There can't surely be many people out there reading this who haven't heard of or played any of the Street Fighter games before. One of the most successful and iconic computer games to ever be committed to memory, versions of the second game even appeared on the Spectrum in its dying days. Best not to imagine that though, as the images are still scarring my mind to this day. What we have here is Capcom's return to producing a full new iteration of the game, getting rid of all this Super Alpha X Edition nonsense.
If you haven't heard of this massive franchise before, then the premise is simple: Street Fighter is a side-scrolling 2D beat-'em-up with larger-than-life caricatures who have to use kicks, punches and various special attacks to defeat their opponents over a set number of rounds. In single-player, you'll primarily be trying to unlock hidden characters, movies and artwork in the story mode, which gives each character a flimsy and nonsensical reason for why they happen to be fighting against a load of burly super hulks from across the globe.
All the old favourites are back, accompanied by a handful of new ones, not all of which I believe are that good. Ken, Ryu, Chun Li, E. Honda and pals are all present and correct, with familiar moves supplemented by flashy new ones. The new additions include a vastly overweight American clown, a Mexican guy with a frying pan, and a French martial arts guy with amnesia. Some of the other characters won't be familiar unless you've kept up with all the various other games since Super Street Fighter II made its debut so many years ago.
Once you're into the game, and have somehow managed to sign into the execrable Games for Windows - LIVE! service, you're presented with a substantial array of options. Thankfully for a console port, the game hasn't been stripped down. There are loads of graphics tweaking options to play about with and there are some intriguing new visual styles to stick on if you fancy a change. The game itself is as colourful and vibrantly exciting as you'd expect and the actual combat matches this perfectly.
While it doesn't feel as fast-paced and frantic as versions of yore, this might be something to do with this writer's inability to play the game with any level of skill. Suffice it to say that, for Street Fighter aficionados - or for people who've only dabbled - there's nothing that will make them feel uncomfortable.
The first problem for incompetents like me is that the game is still as impenetrably difficult at the higher settings. One could argue I just need to practice more, but I do think it is a valid issue to raise. In remaining so faithful to the original format, which is laudable - they could so easily have ruined the whole thing by attempting fundamental changes - this has meant that any issues you might have had with a previous version will still be present in this one.
This only really affects the single-player, of course, as the core of the game really should be fighting human opponents, either on the same machine or using the various online modes that are available (which we couldn't test at the time of writing, as no other bugger had a copy).
You should also probably be considering using a gamepad as well, even though I still firmly believe the keys could be an adequate substitute if they were implemented correctly. While the D-Pad is useful, it's advisable to use a controller with an analogue stick, as some of the special moves require rolling movements to pull off.
While Street Fighter IV isn't without little niggling issues (mostly related to Games for Windows - LIVE!) there's no doubting this is the only fighting game you should consider getting. Ignoring the fact it's probably the only one currently out on the PC, it could definitely be described as genre-defining.