SFxT has the usual selection of modes, most right out of SF4. Each character has 20 trials to conquer, ranging from “do this special move” to “perform this intricate series of eight super-tight links you would never consider using in a real match.” If nothing else these’ll give you some ideas on how to play new characters. There’s also the new mission mode, which gives you 20 sadistically hard tasks to accomplish versus max-difficulty CPU opponents. Let’s just say Zangief and his magical AI-confounding lariats will get another workout here.
There’s not much to unlock other than SF4-style player titles; all the default characters are available from the start, hallelujah. This feels strange - past fighters have us conditioned to expect hours of drudgery before we can get down to “real” play. Less strange: the mediocrity of story mode. Capcom’s preordained tag teams enjoy such exciting stories as “Paul and Law are bums” and “Lili and Asuka detest each other,” while randomly matched character teams get a one-size-fits-all non-narrative. Just in case this needs to be said, you shouldn’t buy SFxT for its single-player action.
Luckily, SFxT delivers a strong slate of multiplayer modes, right down to two-player online training - neat. All matches support up to four players, so if you have a friend around they can play as your tag character. Then there’s scramble battle, which throws all four characters into the fray at once, calling to mind Guilty Gear Isuka and the “dramatic battles” of Street Fighter Alpha. Luckily these work out much better than Isuka ever did, and prove a lot of fun when you just want to kick some ass while struggling to keep track of your fighter amid pandemonium.
Unfortunately the online play is marred by lag issues that range from slightly annoying to downright horrifying. Sometimes it works fine, but at others it’s a frustrating slideshow. Sound effects commonly glitch and drop out for long stretches, adding to the unpleasantness. Maybe it’s just the limited selection of opponents available so far, but we’ve had more laggy matches than not. After Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition used the highly regarded GGPO net code we hoped such lag was a thing of the past. We’re sure Capcom has good reasons for not using GGPO here, but we can’t help but wish for a smoother online experience.
Multiplatform games are generally very similar these days, but SFxT is one case where 360 players pretty much lose out. The PS3 version features Cole from Sucker Punch’s Infamous, Japanese Sony mascots Toro and Kuro cosplaying as Ryu and Kazuya, a hilarious Mega Man inspired by Capcom’s horrid ’80s box art, and a similarly tweaked-out take on Pac-Man. (The last two are promised for day-one DLC.) Both versions suffer from bothersome load times (hdd installation helps slightly), but only the PS3 game has these five extra characters at the moment. Toss in PS3’s free online play and you’ve got a pretty good argument for going with the PS3 version. It’s not like the Sony-exclusive characters are super compelling, but hey, why not have them if you've got both platforms?
Whichever version you spring for, you can expect another fast, fun, and technical Capcom fighting experience. The online code seems problematic, but that’s hardly enough to sink what’s otherwise another top-tier Capcom fighter. It’s actually kind of amazing to see a fighter where literally half the cast is basically new. That’s a lot to take in, so you’d best be ready to learn some new strokes if you want to swim in these turbulent crossover seas.
This game was reviewed with the Xbox 360 version as lead platform. We test drove the PS3 version, the differences of which you can see noted in the text above.