Sloclap?s Sifu takes action to a more grounded level, eschewing the bombastic action found in games such as Devil May Cry and Bayonetta. Strikes come fast and furious, spacing and crowd control are essential to surviving, getting knocked against the wall can literally be a death sentence. As we march ever closer to the game?s February release date, we were fortunate enough to be given access to a preview build of this game and get a vertical slice of what?s to be expected.
You start out in your waguan (think dojo), besides having good feng shui, you have access to an amazing view of the city. This view acts as your level select when you are ready to set forth on your quest to avenge your family. To the right of the window, is a board and on it are photos, sketches, and news clippings regarding what you have learned in your quest. While we?re not privy to what has occurred, you can gleam the names of the conspirators responsible for the murder of your father and where they might be found. Behind you is a practice dummy, that when accessed will send you into a practice space where you can hone your skills and try various weapons. Finally occupying a separate room is a tree which when accessed gives you access to your skill tree.
Once you?re done messing around in the hub, you can go to ?The Club? to seek out Sean, one of the conspirators presented when your father?s school was destroyed. As you approach the entrance, 2 men who aren?t hostile inform you that if your name isn?t on the list you won?t be granted entrance?but we know the only ?ist? I need is my fist. After descending the stairs we are greeted by a bartender and you can control your response although either choice will result in a fight. You can take out all 3 men in the room before moving on, but if you leave the bartender alone he will give you information that will add details to your board back at the waguan. You enter the open area of the club, and an all out brawl with everyone present. Crowd control is extremely important here as the combatants won?t wait their turn to take you down. Once the grunts are taken down, a stoic looking woman who has been watching the action from the DJ booth joins the fray, she attacks with a bevy of sweeping kicks that can take off massive amounts of health if they connect. If you manage to stun her however and perform a take down you can recover a massive amount of health! You won?t be finding trash chicken or medkits in Sifu, only performing takedowns will help you recover your health.
Once cleared you will find two locked doors, the one which needs a keycard will be accessible by re-running the level after you obtain a keycard. As you make your way through the club, you will get closer to the fighting arena that is hidden within. Eventually you will encounter a disciple of Sean who will serve as the demo?s other ?boss? encounter. Once cleared you will enter a training area where you are informed that you will need to complete 3 challenges before you can confront Sean. As soon as you pass through the door, the demo is over.
Included with the demo was a PowerPoint presentation from the developers serving as a manual. The last line challenged the player if they could complete the demo without dying, my best run was Age 22, Death Count 0. Which means I did technically die twice, but I managed to reduce the death count to 0 by beating ?bosses”. The death mechanic certainly ties into gameplay and I can foresee it leading to a lot of replayability.
So let?s talk about death. You?ve actually died once, but a pendant you possess ?miraculously? revives you when you die (although I feel like most of the combat encounters I?ve had usually results in getting knocked out as opposed to straight up death). Each revival adds to a death counter and ages you. As your death count increases a coin on the pendant can break leaving you unable to learn any techniques associated with that coin. The Death count can be decreased by defeating ?boss? enemies in the level. Your age will always increase and as you reach advanced age you will notice a decrease in health, but an increase in attack power.
The meat of the game is the combat system and it is quite supple. You have two basic attacks, a light and heavy strike. After doing some damage you can use focus to slow down time to do a devastation strike which can stun or knock down foes. Defensive options include dodging and the more rewarding parries/defections. You can also utilize items in the environments such as bottles, pipes and ottomans/stools to keep enemies at bay. You can?t mash your way to victory and in fact mashing will only result in your foes parrying you and increasing your structure bar to the point where you will be dazed and left vulnerable. However the same can be said of your enemies, parrying will increase their structure bar and a completely filled bar will leave them stunned allowing you to perform a takedown knocking them out instantly. There were situations where I was able to perform a takedown when my foe had a nearly full health bar. Takedowns while powerful aren?t always 100% effective, in fact there are random instances where the enemy will block a takedown and go into a rage mode where their health is recovered and expanded with added aggressiveness.
During the period in which the demo has been live I can honestly say I went through it 10+ times. Each time trying to get that elusive no death run, and adopting new strategies to make it a reality. Things like utilizing weapons and environmental objects when they are available, prioritizing taking down the tankier enemies before they can grab me, positioning enemies near walls or barriers so knockbacks can increase their structure bars. All these and hopefully new techniques will nab me that deathless run that I desire. That said I do have some qualms about the title, and the biggest one is the interactive items. It?s odd that I can only utilize bottles and ottomans, but the bar stools, glasses, mic stands are off limits. I?m aware the animations for the game are hand animated, but it?s jarring. Also the ottomans/stools can only be kicked and cannot be picked up even though indicator shows otherwise.
Small quibbles aside when this demo gets turned off I know I will be counting down the days until the full Sifu experience will be available. Why was your father attacked, how did the pendant that revives you and will you get your vengeance while keeping your youthful looks. I guess we?ll find out February 8th, 2022.