tour” feature, and poke around within various Tutorials, Character Guides, and Combo Trials. Most excitingly, I was given free rein with SF6‘s 18-strong launch roster, affording the opportunity to step into the ring with returning veterans Honda and Dhalsim, as well as frankly frightening newcomers such as Marisa, Manon, and JP.

I’ll tell you this much, whoever you’re taking to the lab, you can shape into a force to be reckoned with. And, for the first time since Killer Instinct, I  truly want to — and feel like I could — exceed as anybody.

Choose Your Fighter

While I hardly had the time to get neck-deep into the entire roster, the key element of the SF6 lineup that stands out to me is the perceived viability of almost every character, at least on first impressions. The sequel’s fast, aggressive playstyle and incredibly flexible mechanics allow for all 18 World Warriors to feel solid and practical, while also owning their bespoke playstyles. With a roster of zoners, rushdown champs, grapplers, and hybrid fighters, SF6 has a highly varied pack of pugilists, each character built around one (or more) personal mechanics that offer them distinct personalities among their peers.

For example, Zangief and Marisa are both incredibly dangerous and dominant grapplers. But while Zangief is about smothering the opponent with ground-gaining strikes and singular, devastating throws, (many of which have way more armor than should be legal), Marisa’s gameplay revolves around charging her buttons, (with all of her standing normals able to be held for alternate effect), with the Roman giant locking her opponents down with unpredictable striking rhythms that leave her hapless foes scared to press buttons.

So, while both characters boast what is essentially a “wrestler” archetype, the two titans are completely different from one another in control, strategy, and offensive and defensive tactics. It’s this emphasis on distinction that makes the entire roster interesting, resulting in the player being almost spoilt for choice.

Lily is a fantastic hybrid character. The Thunderfoot Tribe member has learned many Specials of her predecessor, T. Hawk, but she is imbued with mobility and reach that was not afforded her chunky-sized ancestor. Of all of the new characters played, Lily is perhaps my favorite. There’s just something so infectious about her. I also spent a little time as Manon, who very much felt a “specialist” character, one that will require deft study and experimentation, to be ultimately rewarded with a fighter who is frightening at mid-range and frankly terrifying in close quarters.

Cammy, delightfully, is still Cammy, and slips right into her role as an acrobatic rushdown character relying on dizzying speed coupled with assault from myriad directions. Within seconds the Delta Red Queen felt extremely comfortable, and her fans will be very pleased with her latest incarnation. If it ain’t broke… right? Cammy’s most important new addition is definitely her newest cat pal, who both hangs out with her on the character select screen and interrupts her mid-match victory poses.

An interesting note about piano commands, directly affecting Messrs E. Honda and Blanka in particular. Both Hundred Hand Slap and Electric Thunder are now Command Moves (qcf/qcb + P). In fact, during my short time playing the full game, I did not find a single piano-based input, a change perhaps necessitated by the addition of the new “Modern” and “Dynamic” control systems.

As for the sinister-looking JP, a variety of scary, multi-planed projectiles — one of which is actually a throw — brings about the same cautious anxiety conjured up by say, Mortal Kombat’s Cetrion or King of Fighters‘ Goenitz. Oh, and he also has a screen trap, with a time-delayed release, (ala Korin), which is also a teleport… which he can also feint. Cheers. You can check out some of these moves in the video below.

We’ll solve the puzzle, but JP is going to be an online monster in the early going. Put that in the bank.

We are The World

Many of you will have, by now, played the World Tour opening as featured in the Street Fighter 6 demo, available now on PC and console platforms. I got the chance to push a little further beyond what is shown in the demo, touching base with Chun-Li and her adorable chum Lei-Feng, getting into scrapes with several cardboard box-headed ruffians, and even agreeing to some (fairly dopey) sidequests from various Metro City residents.

The World Tour mode, aside from the character-building elements featured in the demo, also offers up an array of (mostly silly) side activities, which include smashing up trucks at Abigail’s Scrapyard, (no sign of the Big Man himself, thankfully), breaking boards for a scene in a kung-fu movie, teaching a wannabe gang member the error of his ways, (kicked the shit out of him, basically), and promising an “infooencuer” that I’d help him make some red hot fighting content for his channel. I won’t.

This story-cum-adventure mode appears to be mostly designed to help introduce players to SF6’s mechanics, characters, and fighting styles, piece-by-piece, while also offering up single-player fun for those who want to take time out from one-on-one matchmaking. SFV was rightfully lambasted at launch for its barebones release and utter disinterest in single-player content, which was eventually “rectified” with a crushingly long-winded story campaign.

Clearly, World Tour is an effort to offer players their own out-of-the-ring adventure, presented in the style of Like-a-Dragon-lite, if you will. I can’t deny that I find the script and strange central plotline of “Chasing Strength” cheesy, even childish, with a stilted delivery and muted presentation style that feels generations old. But, all that said, I do really dig the excellent character creator, as well as some of the fun side modes and cameo appearances from some of Street Fighter‘s finest combatants (and beyond).

Besides, where else in gaming could you find yourself assaulted by a very angry Roomba?

No Train, No Gain

My final few minutes were spent with two of the Training tools in Street Fighter 6‘s arsenal, namely the Character Guides and the returning Combo Trials. The Character Guide aims to go way beyond the act of merely showing you a respective fighter’s moves, and instead breaks down exactly why and when you would use them, offering examples of counterplay against numerous eventualities. Essentially, the new Character Guides are not only hoping to teach you the ways of Juri, Guile et al, but they are also hoping to tutor you in the basics of Street Fighter itself.

Not just How to throw a Hadouken, but When to throw a Hadouken. Knowledge that is equally important.

While the Combo Trials will be immediately familiar to Street Fighter aficionados, the SF6 edition includes a valuable new feature, that allows players to slow down the action to better build the wrist-shattering attacks moment-to-moment. With several speed settings, the trickier combos can now be started and completed in super slo-mo, with the player gradually increasing the speed and input window until they find themselves cracking out a 20-hitter 10 times out of 10.

Or, in my case, a two-hitter 8 times out of 14. Nobody ever said the path to enlightenment was easy.

Fun Fact: Cammy has a Ryu-style mule kick (B+HK) that cancels into numerous specials/supers.

I think part of the reason I was greatly encouraged to spend time in the World Tour, Character Guide, and Combo Trial modes was Capcom’s enthusiasm to demonstrate that Street Fighter 6 is not only being built as a fully-featured title, but also a title that hopes to pull in newcomers and wayward veterans.

With SF6‘s triple-control system, overhauled tutorials, new practice tools, and info-feeding story mode, Capcom clearly wants to educate players of all persuasions that its spanking new fighter, while undoubtedly deep, will be accessible. A title that will offer an array of tuneable options to allow even the youngest, newest, or most befuddled of fighting game fans to take their first steps to glory.

As for myself. Well, I’ve seen just about all I can ahead of next month’s launch. With Street Fighter 6, Capcom is hoping to see its flagship fighting series, one that defined the genre itself, make a grand challenge for its (lost?) fighting game throne, offering fans old and new a fully-featured and engaging sequel that has learned from the mistakes of its past, while evolving its entire pedigree for a bold and electrifying future.

At this point, it’s all over bar the fight itself. And in just five short weeks’ time, we’ll find out whether SF6 is set for the mother of all comebacks, or is to be left flat on its back, staring at the lights in a final K.O.

I’m not a betting man. But I know where the smart money’s goin’

Street Fighter 6 launches June 2 on PlayStation, PC, and Xbox platforms. In the meantime, be sure to check out our reports on the 50 things I loved in the beta, a full playlist of character themes, and my suggestions on the 10 World Warriors who would fit right into the new title as post-launch DLC.

[This preview is based on a build of Street Fighter 6 played on a PS5. Expenses were not provided by the publisher.]

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Image of Chris Moyse
Chris Moyse
Senior Editor - Chris has been playing video games since the 1980s and writing about them since the 1880s. Graduated from Galaxy High with honors. Twitter: @ChrisxMoyse