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When a mantis shrimp strikes its prey, it does so with the acceleration of a 0.22-caliber bullet. It’s a beautiful, deadly mechanism in nature, and the new martial arts action adventure Sifu from Absolver developer Sloclap captures a similar force in its gameplay. When you press the attack button in Sifu, your kung fu action hero explodes on the screen with a sudden, snake-like blow that looks amazing. And that makes it one of the best hand-to-hand fighting games I’ve ever played.
I experienced an early area of Sifu on PC through the Epic Games Store. The full game launches on February 8th and it has jumped up to one of my most anticipated games thanks to its resilient and powerful martial arts system. In the game, you control a kung fu student who wants to get his lifelong revenge on a group of assassins. The premise is simple, and so is the fun – though I bet Sloclap worked hard to make Sifu appear so effortlessly entertaining.
At its best, Sifu looks just as fluid and beautiful as the combat choreography in any modern kung fu movie. What’s more impressive to me is that fluidity translates from Sifu’s gameplay trailers to actually holding the gamepad.
Sifu divides the gameplay into mostly familiar inputs of light and heavy attacks and any number of combinations of the two. You also have special moves like a bensweep and a dodge and parry / block. It is necessary to put these actions together to overcome even Sifu’s most common enemies. But that challenge is part of the fun.
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But for me, it all comes back to that battle. The way the character seems to explode by your controller like a mantis shrimp is satisfying in a primal way and it’s going to carry the game for me.
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