Updated: Feb 7, 2022
Sifu is the newest and freshest feeling game I have played for a long long time. It comes from Sloclap who are best known for making Absolver, a multiplayer martial arts focused game. Sifu is basically a more refined, more polished, offline Absolver.
The art style is gorgeous and timeless. The lighting is some of the best I've ever seen, the neon lighting in the club makes the game feel completely different to the dingy and dimly lit apartment complex hallways. The heavily stylised graphics mean that the game relies more on the use of colouring, character movement, and intricate lighting than it might if it had the hyper realistic graphic style that we're seeing become more and more popular. This feels like a good thing, I love games that emphasise a distinct art style rather than trying to push for realism in every aspect. That's not to say that realism isn't great, games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and The last of us 2 look phenomenal but it gets a bit tiring when that becomes all people look for in a game. Sifu would still be an amazing game if it didn't have a unique art style but how it looks is definitely a strong point. Screenshots don't do it justice, you really have to move about through the levels and experience it for yourself to fully appreciate it.
Haptic feedback on the PS5 is possibly the best it's been yet. You can feel every little desk fan you walk past. You can feel the muffled bass from a different room. The best use of it might be the rain though, the torrential rain in the opening of the game feels like what the dualsense was made for and it's perfect. There isn't any trigger feedback but with how they're used in the game it would make no sense for there to be so that's completely expected.
Now for the best part of any game, the gameplay. Every fight in Sifu is amazing, whether it's the Old Boy/Daredevil tribute sidescrolling hallway fight, or just a one on one training mode fight, they all are truly great to play. Sifu is hard, it's not so hard that you won't want to play it but it's hard enough that you will die many times, and that's great. Fighting is easy to learn but hard to master, there are combos and special moves that I'm still trying to work out after a couple hours worth of play time. The learning curve means that you shouldn't find yourself getting bored with every fight feeling more rewarding than the last as you master different moves and ways of fighting. You'd expect a game that's exclusively about fighting to get repetitive and I can see how it might but I think that with the unlocks, aging system, and varied boss fights this shouldn't be a problem, Sifu will keep you entertained right the way through. Possibly the best part of the combat gameplay is the use of the environment and weapons, beating opponents with their own weapon never gets old nor does throwing a bottle or kicking a chair into someon to get an advantage in a difficult fight. Weapons like pipes and baseball bats somehow feel less impactful than glass bottles but this feels like an intentional choice, if they were too heavy it would interfere with the flow that the developers have tried so hard to create.
At the time of writing I've faced only one of the games bosses but I was extremely impressed by how creative the fight itself was. The arena changes halfway through according to that particular enemies characteristics, this one is a botanist so to match this a forest grows around you both (which just sounds meaningless but actually changes the whole way you have to play). This is a nice change from the normal style of boss fight which often just involves fighting an otherwise regular character that just happens to have 1000% more health (looking at you Batman Arkham Knight tank fights).
I love the whole age aspect of this game, aging up every time you die is a very neat feature of this game. It can be frustrating to see the age go up from 20 to 35 within no time at all but aging gives you certain advantages. You become stronger with age and while you do lose a little health this is definitely a bonus. It's also cool that certain perks have to be unlocked before reaching a certain age, this makes replaying it even more enticing.
Is there anything bad about Sifu then? Not really, actually not at all. If I had to criticise it though I'd say that the story is maybe lacking a bit. It really does just have a basic revenge plot going on and honestly nothing else but I'm honestly ok with that. If you can watch and enjoy movies like Taken and John Wick then you can enjoy Sifu. It really isn't a game that leans on its story and maybe it shouldn't, not every game or movie has to be a writing masterclass, sometimes it really is ok to be all visuals and action (and in this case Sifu masters that). It might be nice to see a bit more in the way of the main character, we don't really get anything out of them as to who they really are or what their deal is other than revenge. This is just me looking for criticism though in the spirit of a balanced review.
Sifu is a masterpiece. Sifu is evidence that Sony and Playstation will continue to flourish even if Microsoft buys up every available major studio (I wouldn't be surprised if they keep doing just that). Sifu shows that there is still massive enjoyment to be found in indie titles, especially in a market where blockbuster games are getting bigger and bigger. The main selling point for me was that Sifu isn't an overly produced big studio game, it has a certain element of soul to it and I love that.
It has come to that time, rating time. I hate rating things. It feels unneccessary and unfair but it is neccessary (maybe not fair though). So with regards to this I will say that not all ratings I give are equivalent, for example a 9 for NBA 2K22 would not mean the same as a 9 for Uncharted Lost Legacy and it definitely would not mean the same as a 9 for Sifu (obviously you look for different things in different games so I'm going more on feeling). And if you haven't guessed already, I'm giving Sifu a 9. I nearly gave it a 10, it was so so close to perfection, I just couldn't for a couple tiny reasons. First of all I think it has a little bit of unfulfilled potential on the story front, it might be nice to see a little bit more to the main character especially as they age, and a little more use of the climbing feature (maybe a little bit of verticality in fight arenas might be cool). It's so hard to fault a game like this though, it truly is a phenomenal game. It's safe to say that Sifu deserved it's place on the top 10 anticipated February games list.