By Patrick Aguda / February 8th, 2022
|Release Date||February 8th, 2022|
|Platform(s)||PS4, PS5, PC (Epic Games Store)|
|Age Rating||ESRB – M for Mature 17+|
When I was growing up, I loved watching kung fu movies. Watching masters like Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan defeat foes with immense skill and creativity was so cool and awe-inspiring. Fast forward, and enter Sifu. As a fan of most things kung fu related, I was really excited to try this out. Was Sifu able to awe me like the kung fu movies I loved so much in the past? Or was this trip on the path of vengeance a waste of time? Read on and find out!
Sifu follows the nameless protagonist, whom the player can choose to be male or female, as they hunt down the five assassins who killed their family. The protagonist will travel across five different locales, taking out numerous foes who block their path, in order to exact their revenge. The story in this game is pretty straightforward, and most of the lore comes from items you find for the Detective Board and the dialogue with the boss of each stage. It was interesting finding out about each assassin and their motivations. After defeating the five assassins, the game hints at a possible different ending that’s obtainable, but I wasn’t able to figure out how to do it. I don’t know if it’s linked to the Detective Board, or if you have to fight the assassins a certain way, but maybe one of you will be able to figure it out. The story was okay to me, enough to motivate me to go through all the levels and beat the assassins. I just wish it was easier to figure out how that other ending worked.
Now we get to the meat of this title, the gameplay. Sifu is an action game where you use a multitude of kung fu techniques to batter foes and exact your revenge. You can use the square and triangle buttons to perform different combos and techniques. In addition to these combos and techniques, there are also Focus skills. These involve holding down the L2 button, and then you select a skill using the analog stick. If you’re having a tough time, these skills can give you some breathing room against most foes. There are some different enemies to tackle in this game, from the lowly grunts, to the giant enforcers, to the agile kickers, to the skilled kung fu practitioners, and, of course, the bosses. I enjoyed fighting these enemies throughout my playthrough of the game, using all the skills my character had, and the environment around me, to progress through each stage. I liked how you couldn’t just button mash your way through your encounters, and you really had to think while fighting enemies.
Starting off, fighting all these enemies may prove difficult. This is why you’ll need to master more kung fu techniques, in order to increase your chances of winning. You can unlock more moves by spending experience points, and you get experience by defeating enemies. EXP can be spent in three ways: At your base, shrines scattered throughout the stage, and by dying. Yes, you read that right, and that mechanic is one of the selling points of the game. Each time you die, you are given the opportunity to spend the EXP you have accumulated up to that point. At the same time, your death counter and age go up. Your age goes up according to how high your death counter is. For example, if it’s at three, your age will go up that many years. Every 10 years, the damage you output increases, but your health also decreases. You can keep getting up until you’re in the 70s. If you die while you’re in the 70s, it is game over. You can decrease the death counter by defeating special enemies and by spending EXP at shrines. Now, spending EXP on moves doesn’t permanently unlock them. You will have to use EXP multiple times in order to do that. So, this game really encourages replaying through levels to improve your character. The better you do in each level, and the less you die, the easier it becomes for you to progress through all the stages in the long run. You can also find keys to shortcuts throughout each level, letting you progress through the level while fighting less enemies.
The game can be difficult when you first start out, but if you keep pushing through, you’ll eventually be rewarded for your perseverance. I came to like the game’s difficulty as this made sure the fights didn’t become a mindless slog. I particularly liked the boss fights since you really had to fight them differently from normal enemies. You really had to have your parrying and dodging down for those fights. If you like a challenge, this definitely is for you. If you’re the type of player who doesn’t like something particularly difficult, this may not be the game for you.
Visually, I really liked the look of this game. Best way to describe it is like a painting come to life. The environments and locales are varied and great. From dilapidated apartments, to a nightclub, and even to ancient caverns, your path of vengeance doesn’t keep you bored. A special shoutout to the boss stages, as they go from normal to almost mystical in the second stage of the fight. The character designs, mainly the protagonist’s and the five assassins, are also good. Seeing the protagonist go from a young prodigy to a badass old master is pretty awesome. Kuroki’s design was especially good cause her appearance drastically changes between her first and second stages. Her fight was really something. The kung fu techniques in this game were smooth, and it looked great when fighting foes. A big shoutout to the team for the great choreography and motion capturing. While I did like the look of this game, there were some issues. One, a lot of the grunts’ designs started to blend in after a while, and they weren’t as interesting as the assassins’ nor the protagonist’s. Second, it’s jarring to me how the enemies don’t blink, like at all. Even when they’re writhing on the ground, in pain, their eyes just stay open, staring into your soul. Lastly, there was sometimes a weird visual bug that occurred when opening doors. After opening the door, there’d just be a big span of color that blocked the screen. The color of the span depended on the door being opened. This usually happened when opening a double door. It was pretty jarring seeing this while traversing a level. Overall, the game looked good visually, but it did have issues.
Audio wise, both the BGM and sound effects were great. It was satisfying hearing your fists, and weapons, make their marks on enemies. Howie Lee, the composer of the game’s soundtrack, did a great job of making both traditional and electronic tracks. I particularly liked the BGM that played in The Club level, and in all of the boss fights. The voice acting was hit and miss. I thought the voice actresses did a better job of conveying emotion than their male counterparts, especially Kuroki and Jinfèng. The male voices felt a bit monotone for my taste.
According to the Epic Games Launcher, I played the game for almost 14 hours, though some of that time was spent trying to figure out how to get the other ending. After playing through all the stages, there isn’t much left to do other than completely learn all your skills, fill out the Detective Board, and figure out the requirements to get the other ending. I feel like an action game like this would’ve benefited from a Time Attack mode where you run through all the bosses, or a Survival mode where you fight hordes of enemies until you die. And then the results from those modes could’ve been posted online. Unfortunately, without modes such as those, it feels like this game doesn’t have much replayability.
Sifu is a solid action game. The kung fu techniques were a treat for the eyes, combat is fluid and fun, the main character designs and environments were beautiful, and the difficulty felt just right. Add in the great soundtrack and sound effects, and you got a pretty good package. Unfortunately, the game is held back by some visual issues, a short length, and low replayability. If you’re a kung fu enthusiast, or a big fan of action games with a good amount of difficulty, I think the game is worth the $39.99. However, if you’re looking for a game you can play long after you finish the main stages, you may want to look somewhere else.
Game copy provided by the publisher for review.
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