Sifu review: No punches pulled, only story

Sloclap /

Title: Sifu
Developer: Sloclap
Publisher: Sloclap
Platforms: PS5 (reviewed on), PS4, PC
Release Date: February 8, 2022

I’ve been waiting for a while now to get my hands on Sifu and now that I have, it feels more like it got its hands on me. This game is tough.

Right off the bat, I want to say that SLOCLAP absolutely nailed the fighting. It feels good. It feels good when you’re thinking and fighting correctly, and it feels terrible when you get tense, button mash, and absolutely get your ass handed to you wholesale.

And I played on the PS5 which used the Dualsense feature incredibly well. So when I get it handed to me, I felt it.

While the fighting boils down to quick hit and slow hit, it’s the combination of the attacks, mixed with when and how you place them that makes the game complicated. You need to watch shoulders, and much like in boxing, you need to keep your eye on where your opponent is going to attack. A duck, a block, a quick hop or a complete step back gives you a ton of options for dodging, blocking, countering and parrying. But in a room where five people are ganging up on you and ignoring the martial art film rule of one-at-a-time, you also need to worry about placement. Sure, you’re in a great spot to beat up the guy in front of you, but all of a sudden one of them picks up a pipe, dings you in the back of your head, and you’re done.

And that is what makes Sifu fun as well as blindingly difficult. Combined with this is the death mechanic. At your side is an artifact made of five coins. It can bring you back to life at the cost of years off your life. So while you start off at 20 years old, if you die, you get respawn at 21. The more times you die without taking out stronger enemies the faster those years pile up. For example.

If you die, that counter of 1 stays. Die again and the counter becomes 2. So when you come back it takes two years off your life. So the first time you come back you’re 21, then 23. Beating certain enemies takes a number off the counter but you can never get those years back. Trust me, I’m a parent, I know this.

As you age, you see noticeable signs on your character. If you’re playing female, your braid gets grey and longer. If you’re playing male the same thing happens to your beard. Also, as you get older, you get stronger but you get less health. At 41, I can vouch for this.

Also, as you respawn, you eventually break the coins, something you can also not get back. So for example, let’s watch a video of me tearing through the first stage only to absolutely get destroyed by the boss. By the time I leave my character is nearing 60.

Here’s the real fun bit, when you go to the next stage, you can ONLY start that stage at the age you beat the previous stage. And with only the remaining coins. So if you leave the first stage at 75, the age my character was when I first beat the first stage, the second stage starts with you at 75. I didn’t last long.

Now graphically the game absolutely shines. I love the unique art style the game has. It really sets the tone and, honestly, it’s really unique.

Sifu-20220127204256 /

I wish the story was as robust though. I only have one complaint about this game. I’d have two but the developers have already announced that a day one patch is going to help make the game less difficult. My sole complaint is the story.

The tutorial builds this excellent narrative about a betrayed master being murdered by a crime syndicate leader and his weird henchmen. The master is then killed in front of his child and, guess what, you’re that child. During the opening credits, you learn the controls in a cool Kill Bill style set up, fighting the henchmen in your mind’s eye while learning the moves and the villain names.

Then the story disappears. In that first stage, I didn’t skip cutscenes. There just weren’t any. You don’t know what’s going on or where you’re at, just tiny hints that drugs are being sold there. You can pick up small things like evidence and newspaper clippings that go on a big board and you can use those to figure out the story for yourself, but it’s really disappointing having your character so revenge-driven while giving you absolutely nothing to use to feel for the character. They’re just an emotionless punching machine. I would have loved to see more to this tale than just clippings on a whiteboard.

Sifu-20220201101315 /

While the lack of story is a bummer, that doesn’t take away from the fact that this game is an absolute blast. Especially as you learn more abilities over time you’ll find yourself doing some really impressive stuff. I 100% recommend you take a crack at this game, just…be mindful because this game will hit back.

Sifu (PS5) Score: 8.5

While the lack of a story felt like a ton of missed potential, the gorgeous art and the beautifully complex but fun controls kept me enthralled. The difficulty was ridiculously high but the developers have already stated they’re working to patch that. For people looking for a beat ’em up style game, Sifu offers one of the most remarkably unique entries into that genre, especially if you want more from your beat ’em up than button mashing.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.