If you’re after bone-crunching action – and we’re not talking about our chiropractor visit following a Black Friday weekend hunched over our computers – then look no further than E366’s cover star. Sloclap’s Sifu offers brutal, balletic martial-arts action: think The Raid, then think Jackie Chan and split the difference, and you’re close to imagining what its uncompromising, beautifully choreographed action feels like.
In our cover story, we learn plenty about the game’s development, with input from the Sloclap team plus fight choreographer Benjamin Colussi. As well as providing moves for the game, while advising on everything from feng shui to costume design, Colussi demonstrates the difference between how an uncultured thug and a practised kung fu master holds a baseball bat – the kind of attention to fine detail that elevates Sifu’s combat (and pretty terrifying when you’re in the middle of an interview, in truth).
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More importantly, we go hands-on with the game for the first time, discovering how you can use your environments strategically – launching yourself across a countertop, for example, to get the drop on an unwitting opponent, or creating a bit of space when you’re fighting a group.
Slocap also tells us about Sifu’s innovative aging mechanic, which is highlighted on our two covers: the retail version depicting a younger version of the game’s protagonist, with the exclusive subscriber cover showing her as a veteran kung fu master.
Each time you fall, you age – slowly at first, but then faster and faster. As you get older, you learn how to hit harder, but become more frail, too, just as an experienced combatant would. “The idea to age was to reflect the time required to learn kung fu,” creative director Jordan Layani tells us. “It means literally ‘mastery through practice’. Kung fu is something that cannot be achieved if you go once in a while. It’s something that takes years and years of hard training.”
There’s much more detail in our expansive cover feature, which includes a raft of gorgeous new screens showcasing the game’s distinctive speedpaint aesthetic. Talking of strikingly beautiful games, we catch up with Neostream’s Little Devil Inside, a year after it first featured in our Hype section. Oh, and some thoughts on another little game called Elden Ring after 20+ hours of play.
Fans of FromSoftware are further served with our Time Extend feature on Dark Souls III. Indeed, those who enjoy challenging themselves against a variety of eldritch abominations should also relish The Making Of...Returnal, in which Housemarque explains how it harnessed the lessons of its arcade-game heritage for its biggest release to date. And we talk to Phil Spencer and other Microsoft studio leaders, as they reflect on 20 years of Xbox, while looking to the future of the platform they’ve spent two decades building.
In a bumper Play section, we run the rule over the likes of Forza Horizon 5, Call Of Duty: Vanguard, Shin Megami Tensei V, Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy and (finally) Exo One. Discover which of these is most likely to feature in our annual awards issue, out at the end of the month. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves: E366 is on sale right now, and it packs a hell of a punch.