Sifu PlayStation 4 Review

Sifu takes the beat ‘em-up genre to an unmatchable level. It's an excellent martial arts game, and something any type of player could enjoy.

By RON, Posted 11 Feb 2022

Sifu is a Chinese word used as an honorific title for someone very skilled or masterful in some way, a master if you will. And this word is just the perfect one to name this particular videogame. Not only does Sifu revolve around avenging the death of your father, your kung-fu sifu, but your character is a sifu himself, and ultimately, the game demands from us to become the sifu and master a complex, sophisticated, and yet elegant combat system. Sifu delivers, a lot. This game takes the beat ‘em up formula and instead of just giving us another pixelated TMNT clone, it combines roguelike elements and visual artistry from which the Chinese masters of the past would be impressed. Is Sifu worth playing? Definitively, and we will tell you why.
 

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The French studio Sloclap was inspired by the old Chinese martial arts movies in making the game, which ironically led the story of Sifu to begin with a murder. The game tells the story of a young kung-fu student who is raging with vengeance, on the quest for the murderers of his family. Eight years later, you go on a mission to assassinate each of the five persons who were involved in killing your entire family. This journey for vengeance will lead you into the city's dark corners, and you’ll only have one day to complete your quest through countless opponents on your path to the murderers. The introductory chapter of the game puts you through a unique tutorial that helps you to get along with the gameplay instantly.

Sifu is a beat ‘em-up game that parts way from classic titles of the genre in two major ways. First, it’s not a side-scrolling game, as it allows a full range of 3D movement throughout its levels. Second, it provides some excellent environmental combat, in which terrain itself can be used to your advantage, which provides deeper mechanics, and allows for a lot of strategy, experimentation, and fluidity in your movements. Sifu is a martial arts game, there is no doubt about it, but one that respects the source material and shows just how complex it can be to fight like those mighty warriors. There are light and strong attacks, blocks, counters, dodges, and even a resistance meter for your blocks, which can be broken if used in excess. A wide range of kicks and punches can be produced just by changing the angle of the analog sticks. Taking down the foes never feels repetitive since you’re almost always using a different approach in taking them down.
 

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You can use weapons, and objects as weapons, such as sticks or bottles that are picked up from the environment. You can even kick an object lying on the ground to hit an enemy away from you. The environment can be used to add fluidity to your combat skills, as you can vault over surfaces, destroy railing so you can shove your enemies to instant death, or lure them into bottlenecks you can make use of, so you don’t get overpowered easily even when heavily outnumbered. There is a lot to unpack in Sifu’s combat system, which makes it a challenge, but a welcome and rewarding one. It does demand a lot from us as players, just like a martial arts sifu would, but is also fair.

The game is short, with only five levels to explore, but there is a lot of exploration to do. To investigate and track down your father’s killers, you will need to find clues scattered around the levels, and pinned them down in a detective board, so you can make connections and deductions. There are even some clues that, a la Metroidvania, will allow you to access new areas in previous levels, which adds a lot of emphasis to exploration. Add that to the rather interesting progression system, in which you need to be very careful with your decisions and push your luck. When you die, you don’t get a game over the first time, or the second, or the third.

Thanks to a magic talisman, you are revived right in the spot where you were killed; however, your death count will go up and, with it, a year of your life. The more you die, the more years are added to your age. So, if you are 25 and you die after dying 4 times before, you will be granted 5 more years to your age, and you will be 30 next. This is shown not only in a very obvious physical way, but it might also impair your gameplay, because, as you get old, you get less HP and, after crossing the 70 years barrier, you will get a game over the next time you die.
 

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There are ways to reduce your death count, such as killing particularly hard enemies, but you are risking dying again and adding more years instead of deducting them. The really interesting part is that, when you die for real, you will lose all the progression elements you have purchased. Yes, you can buy new abilities each time you die or progress in the game. And you can either spend those points in skills for your current playthrough or lock them in place forever, regardless of a game over, if you buy them six times. In this sense, Sifu takes a page from the Roguelike manual and adds a fun twist to the beat ‘em up formula.

As they say, graphics are temporary, style is timeless. Instead of opting for a gritty or realistic approach, Sifu reaches for a watercolor-like art style and pays off. The game looks incredible, like something taken out of an old painting, and the animations are just so natural and fluid, especially the counters, which, if done correctly, are seamless regardless of where the attack is coming. Sifu has also a superb environmental design, each level is concise and feels handcrafted, with a lot of details to take in. This, paired with a just wonderful soundtrack adds a lot of vitality to the game. The art department knocked it out of the park.

There is however one minor inconvenience that makes Sifu a bit repetitive if not played masterfully, and that is that, unlike a roguelike, the levels are not procedurally generated. You are supposed to repeat each level a lot, to master it and master the combat system. However, you will always get the same weapons, environment, and enemies each time. Which can become a bit tedious if this is the third time you are trying to beat a particularly obnoxious boss. This, however, would be a major inconvenience for most games, but not for Sifu. Because of its excellent combat mechanics, which make it fun to just kick everyone’s butt, no matter how many times you need to restart the level, it never feels repetitive.
 


 

Sifu is a great game, an excellent martial arts game, and something any type of player could enjoy. It takes the beat ‘em-up genre to an unmatchable level. There is the minor hiccup of repetitiveness, and the game itself is rather short, with a run being completed in about 10 hours, or 40-60 minutes if you are a speedrunner. Nevertheless, Sifu is absolutely a fun and engaging experience you should buy.
 

Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
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General Information

Sifu

99/100

Platform(s): PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Sloclap, Microïds
Developer(s): Sloclap
Genres: Beat-'Em-Up
Themes: Fighting, Action-Adventure
Release Date: 2022-02-08

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