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Street Fighter 6 hands-on: Killer combos just got easier

Marshall Honorof shown playing Street Fighter 6
(Image credit: Future)

LOS ANGELES – Street Fighter 6 could be the perfect game for people like me. The truth is, I’ve never played much Street Fighter, and the daunting controls are part of the reason why. Until now, Street Fighter has relied on complex inputs for its flashy combos, which required players to memorize dozens of tricky input patterns. With a new “Modern” control scheme, Street Fighter 6 (coming to the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S and Steam) makes the game a lot more inviting for new players – but veterans will still have much more precision in Classic mode.

I went hands-on with Street Fighter 6 at Summer Game Fest, and got to try out both control schemes firsthand. The demo was limited in scope, offering only four characters (Luke, Jamie, Ryu, Chun-Li), two stages, and a 1v1 player vs. CPU mode. The rest of the game’s many options, including its innovative World Tour mode, will have to wait for another time.

Still, four characters and two stages were more than enough to see how Street Fighter 6’s moment-to-moment gameplay works. And, at least from my perspective as a Street Fighter novice, it works extremely well. I first took control of Chun-Li in a battle against Jamie, and set her to the “Modern” controls mode. This meant I still used the face buttons for punches and kicks at various heights, but simply by tapping the R2 button in conjunction with them, I could automatically pull off flashy combos. Sometimes, Chun-Li would spiral into the air and kick her opponent into submission; other times, she would simply unleash a volley of kicks on ground level.

Street Fighter 6 feels good to play. It also looks fantastic, with tons of colorful special moves and a real sense of impact when a character connects or counters.

Street Fighter 6 screenshots

(Image credit: Capcom)

I could tell right away that the Modern controls had their ups and downs. I adored how simple it was to unleash flashy combos, rather than having to pause the game every few seconds to look up another special move. On the other hand, the level of precision that I’d get from manual combos just wasn’t there. By tapping R2 and a face button, I knew I’d pull off a cool combo, but it was more difficult to tell precisely when, or which combo it would be. This is a problem that Classic controls don’t have.

That’s why for my second round, I tried out a Ryu vs. Luke match, and turned on Classic controls. This mode was much tougher, as basic punches and kicks alone weren’t enough to defeat the moderately clever AI. Here, I did have to pause the game every few minutes, look up a different combo, and then memorize the right button combination to pull it off. However, by the end of the match, I had a solid grasp on how to pull off Ryu’s signature Hadouken energy blast. Using the exact technique I wanted, exactly when I wanted, gave me a lot more control over how the match played out. The trouble, of course, is that if I wanted to master Ryu, I’d have to learn all the rest of his combos, one-by-one – and then so something similar for any other character I wanted to play in the future.

While I can’t speak to how well Modern controls will work on the competitive scene, or against longtime Street Fighter players, I can say that they’re at least a workable alternative to pages upon pages of complicated button inputs. So far, Street Fighter 6 feels good to play. It also looks fantastic, with tons of colorful special moves and a real sense of impact when a character connects or counters.

Street Fighter 6 will be out in 2023, and Tom’s Guide will have more info on the game between now and launch. Plus, check out all the best bits from the Capcom Showcase which included Street Fighter 6 and a load of Resident Evil news.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.