The next wave of the Street Fighter 5 beta starts this week, on PS4 and PC. Thursday, to be precise. With a raft of new character announcements landing since the first beta, and a few of those making it into this week's session, it's a mighty exciting time. So much new to play with. So many unknown quantities to explore.
Sorry, did I say 'unknown'? I mean 'previously unknown'. You see, while the likes of Laura, Karin, R. Mika, Zangief and Vega have largely been discussed through guesswork and slowed-down reveal trailers, I've now played the entire current Street Fighter 5 roster. Having gone hands-on with the complete known cast (making up 14 of the launch game's 16), I've learned a great deal about them, and through them, about Street Fighter 5 in general. Naturally, I'll bring your more information over the coming days, to set you up for the beta and beyond, but for now, here's everything you need to know about all the new additions. And if you want a recap of the initial, limited roster, you can find my first hands-on here.
Karin is one of the most interesting and exciting characters in Street Fighter 5. Fully exemplifying the games consciously diverse approach to character design and play-styles, she currently feels very different to anyone else on the roster. In fact she almost feels dare I say it? as much Tekken as SF. Packing a healthy array of medium, pokey kicks, but kind of weak in the anti-air department - and with no immediately compelling aerial options of her own - Karin is all about swift horizontal advancement and lengthy flurries of metered, almost staccato damage.
Whats most interesting though, is that while she currently seems to have limited focus, she has a great deal of malleability once the fists and feet start flying. With her moves activated via stick-rolls rather than charges, she can spring into action in an instant, and should she connect with either a special or a standard hit, her versatility is immense. With powerful, chain-hitting special kicks, a two-hit, overhead diving punch, and a multitude of rapid step-in kicks and sweeps, she can string hits together forever. But its the way things chain that makes her stand out. With minimal noticeable speed penalties regardless of the strength of the hits used, a player with decent rhythm can open and close a combo hard, with multiple specials dropped in during a chain. Add her V-Trigger state, which gives her a whole new selection of semi-auto combos (think Killer Instinct-lite) off the back of a new dash-punch, and you have a character whos lethal once she finds an in.
Probably the most physical and technical Street Fighter 5 character weve played so far, Lauras decidedly hands-on, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu focus makes her a vicious up-close and personal character, capable of chaining multiple brutal limb-locks, grapples and throws into combos once she makes an attack window. When she gets a flow rolling, she can shut down opponents to uncompromising effect. But making those opportunities requires rather a skillful approach.
Her standard moves are all rather short-range, making dashes and counter-attacks very important in initiating an offense. Thankfully, she has a couple of rather handy charging elbows for set-ups - which can be chained straight into grapples for an instant shut-down - and her V-Skill is a swift, medium-range flipping kick for moving in quickly. Even better, it can also be turned into a really fast step-in with a directional push, or even a two-in-one dash-kick, capable of covering the entire screen. Given that the latter is her unique character ability, it's a clear indication that swift, opportunistic moves into short-range combat are indeed her M.O. She also has a large, but very slow, fireball, which works best for controlling screen space rather direct attack, great for distracting an opponent while gauging a way in.
Shes a tricksy one then, immensely capable of delivering intensive damage in focused bursts, but a character we look forward seeing great things from when the community really starts plumbing her tactical depths.
Good Lord, R. Mika has an answer to everything. Far from the traditional, lumbering, only-useful-at-close-range archetype were used to from wrestlers, shes actually one of the most dynamic, versatile characters in the game. Its a given that her powered-up command throws are lethal, but Mika can get at you from anywhere in the arena, whatever youre doing. The, ahem, vividly named Flying Peach butt-slam can hone in at high-speed from quite some distance, and like most of Mikas big moves, has barely any delay on start-up. It can come at you at any time with zero warning. But yikes, the things she can follow up with.
The combos she can land off the back of that initial hit are legendary. Tag in an Irish Whip which swings opponents toward the corner, only to see them helplessly bounding back toward danger after bouncing off the side of the fight boundary - and you can effectively reset for a few more hits. Naturally shes lethal when she has a combatant pinned into a corner. She even has a standard (yet also very comboable) uppercut, which launches her prey for her final, staggeringly destructive anti-air grapple. That leaping, anti-air leg-lock, by the way, can and will shut down any players jumping game, at any distance, in even moderately capable hands. If Mika breaks through your defences (and she has numerous, very fast, very rangey ways of doing that), youre in serious trouble.
Rashid is probably the most instantly fun of the new bunch. Agile but pleasingly weighty, nippy but predictable under control, he just feels very, very good to handle the moment you pick him up. And thanks to his versatile, highly mobile set of specials, it wont take long before you start getting some rather effective (and very cool-looking) results out of him.
His tornado-powered multi-hit dash is great for closing space quickly and without warning, and can add a disgusting number of hits to a combo, particularly if you can tag in his EX version. Speaking of chaining hits, he has a very simple but incredible effective spinning back-fist (activated by pushing the stick while punching) thats brilliant for both neatly extending combos with a non-standard hit, and royally messing up your opponents timing and spacing for counters in the process. In terms of defence, his array of rising projectile mini-tornadoes make for a great keep-away game, and even a strong anti-air strategy if you can pre-empt jumping attacks well enough. Theyre also brilliantly comboable at close-range, leading to all kinds of cheeky, rapid-fire mix-ups. And the full-sized, screen-height twister he creates during his showstopping Critical Art? If your opponent is moving toward you in any fashion when you trigger it, they are in for one hell of a hilarious, multi-hit beatdown.
The Russian powerhouse has always been deadly at close range, but his rather sedate movement speed and his sheer size as a target have always made it quite the challenge to get into intimate space. No longer. While his high-damage moves still, most notably, his spinning piledriver remain key to bringing the hurt, his V-Skill, activated like that of every other character via a simple tap of both medium attack buttons, is a game changer.
Echoing Street Fighter 4s hit-nullifying focus attacks, Gief hunkers down, glows red, and laughs off up to two incoming strikes. Unlike blocking, vetoing a hit this way leaves Zangief with no recovery time, meaning that he can follow-up instantly, releasing the manoeuvre even giving him a free-follow-up counter-hit on the spot. Can you then chain that into any number of horrible throws or grapples? Of course you can. And the best bit? Gief can actively advance while charging his V-Skill, slinking along the ground indefinitely like a big, menacing iceberg. Actually, thats not the best bit. The best bit is that skilled players can repeatedly the tap the V-Skill command in order to throw it out repeatedly, theoretically shutting down entire combos with careful timing. Now, finally, any fight can play out entirely on Zangiefs own terms.
On the surface, Vega looks like business as usual. And true, in terms of move-set, hes the returning character who seems to have changed the least. He still has the claw, he still has the multi-hit forward roll, and he can still spring off the walls for fast, damaging swan-dives. Same old, same old, then? Well no. Because while the things Vega does might not have changed too much, the way he does them, and thus the entire feel of playing him, really has.
You see, Vega is no longer a charge character. By that, I mean that his special moves are no longer performed by holding back or down on the directional input for a second before hitting forward/up and an attack button. Now, all of his specials come out instantly, via rapid motions of the stick. Think of how fast Ryu can throw out fireballs as a result of the same control scheme, and youll suddenly see how much more imposing Vega now is. No longer forced to turtle away in the corner, or be so selective when picking his moments to attack, Vega is now constantly threatening, the devastating range even in his normal standing and crouching strikes putting a huge invisible perimeter of danger around him at all times. Wherever he is, however hes moving, hes always ready to attack. And thats just brilliant.
Remember when Ken used to be a nasty, hyperactive, hyper-aggressive monster? Hes not like that any more. Hes worse. Or better, depending on which side of the match youre on. You might not think that Ken needed powering up, but thats exactly whats happened. And you know what? Hes brilliant fun. His staunch offensive focus remains, of course, but while some of his signature moves are now bigger, he has if anything an ever closer-range focus.
All of his Hurricane Kicks have been scaled up, so that SF5s weak version is equivalent to a SF4 medium, etc. His top end version then, is huge. Ditto the powered-up EX versions of Kens specials, that you get when hitting two attack buttons at the end of the input rather than one. Theyre spectacular, and frankly ridiculous. The real kicker though, is his unique V-Skill. Tap both medium attack buttons at the same time, and Ken will sprint at his opponent, covering far more ground than with a normal dash, and far faster with it. Even better, it can be strung in and out of combos for all kinds of terrifying mind-games. Tag an opponent at range, then immediately sprint in for a rally of close-up damage. Or lead them to expect the punches, before homing in for a throw when theyre blocking. Monster. Hes an absolute monster.
Speaking of monsters, new guy Necalli is literally and figuratively just that. A giant, hulking, rush-down specialist, hes capable of crippling damage and has a standard attack range thats far too easy to under-estimate. Hes terrifying to face off against. With an easyto-activate ground-pound which can set off a shockwave at multiple distances - his scope for trapping and stalling opponents at range is rather nasty as well. Doubly so, when you realise you can combo it with normal moves.
Overall though, Necalli feels like a dangerous, close-range character, very much built around keeping up pressure via a variety of lunging attacks in order to counter-act his comparative lack of speed. That he has a throw capable of bouncing opponents off a nearby wall only compounds his up-close, corner-trapping focus. Imagine a slower, heavy-hitting Wolverine and youre kind of getting there. He also has one of the best-looking V-Triggers in the game, hair turning into a bright red vipers nest as he gains additional power and an extended move-set.