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Street Fighter IV is an excellent fighter that hardcore fans will enjoy. Everyone else? Probably not so much...

Street Fighter IV has finally made it out of the arcades and onto home consoles. Capcom has delivered another great fighter with lots of familiar faces and it looks fantastic.

The roster has all the original street fighters as well as a few that you will recognize from throughout the SF series. New characters Rufus, C.Viper, Don Fuerte and Abel are all extremely well done and fun to play. Each character has a solid list of special moves and they feel pretty balanced in comparison to one another.

SF4 looks incredible and Capcom made an excellent decision to go with a pseudo-cell shading style that makes the action a joy to look at. There are no complaints on the technical side of the game unless you count the boyband intro song which might make you laugh the first time you hear it.

The combat in the game is fast paced and brutal - having stripped down some of the extra baggage that the series picked up between SF2 and now and it's great to see some old moves in action with a fresh coat of paint. There is lots, including the new focus attacks to master which should keep players into the game for quite some time.

The downside of SF4 is that unless you are a hardcore fighter fan and have your skills polished, the game is punishingly difficult. I think that maybe our beloved Gamespot reviewers have lost some perspective concerning people who don't play and review video games for a living - contrary to what the GS review said, it's tough to recommend this game to someone who has never played Street Fighter before.

At it's default setting, the arcade mode is brutally unforgiving. It is so hard that frustration levels can reach baby-kicking levels after only an opponent or two if you're not prepared. Certain fighters will perform the same throws on you over and over and feel somewhat 'cheap'. The final boss will make you want to throw your controller at the TV - he's that annoying. Surprisingly, the easy setting isn't really all that much easier and still poses a significant challenge.

Online play is a mixed bag. Good connections or bad the competition level online is stiff - which is great if you're good at the game and are feeling competitive but again frustrating for newer/rusty players. I have a feeling that most newbies are spending their time trying to get a handle on things offline. And it deserves to be mentioned that a huge number of players will disconnect from a match if they think they're going to lose to avoid point loss. It's lame, it's happened ever since Fighters went online and something should really really really be done about it already.

What about those training and challenge modes that are supposed to help you learn? They're there alright, they just aren't that helpful. Training can allow you to practice moves on a dummy or a CPU opponent but to actually learn what you're doing there are a number of 'trials' for each character. There are five tiers of trials for each fighter: the first two are a breeze and show you the absolute basics - how to perform simple punches and kicks as well as throws and your special moves. Tier three and above are where things take a step in the insane direction. To pass on to the next tier and therefore 'learn' you have to succesfully complete 5 or 6 different moves/combos which get really hard, really fast. There is no way around it - the combo timing is punishing and there are plenty of moves that could leave you stumped for hours... or days. It doesn't help that you might not necessarily know how the move you're trying to produce is supposed to look or exactly which variation of a certain attack button is supposed to be used (lots of them have different attacks based on distance from your target). Soul Calibur does it best with an animated movelist complete with button presses that you can access from the first minute you start the game up. SF4 really missed the boat if they were interested in actually teaching someone new to play the game.

What's wrong with a little challenege? Nothing, but for a newer player it's one thing to feel challenged and quite another to have playing a game feel like work.

Street Fighter IV is a great game for the dedicated. Newcomers be warned.

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