Sifu (2022)

It takes a very long time, if not an entire life to master a martial art. Students must train their bodies to the degree that they can execute every strike, counterattack, and movement with precise accuracy. A competent combatant must move instinctively.

Similarly, learning Sifu’s combat method takes a significant amount of attention and training. As a genuine martial arts master, you must struggle through the difficulties of practice before you can gain the benefits.

Sloclap published the martial arts action game in 2017, allowing users to create their own fighting system while battling other online players in a unique fantasy universe.

Absolver’s bleak settings and uninspiring mission design let it down, but its fundamental combat was superb. Sloclap’s sequel hones the fighting system down around a more concentrated single-player experience. The theory is intriguing, but the execution falls short.

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So, Sifu is, at its core, a basic vengeance narrative. A group of mystery criminals brutally killed your master eight years ago, and you’ve committed your life to tracking them down and bringing them to justice.

Unfortunately, the attackers’ ringleaders are hidden behind scores of security, and the chances aren’t on your side. However, when your opponents have the numerical advantage, you have the power of rebirth.

When you die in battle, a mystical talisman on your hip will restore you. The problem is that you age every time you die. Every demise adds one point to a death meter, which determines how old you are during rebirth.

For example, you age one year after your first death, but after a few takedowns, you may end up losing several years in a couple of seconds. This aging mechanism is a fun way to keep track of your progress throughout the game, and I had a huge amount of fun noticing my protagonist’s stance alter as grey hair and wrinkles appeared.

Sloclap’s combat techniques are based on the moves of Pak Mei kung fu, a centuries-old martial art full of fluid and frequently explosive strikes. These stylized figures and flowing animations allow for breathtaking fighting engagements reminiscent of the finest Kung-Fu classics.

Sifu’s battles are well-choreographed ballets of broken bones when everything is firing on all cylinders. And standing atop a heap of beaten adversaries is an awesome rush that I pursued throughout the adventure.

Unfortunately, handling Sifu’s battles properly requires amazing accuracy and harsh timing restrictions, which distract from the game’s flow.

To live on these cruel streets, you must be an expert at using blocks, dodges, and counters, as one simple mistake subjects you to an enemy’s assault. These enemies also strike powerfully, removing a large chunk of your health bar, which feels punitive.

By accomplishing advanced takedowns, you gain a slither of life back, but this recovery is paltry in comparison to what you lose during a single adversary combination. Fighting adversaries in groups increases the difficulty, and you must maintain situational awareness and balance every danger while inflicting agony.

I like the extra tactical element to fighting, but I don’t like having to fight the camera at the same time; adversaries periodically come in from offscreen to break your combinations, and such assaults feel a bit cheap.

Completing any Sifu level is a significant yet rewarding task. Unfortunately, the game’s design exacerbates the difficulty. When you reach the age of 70, your talisman fully breaks, and the game is over.

When this occurs, you must redo the level entirely. A few available shortcuts make each boss run a bit more doable, but I still got bored of racing through the same places over and over until I perfected my strategy.

To complicate things, you start every level at the age you finished the prior one. This actually makes sense, but from a gameplay standpoint, it encouraged me to constantly repeat older stages in order to complete them at a younger age, giving me more years to play with later.

As you make money, you acquire experience, which you can spend to buy new powers. Some of these abilities appear to be necessary, such as the capacity to kick surrounding items towards enemies.

Shrines spread around the terrain provide extra benefits such as increased weapon damage or an increase in the amount of health you restore after each takedown.

Unfortunately, several powers and perks are sealed off as you age, forcing me to return to the early stages to work out enough experience to open those capabilities before I permanently aged out of them. This entire procedure was grueling.

Sifu charges out of the gate as a 20-year-old warrior. Its fundamental fighting feels fantastic, however as you continue, the gameplay can seem to turn into a bit of a tedious grind. Sifu deserves kudos for its wonderful sense of style and tone, but it’s also a perfect reminder of why getting older isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Have you played Sifu yet? What are your impressions so far? Too easy? Too difficult? Love the graphics and gameplay? Let us know your favorite moves in the comments below!

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