streetfighterv

Street Fighter V, right now, is a complete joke. It’s akin to calling yourself a “street fighter” because you once got mugged in the street and at some point the perp punched you in the face. To liken it to its older siblings and mix in some development jargon, it’s more Street Fighter Alpha IV than Street Fighter V.

Online play is a disaster, which is particularly egregious for a title that’s sacrificed almost its entire single-player portion to the Post-Release Gods. The “offline” features are barebones and, hilariously, are subject to the same server issues. To me the artwork is… questionable, and not because of any puritanical sensibilities: it’s inconsistent, occasionally sketchy… and yes, neither waists nor hands work that way. That it’s done by Capcom veteran Bengus, well-known for stellar pieces, points not to a failure in basic anatomical comprehension, but instead to the game being rushed.

Now, none of the above comes as a surprise – Capcom have been telegraphing all the features they’re stripping out for launch while promising forthcoming updates in the coming months. Right now though, they’re exactly that: promises. And maybe, just maybe, the time for paying for promises has reached its nadir. With unhappiness around Street Fighter V growing, Jason Evangelho of Forbes has singled out “irresponsible reviews” of the game – and it’s hard to disagree with him when he matches up largely negative excerpts from day-before-launch tracts with their contradictory 8+ scores and overly-lenient caveats.

But I also feel he’s putting a lot of value in us ol’ press. Because we’ve done a poor job of covering games, reviewing games, remaining relevant. And it shows: when it comes to deciding whether or not they’re going to buy a game, the large majority – and, dear reader, I’d be happy to be corrected in this instance – don’t care what value a publication sticks on it, so his suggestion that reviews should be based on experience after launch rather than before is noble and practical, but ultimately ineffectual. You might turn to a writer to find out whether it’s interesting or sensational… but worth purchasing? You’ve probably already bought it.

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This problem is twofold. The first is that as far as criticism is concerned, we’re sometimes weak-kneed contrarians scared to give a game a proper dressing down (unless, of course, everyone else does, in which case you get heelaareeyus takedowns), which has resulted in the 7-10 review scale and a media landscape where you can’t tell your Polygons from your Edges unless they deviate from the Metacritic mean. In which case they’re clickbaiters, obviously. Right? Which brings us to the other problem, which is you.

Yes, you. Pre-ordered a game recently? Propped up some developer’s never-ending Early Access trust fund? Gloat that you do neither and instead pirate all your games for 50-hour-plus “demo” purposes? It’s on you. Not so much on the pirates in this case, though they’re just as crappy for different reasons. I feel like a Warner Brother’d record because this despair rolls up ’round Feb like a clipping fog; I’m just going to quote from the opinion piece I wrote last year, roughly about the same time:

“Gamers are the ones with the real power to make a difference in this circus of failed launches, buggy releases, unrequited promises and nickel-and-diming pre-order frenzies. Instead of harrumphing with snide remarks and petty digs at how gamers will just accept any coverage these days, I ask you simply to consider that the system is broken; that when developers embargo launch-day reviews, or prevent access to information, or partition content into slivers of DLC, or sponsor gameplay sessions for the purposes of marketing, their contempt is aimed at you.”

Yeeeeaaaah, I'm okay with it.

“Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?”

I don’t know how to make it clearer. Given the incredible number of forum threads and comment sections with various renditions of “nevah ah-gin” every time this happens, I’m not going to feign outrage that Capcom can release a game that they’ve stripped of content to focus on online multiplayer (which STILL DOESN’T WORK PROPERLY) and waists the thickness of wafers in this, the Year of the Monkey, 2016.

Capcom deserves lambasting, but they’ve launched Street Fighter V in this state because they don’t give a flyer what the gaming press has to say, and because gamers lap it up. The press forgives it (like Jason’s compatriot Ollie Barder, who suggests in another Forbes article that the poor server performance is not Capcom’s fault because any sufficiently advanced netcode is indistinguishable from magic and they couldn’t have possibly known what they were getting into, since it’s not like they had ample beta test data to draw from) in the reviews while criticising it in the news. And there’s a real argument to be made for misleading reviews when there are people who actually do put their trust in certain writers to inform them of issues.

But let’s be honest. Most of us? We LOVE it. We love unoptimised garbage and buggy releases and season passes and DLC packs and missing features and graphical downgrades and historical fiction about floating French teeth and hair.

We must love it, because we’ve demonstrated a Sisyphean pleasure in paying for games long before we even have access to them. Publishers and developers have decreed that we’ll push that rock up to the top of a hill — a rock preordained to roll back down before it gets there for all eternity — and by the gods we’re not the sort of casual scrubs who’ll shirk from their challenge.

So you know what? Shut up, nerd. Stop hitting yourself.