GamingReview: Sifu

Review: Sifu

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Vengeance isn’t something to be undertaken lightly. Vengeance demands sacrifice. It demands determination. Will. Focus. Blood. Sifu taught me though, that vengeance also demands perfection. And that failure will always come at a cost.

A Classic Tale of Revenge

You’ve spent 8 long years training for the moment to avenge your father’s murder. He was your teacher and Sifu of your dojo, and right in front of your eyes, he was killed by Yang and a group of his allies. The journey to take on all four of Yang’s followers is long, fraught with danger, and holds the risk of death in every encounter. With Yang himself presenting the greatest threat of them all. In Sifu, death isn’t a possibility, it’s a certainty.

It’s a revenge story the like of which you’ve seen before, and will see again. However, this straightforward narrative works in Sifu’s favour. You probably didn’t come here for the plot. So keeping things simple, but effective, is best. Especially when most people will be replaying often to get that perfect (or close enough to perfect) run. At a certain point, we don’t want exposition, or to exchange pleasantries. We just came to fight. 

The Price of Vengeance

Your justice will not come easy and the price for failure isn’t a simple respawn or losing a couple of experience points. It’s your very life essence. Every time you are bested in combat, you age. Meaning you could enter a stage at 20 and leave well into your golden years.

Instead of having to start the stage over at every defeat, you can rise again at the cost of one year of your life. However, it’s not to be used as a crutch, as the years will stack. So the first time you die, you lose a year. The next time, you lose two, for a total of three. You can only lower it by defeating a tough opponent, or a boss. Even then, it’ll only lower by a year. Every instance of failure comes at a higher cost than the last. 

It’s not all stick and no carrot though. Every 10 years added to your life will come with an increase in damage, and a decrease in HP. With time you could become something of a glass cannon. Your years of experience make you a sharp, yet brittle instrument. It’s an inspired mechanic as it not only increases the risk, and intensity of fights, but also adds to the narrative of the game. 

Your quest for revenge is all-consuming. You will risk and sacrifice everything. Even going as far as shaving off years of your life to avoid death and see your vengeance through to the end. You, the protagonist, spend every waking moment, planning and training. Even when you load up the game and hit continue, a little animation of your character assaulting a training dummy plays. This implies that even when you’re not playing, the protagonist is always preparing for the battles to come. 

AGAIN!

The ability to throw away a couple of years to continue isn’t always the best course of action. Sifu is meant to be replayed. It’s encouraged to go back to previous levels having unlocked shortcuts. Or with a deeper knowledge of enemy types and weapons available to use. Every run could see you younger, giving you the breathing room you need for the next fight. Trust me, you do not want to be fighting Yang at 60. 

This is what I meant by vengeance demanding perfection. If you want to see this through, and still be able to fail a couple of times to each boss, it’s highly encouraged to replay levels. Thankfully this isn’t a grind, you won’t be shaving off years of your own life to keep your protagonist young. The game is short. Your first run, with a couple of restarts, should clock in at well under 10 hours. This number will of course vary depending on how many times you replay levels for the optimal age or how skilled you are in combat. You may also want to replay for the alternate endings.

Sifu is a ridiculously fun game. This helps your ambitions of perfection, as combat will never get old. It’s such a great beat ‘em up game, with a robust combat system. The frantic fights juggling big groups of enemies, or intense battles against a few elites, will push your skills to the limit. And leave you feeling like a master in your own right.

Prepare To Fail. A Lot

It’s vital to keep in mind that Sifu is not going to be easy. It’s brutal and will not show you even the slightest bit of mercy. But that doesn’t take away from the fun factor. With a little practice, you can make it through, and take down any and everyone. I struggled multiple times against certain enemies. At times it felt like I was running into a wall hoping to make a door. Then it clicked. I realised that the combat mechanics aren’t optional. You won’t get through it by blocking all day, relying on brute force or spamming dodging. Engaging with all your abilities is key.

Avoiding certain attacks, parrying others. Using your environment to your advantage. Picking up dropped enemy weapons. Throwing stuff at them. Running away to give yourself a little space. Using focus abilities to stun, or trip enemies. All of these add up to an extremely engaging combat experience, that begs you to adapt to the situation. 

You’ve got so many tools at your disposal to turn even the worst odds in your favour. When you can come back to what used to be a nightmare of a fight, and just wipe the floor with your opponent, it is an insanely satisfying feeling. 

As you progress you’ll earn XP you can use to unlock abilities and combos. You spend a little to unlock it, then bundles of XP to unlock it permanently. Allowing you to keep your skills, when replaying earlier stages. You also have access to Shrines that are found throughout stages that can increase your block gauge (called structure), or allow you to regain focus through a successful avoid or parry. These are extremely helpful, giving you a bit more of an advantage during replays. 

Beautiful Battlegrounds & Bangers

Sifu is chock-full of style, and the aesthetic of all stages are just top notch. From rundown apartment buildings, to a meticulously curated museum. Its level design is not only great for combat, but a visual treat. Especially the second stage, the club. Full of neon and pulsing music, its perfect for a fight. As you land your first attack on the dance floor, the music drops and everyone gets a turn to be knocked out. It’s an awesome moment that could have been inspired by the John Wick Club scene. The apartment buildings also have an awesome hallway fight that was definitely a homage to the Oldboy hallway fight. The use of contrast and detail in every stage is awesome, and makes Sifu great to play, and look at.

Another thing I loved was the music. I’d be lying if I said I thought Sifu missed once with its soundtrack. Percussion is crucial to the OST and just adds to the punchiness of everything. Music is rhythmic and fast-paced, adding to the intensity of frantic combat. The boss themes were standouts for me though. Especially boss #2 The Fighter and #4 the CEO. The soundtrack was so good, I listened to it and replayed a couple of favourites while writing this review.

Sifu is a brutal, and desperate fight from the first brawl to the final duel. But something perhaps more important than all of that. Sifu is bloody good fun. It’s difficult, but extremely rewarding and satisfying. I struggle to find much I don’t like. It’s only detriment, if you could even call it that, is that some people may be scared away by the challenge it presents. 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go ahead and play some more. You should do the same.

SUMMARY

+ Dare I say, a perfect combat system
+ The age mechanic is really cool
+ Intense & flowing fights
+ Great soundtrack
+ Awesome visuals
+ Challenging
- Some people may be put off by its difficulty

(Reviewed on PC, also available on PS4 & PS5)
Jonah Ehlers
Jonah Ehlers
A lover of films, dogs and cooking, even though I'm terrible at it most days. Ever since my first console (the legendary PS2) I have had an immense love for Video games. It has given me some of my favourite memories, my closest friends and countless hours of fun.

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Review: Sifu+ Dare I say, a perfect combat system <br /> + The age mechanic is really cool <br /> + Intense & flowing fights <br /> + Great soundtrack <br /> + Awesome visuals <br /> + Challenging <br /> - Some people may be put off by its difficulty<br /> <br /> (Reviewed on PC, also available on PS4 & PS5)