SIFU test, an ode to kung fu in a punchy game

We tested SIFU, the particularly demanding fighting game from Sloclap. Between frustration and perseverance, what is the new nugget in homage to the martial arts worth?

Announced at E3 2021, SIFU made a strong impression from its first trailers as its promise of gameplay was original. In this game, imagined by Sloclap, you play as a young man, witness to the assassination of his Kung-Fu master when he was a child. Eight years of training later, and as he enters his twentieth year, our character embarks on an initiatory journey whose sole purpose is to take revenge on the evildoers who killed Sifu.

For this game, the studio made the very controversial choice to bet on quality but above all very demanding gameplay. Like single-difficulty games, SIFU is then placed in a delicate position, between asserted creative decision and lack of accessibility for the general public. What did we think of this title with marked ambitions? Answer in this test SIFU.


Test SIFU on PS5/comp_link]

An original promise

Our adventure in the game begins in a completely classic way. Our hero, after being marked by the organized assassination of his master Sifu, trains for many years in order to become the most competent of fighters and defeat one by one the thugs who tried to kill him that night. . A quest for revenge, a common theme in almost all famous martial arts films.

In this sense, the game does not fail to draw inspiration from the greatest works of the genre. We very often have the impression, for example, of finding ourselves in the heart of a Kill Bill interactive, our hero pursuing and eliminating his 5 targets, while they all master a very particular fighting style. To do this, it follows a precise organization, which constitutes the order of the 5 levels available.

Of course, we always start with the least challenging, to finish on the supreme boss, the one who gives us the most trouble. This order, impossible to deviate from it. To help you in your quest, the hero obviously has a major asset: a “magic” pendant that resurrects him each time he is knocked down, but which also makes him age a few years.

Therefore, an observation is necessary. Our role as a player and to succeed in overcoming the 5 targets, by optimizing the use of the advantage that we are given at the start of the title. A balance much more difficult to reach than we thought and which had the gift of frustrating us most of the time. But to understand this phenomenon, let’s go back to the basics.

The difficulty at all costs?

In our view, a game consists of three main aspects that define its ability to entertain: its gameplay, its story and its interface. It is clear that, if Sloclap has given everything in gameplay and mechanics, the last two aspects have been severely neglected, and this voluntarily. Indeed, during the first hour of play, we feel that the desire of the studio was to focus on technique more than on entertainment.

Let’s call a spade a spade, SIFU is an extremely punishing title in every way. Looking at the trailers we expect a complicated game. And that’s actually what we reap even if some disappointments are necessary, at the level of the enemies and the fights in themselves for example. If at the beginning we manage to get out of it without too much trouble, the difficulty increases drastically after only a few opponents and we quickly find ourselves overwhelmed.

Only method to get out of it, observe, master the techniques and adopt the right timing. But that’s easier said than done. To dodge, counter or attack, you often need to perform combos, inherent in any fighting game. However, a good number of them use joysticks, which is certainly not the idea of ​​the century. Indeed, the movements must be precise, which is almost never the case in the heat of the moment.

As a result, we would have much preferred to have to press buttons in series rather than swinging the left joystick up and down repeatedly. In addition, for dodging in particular, it often happens that the movements are poorly taken into account by the game and therefore do not have the desired effect. There are countless knockouts due to this mechanic in particular.

Especially since once an enemy has you, it is very difficult not to suffer, especially when you advance in the level and find yourself knocked down by seemingly classic opponents but with the strength of that of a mini-boss. In this case, we regret not being able to approach the enemies in a more stealthy style. We sometimes find ourselves very quickly surrounded by more than a dozen opponents even though it would have been easy to discreetly eliminate some of them beforehand to make our task easier.

Simple yet frustrating game system

Also, don’t rely on the level save system to release the pressure between stages. When you pass a level, you move on to the next one at the same age. It therefore goes without saying that if you are already 50 years old, you will not last long, even by resetting the dead. Do not expect either that once definitely dead, you will be able to resume your new level with twenty years on the clock.

In reality, the game can only take you to a certain level at the minimum age when you started it. To finish the game, you will therefore have to cross the 5 levels in a single life maximum, and this by optimizing your age at entry into a level each time. Suffice to say that by dint of having to redo it, the first step seems much simpler to us… but also has the gift of making us angry.

To help you in your (almost) insurmountable quest, you have a few assets that will only make the difference in the long run. During your adventure, you unlock ephemeral skills depending on your age or your experience points. Small practical additions when you are entitled to them, but which only make sense if you persevere. You will feel the effects after dozens and dozens of games.

A bit like when it comes to getting back to sport, the machine takes a long time to start to get the first convincing results. In addition, the aging system is in our opinion still too subtle to make a difference. Each time you get older, you lose stamina, and therefore hit points, but you are supposed to gain experience, and therefore do more damage. If we feel the first aspect very well, the second is almost imperceptible as the enemies see their own strength increase much more quickly.

So yes, SIFU is a real badass. In the category of fighting games, it is undoubtedly one of the most tenacious that we have been able to play so far. If this is not the place to discuss the usefulness of a single difficulty, we will nevertheless remember that SIFU is one of the least accessible games of this year. It is intended for the most rigorous of you, and will definitely not give you a gift. Nevertheless, once the technique has been mastered, again after many hours of failure, it is particularly enjoyable to eliminate the enemies and reach the end of your revenge.

A promising atmosphere but which does not go all the way

It’s not really the story that will catch up with our gaming experience. It only took us an hour to understand that SIFU would not offer much at the narrative level. While that’s not a bad thing in and of itself, it’s hard for us not to press it when we see that the game is blessed with a rich genre tradition, and it’s an opportunity that the studio doesn’t bother to fully grasp. We would have liked more investment on that side, whereas SIFU is satisfied with a silent homage.

The characters are generally “caricatured” and imprisoned in characters that have little impact on their way of fighting or expressing themselves for some of them. Even the character that we play seems rather empty, only driven by his desire for revenge.

As for the atmosphere, we end up with a title visually marked by “painted” graphics which represent the big positive point of this game, environments with a distinct identity and a particularly pleasant sound design. As you might expect, the levels are very linear, so don’t expect to find an exploratory dimension in SIFUSloclap is satisfied with the bare minimum with a handful of collectibles without much interest (compared to the gameplay) to collect.

In terms of language, players will be able to enjoy subtitles and an interface in French while the voices are in English. But don’t worry, our characters aren’t very talkative either. Finally, the interface is simple and well thought out, just like the gameplay of SIFU. In the menu, you will find all the information on the collectibles and your targets, the little common thread that you will find in the game.

You can also consult all this information via the starting hub, which allows you to choose your levels, to train or to view the tree of skills acquired so far. Overall, we cannot predict the lifespan of SIFU, which is subject to your level, your ability to adapt and above all your endurance for the frustration of the gameplay. In any case, it may take you a long time.


Test SIFU on PS5/comp_link]

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