Sifu is amazing. It’s everything I ever wanted from a kung fu game. It’s a difficult game with a learning curve; it challenges you to master its mechanics and rewards you by making you feel like you’ve earned the right to look cool as you’re clearing out the gorgeous levels full of tough enemies.
The game opens with you watching your kung fu master be killed, and after years of training, you set out on a quest for revenge against those that did it. The story falls a little short of the mark, but literally everything else makes up for that.
Though the game takes time to learn and master, there’s an immediate enjoyment to its hand-to-hand, kung fu-inspired combat. Every action you do is punctuated by a satisfying sound effect, whether that be the dull, metallic thunks of a baseball bat, the sound of air whooshing by as you narrowly dodge an attack, or the low thumps of your character’s punches and kicks.
Sifu’s attack combos are easy to learn. They usually don’t require more than two buttons and maybe a simple movement of the analog stick. The difficulty comes from knowing when to use those combos, the strictness of the timing required to dodge and parry, and utilizing the environment to even out the odds when you’re outnumbered.
This is one of those games that forces you to look at what’s around you while you’re plunged neck-deep in the action. You can throw enemies into walls to stun them, kick stools at people to trip them up and pick up broken pieces of wood to keep your foes at bay. That’s barely scratching the surface. Every level is filled to the brim with opportunities.
These levels are absolutely stunning to look at, from the pulsating lights of the club level to the serenity of the art museum. Every level is lovingly crafted, each with its own unique flavor that never gets old. They all ooze style, backed up by an adrenaline-fueled soundtrack. Many levels have some extra side-paths and alternate routes to get through them, adding a small sense of exploration to them. It’s a good thing, too, since Sifu expects you to play through these levels multiple times before you’re ready to take on the final boss.
Your character carries an amulet that allows them to come back from death, but at the cost of aging every time they do so. As they age, their maximum health lowers, but they do more damage. But once they’re past a certain age, the next death forces you to restart. But with each restart, you start to unlock permanent skills that stay with you between playthroughs and inch ever closer to mastering the game’s combat.
Parts of the progression system could be better. Some skills seem a little underwhelming, and they can take a bit of grinding to unlock permanently. But even that isn’t much of an issue. Aside from wanting more from the story, I mostly just wanted more of the game. I wish there was an endless survival mode or something like that for after you beat the game, or just another level or two.
Sifu has, by far, the best combat out of any game I’ve played. Developer SloClap has said they’re already working on post-launch content, and I am so excited to see what they have in store.