Taking on board some Sifu tips is the best way to hone your kung fu skills, whether you're playing the game for the first time or returning to take on the Arenas expansion. Although it may initially look like a beat 'em up adventure, you'll need more of a rogue-like approach to your journey in order to unlock the skills necessary for success, as you develop your abilities over multiple playthroughs. Without a solid understanding of the combat systems and how to block effectively you'll struggle to progress, as button mashing isn't going to help you deal with the enemies standing in your way. Taking that into consideration, we've brought together 12 essential Sifu tips to keep you on top of your fighting game, so you can avenge your family by righting the wrongs of the past.
1. Defense is the best offense
Sifu is not your typical beat 'em up, and it cannot be stressed enough how important it is that you learn how to block effectively. Eventually you can move on to tapping L1 and deflecting attacks, but to begin with you should practice holding L1 to guard then flicking the left stick at the last moment before an enemy strike connects to avoid them. Mastering this ability will help you in all confrontations, but is absolutely essential to success in the tough Boss fights, so put the time in to learn it well.
While most enemy attacks can be blocked just by holding L1, watch out for Guardbreak attacks indicated by glowing limbs as they will break through to deal damage and knock you back. Make sure you flick the left stick away from these attacks just as they come in, so you'll successfully avoid them and get an opportunity to counter. The exception to this is throws, initiated by larger enemies and marked by glowing arms surrounded by circles, which you need to completely dodge out of the way from so you don't get grabbed and slammed.
2. Permanently unlock important Skills
During each playthrough you'll earn XP by defeating enemies, which can be used to unlock new Sifu Skills to increase your moveset. After unlocking a skill for the first time during a run, you can then start investing additional XP in permanently unlocking it so you have immediate access in all subsequent runs. You need to spend the same amount of XP another five times in total to permanently unlock the skill, though crucially these investments carry over between playthroughs, so for example if you made three permanent unlock contributions in one run, you would only need to make another two (after committing to the initial purchase again) in another to unlock that skill permanently.
This means it's possible to grind out XP and unlocks by repeatedly playing through the same level – we recommend The Club due to the number of enemies available in quick succession – then restarting once you've used a Shrine to spend all of your XP. Once you've got a handful of extra skills in your moveset from the start you'll be in a much stronger position going forward, and we suggest Strong Sweep Focus, Charged Backfist, Weapon Catch, and Pushback Cancel are all worth permanently unlocking at a minimum.
3. Use crowd control to deal with groups of enemies
You'll often find yourself facing down a group of enemies at the same time, and if you let yourself get surrounded then you'll quickly become overwhelmed no matter what level they are. Continue moving around to keep everyone in front of you, vaulting over obstacles to regain distance if needed, then prioritize which targets to focus on. Try to take out any armed with weapons first as they'll sap your health fast, and leave those with special gold or silver health bars until last as they'll take additional effort to defeat. Moves such as sweeps and push backs are particularly effective with crowds, as they temporarily take enemies out of the fight to reduce the numbers you're dealing with.
4. Always perform Takedowns when you can
You should always follow the prompt to Takedown an enemy whenever it appears, for a number of reasons. Firstly, you get to pull off a cool finishing move that eliminates the enemy while also recovering some of your health, the effect of which can be increased further with the appropriate reward from Shrines. Just as important, however, is that the Takedown can't be interrupted by other enemies, who will instead stand back in awe as you smash a thug's face off a table or give them a hearty stomp. This makes them perfect for thinning out crowded encounters, and you can even sprint past other enemies to perform a Takedown before they can react.
5. Weapons will massively help you
Most areas you fight in will have some sort of weapons available, and getting your hands on one will give you a serious advantage. Not only will they quickly reduce your enemies' Structure to open them up for attack, but landing hits with a weapon will deal more damage than your hands and feet alone. Although handheld weapons are most useful, throwables such as bottles and bricks also have their benefits as they can stun enemies from a distance, allowing you to then rush them for a follow up attack. Lastly, after clearing an area you should search for a weapon to take with you where possible, as this can give you an immediate advantage once you reach the next fight.
6. Use your Focus attacks on tougher enemies
Focus attacks are particularly advantageous, as you don't need to worry about breaking an enemy's defenses or wearing them down first – simply hold L2 when you have at least one bar of Focus banked and the enemy is near, then highlight the type of attack you want to initiate on them. These are most effective on tougher enemy types and bosses to wear them down quickly, and we recommend unlocking the Strong Sweep Focus for this as it knocks them to the floor ready for a downed enemy attack by holding Circle, then potentially several more quick hits once you lift them to their feet again.
7. Look out for Shrines
There are a number of Shrines dotted through each level, which you can interact with to pick one reward each time based on your Age, Score, or XP, and Shrines are also the only way to access your Skill Tree and unlock new moves outside of deaths. Increasing your Focus Reserve, Focus Regain, and Health Gained On Takedowns are good early investments, as is improving your Weapon Proficiency. Once you interact with a Shrine you have to commit to a reward or exiting with nothing, either of which locks out the Shrine for that playthrough, so make sure you've maximized your Score and XP from the nearby enemies first to give yourself the biggest choice of upgrades.
8. You don't need to fight everyone you meet
Naturally a lot of the people you encounter during the game are spoiling for a brawl, but not all of them are initially hostile. Some enemies will only fight you if you attack them first, or you select a dialogue option (usually marked with a red fist) to challenge them in combat. By all means take on these confrontations once you have the experience and skill to deal with them and collect the additional XP, but while you're finding your feet you'll progress a lot further through levels if you don't throw down at every opportunity.
9. Take your time with boss fights
Boss fights are particularly challenging, and you need to be patient with them as if you try to rush or button mash then you'll get shut down in no time. Instead, just focus on blocking and dodging while studying their attack patterns, so you can spot any opportunities to counter attack – these will usually come immediately after an attack pattern, so be ready to launch your counter after a series of successful blocks and avoids. Boss fights take place over two stages, so be prepared to adjust your tactics in the second half as your opponent switches things up a little.
10. Age is more than just a number
Thanks to the Sifu age system, every time you die your age will increase by your current death count, as you gradually work your way towards your ultimate fate. By defeating higher level enemies you can lower your death count to reduce the impact of future deaths, and if you have 1,000XP available at a Shrine then you can reset your death count completely to prevent it snowballing out of control. As you get older your attacks will do more damage, but your overall health will decrease, and once you progress beyond 70 there's no coming back. When you restart a level you'll be at the youngest age you reached it as, so it's worth replaying earlier levels when your abilities improve to bring down the starting age for your next challenge.
11. Unlock shortcuts to speed up your level replays
At certain points during levels you'll acquire items that unlock shortcuts, which can be used to speed up subsequent replays. Examples include the Bunch of Keys you get from the Skull Brothers that open the Avenue Door at the bottom of the stairs when you enter The Squats, and the Disciple's Pass from Sean's Disciple that opens the Access Door in the main area of The Club. These will get you through the levels to reach the bosses quicker, though as you'll face fewer enemies along the way you'll earn less XP so you need to factor that into your decision for which route to take.
12. Don't try to fill the Detective Board on your first playthrough
As you work your way through each level you'll unlock entries to fill out the Detective Board, which can be viewed through the pause menu or in the Wude. Some of these are physical items you interact with, while others are received after encountering certain characters, and you can tell how many are available in each level by the outlines you gradually fill in. However, it's not possible to collect all of these entries during your first playthrough, as some of them are in locked areas that you can't access until you've found a key in later levels, or can only be earned after completing the game, so don't stress if you can't find all of them straight away as you'll need to come back to some afterwards.