Sifu is developed by French developer Sloclap who created the Action RPG Absolver which was released in 2017 and received generally favorable reviews on PC. Today, I’ve got my hands-on impressions of a taste of their new kung-fu action title. This is a preview build played on PC and isn’t representative of the final game.
The name is Sifu (师父) is Cantonese for Master or in a literal sense Skilled Person. It’s a great choice for a title because the hook of the game is when the player dies they have a sidegrade, which means your strength will increase at the expense of your health. You also learn skills such as increased durability for melee weapons and regaining health after a successful parry (which is useful). This ironically makes death beneficial, but will make no death runs a satisfying challenge. This is shown visually as the character ages and at 75 will cause a game over. You also have to worry about stamina which is represented by the Structure gauge. If this fills your guard will easily break and are more susceptible to finishing attacks. Before, I get sidetracked here are the impressions of the demo.
The demo starts with you a student of Pak Mei Kung Fu out to avenge his slain father at the Wangan which is your main hub in the world where you can practice your moves and select the level your in. In this demo, you can only choose the club.
The first thing you will notice is the graphics which I feel is a more modern take on a Delphine Software game like Out of This World or Flashback. An old-school look infused with modern technology.
The Club is what you expect to see, a seedy dirty, and loud cacophony of chaos. Here you start a fight with the bouncer who isn’t that hard to fight and serves as somewhat of a tutorial. This enemy isn’t much to finish, but the entrance does get a bit tough.
You can ask a receptionist where Sean (your point of contact) is at? Or none of your business. This shows off Sifu’s dialogue system. If you choose the first option a fight will ensue, and…
One of the goons goes for the bat, but if you fast or have hindsight you can pick this up and deal with the two enemies guarding the dance floor pretty quick. A few smacks will cause one of them to stun, and allow you to finish him.
This is a bit of a cliché, the fighting system is easy to learn and hard to master with the square and triangle being your punch and kick. When you fill an enemies structure gauge you can finish them off the Triangle and Circle button. The fighting is very fluid, and you cannot spam the dodge button thanks to the structure gauge. The key here is to play a lot more defensively than you would with other brawlers which is a unique take from beat ’em up conventions.
Once you enter the dance floor the difficulty ramps up as you fight a dozen enemies followed up by a mini-boss that fight in the capoeira fighting style (think Eddie Gordo from Tekken), and once you do that you grant access to a skill statue. There’s also a locked door for which you need to get a key.
Here you can get skills such as the aforementioned restore health on parry, decrease the fill up for the structure gauge, and many others.
After many fights from the inner lounges, and making short work of even larger bouncers with a nice bottle to the face. You enter the pit fighting ring, and a spa where you meet Sean and fight. You are then told to do a trial of feats, then the demo ends.
Overall, Sifu is shaping up to be a challenging defensive-minded take on the beat-’em up genre. I came pretty impressed by the fighting mechanics, art style, and fresh take on skill progression. You can pre-order now either on the PlayStation or Epic Store with two editions. The special edition will net you 48 hours early access, digital soundtrack, and art book.
Sifu will release on February 8 2021 on PlayStation 4, 5, and The Epic Games Store. A physical will release after launch.
Frederick Guese is a video creator and editor at PlayStation Haven. A QA industry vet and has worked at Respawn Entertainment, 2K Games, and Activision-Blizzard. Frederick is working on being a narrative designer, writer, editor, and video producer. You can visit his Twitter, Youtube channel, and Instagram. He’s a big fan of Hideo Kojima games and JRPGs.