Street Fighter 6's World Tour mode feels like a token distraction from its awesome arcade fights
Spinning Bird Kicking random bypassers will never not be funny, though
In the incredibly rare circumstance that you might have had a Kinder Egg as a kid, was the toy ever your favourite part? It sure wasn’t for me. I was all about the chocolate. Sure, I’d crack open the yellow canister inside, let out some variation of, “Oh, an elephant!”, and promptly toss it in the bin and walk away, its destiny consigned to landfill. In the landfill of my brain, I’m currently carving out new space for Street Fighter 6’s World Tour mode. It's available to try now in demo form on PC and consoles, but I've been able to play a larger build of it that covered the first two chapters. Sadly, I can't say it left much of impression.
In case you're equally bemused by what SF6's World Tour actually is, this is a new, open world, RPG-style mode in which you make a custom fighter, run around small areas of Metro City and other locations around the globe, and level up. There are moves to learn, side quests to complete, and you can even do mini-game activities such as making pizza. Between all of that, you fight people. Other fighters, unruly gang members, random folk making their way to work in the morning. You can punch almost all of ‘em! There’s a glimpse of the Street Fighter you know and love here with its side-on 1v1 bouts, but everything else around it is unnecessary fluff. In other words, World Tour is the token toy inside the more delicious Street Fighter chocolate.
In its defence, a good character creator is always hard to resist. World Tour lets you go buck wild with your fighting avatar. You can give them a massive dump truck. You can make their head big and the rest of their body tiny, so that the proportions look all wrong. If you’re after something more subtle, you can just give a normal dude unusually large hands, and giggle as they fail to act cool in the cutscenes to come. I had fun with this part, the people on the Street Fighter Reddit are having fun with this part too, it seems. It’s a good, silly time. The ability to share the exact settings for your design means you could also make something memey, such as perennial classic Shrek, and then share it online so that your pals can also make Shrek.
When you’ve finished making your monstrosity, you head into a quick tutorial dojo section before being thrown out onto the streets of Metro City. Here, your goal becomes clear. You need to get mighty, to become strong, and so on. Your journey to become a beefcake sends you around the world looking for renowned fighters. The public demo lets you meet Luke, but the next hour or so of our preview also introduced us to Chun-Li in Chapter 2. As you meet new characters, you get access to their moves and fighting styles, which you can then mix and match to create a unique blend of yer own Hadoukens and Spinning Bird Kicks and the like.
World Tour lets you shape your fighters style and that freedom is nice, but in practice most of the movesets I came up with felt sluggish and lethargic. I’m not a Street Fighter designer, and any moves I chucked together always seemed to feel clunky as a pair. For me, the fun of Street Fighter is all about learning intricate combos for specific characters. World Tour feels like the antithesis of that. I’d much rather just learn how to use Ryu and hop into Versus or go online for some fights, with the fluff removed.
And when I did get time to try those classic modes, such as Versus and Arcade, I had a great time. Street Fighter 6 feels flashy in the best way, filling stages with colour as you perform powerful combos that feel ripped straight out of your favourite anime. As Ed and Katharine touched on before in previous previews, the new Modern control scheme gives those who find learning combos too difficult a way to access the game in a more simplified way that's more akin to Smash Bros, making it far more approachable.
Metro City, though, is packed with filler. Sure, there are fights to be had. Lots of them! Almost everyone wants to fight. Hilda is making her way to the office in the morning? She’ll smash your face in first, mate. Challenge Bob and he might start chucking knives your way. Knives! Metro City has a serious crime issue, because there’s a big leap from a friendly morning spar to chucking sharp objects at your opponent. But even when Bob's pelting blades your way, it doesn't really feel special. I'd much rather have an epic fight with Ryu or Blanka than brawl outside a coffee shop with Karen.
And, much like its everyman fights, the entire World Tour mode seems to lack a real sense of purpose. This may change as it starts to open up more, but its early hours just feel like watered down versions of the Street Fighter bouts that people have enjoyed for 30 years, surrounded by a generic open world that gives you little reason to care about it. Some special moves can be used to explore further, such as Chun-Li’s Spinning Bird Kick letting you helicopter across large gaps that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to cross, but when the majority of chest items and sidequest rewards are nothing more than cosmetics, consumables and Zenny currency, it does little to invite players into its further flung corners.
There are also gang members everywhere, all of whom wear cubic objects on their head such as a cardboard box or a CRT TV. While most people offer 1v1 duels, the gang members often come at you in groups of two or three, Yakuza-style. However, there's none of the drama or style of Yakuza in these group fights. They lose the tense challenge of a traditional Street Fighter battle, and they quickly got quite tedious and frustrating.
The larger preview build I played also had us wandering Metro City at night, which simply fills the world with more gang goons. It’s the equivalent of entering a cave in Pokemon and being swarmed by Zubats. There’s no challenge here. Maybe it has something to do with them all wearing CRT TVs and presumably being unable to see, but the fights were trivially easy, and I wish I had a backpack full of Repels I could spray every five seconds as opposed to actually engaging with the grind.
Again, it's hard to say how sharply the difficulty curve will rise in later chapters, but in these early hours, it wasn't just the gang goons that were complete pushovers. Most people were easily defeating by spamming the few moves I had under my belt. I liked that your health persisted between battles, meaning you’ll need to recover it by scranning a slice of pizza or chomping down on some other consumable to keep up your energy between fights. But when you can pause mid-fight to stuff some food down your gullet, this makes even the toughest fights a walk in the park. I fought some of the highest level characters I could find in Metro City, and my tiny level 10 bod was able to easily overpower enemies in their mid-20s, all thanks to my constant pausing to stuff my face with health items.
It's a shame, really, as I feel like World Tour could have been so much more than just the throwaway comedy mode it seems to be going for. Running into a random bloke on their way to work and spinning bird kicking them is quite funny. I'm not going to deny that, and I'm sure there will be plenty of people who get a kick out of it for five minutes. The kind of people who are instantly delighted by the toys in Kinder eggs, for example. But my own desire to play more World Tour immediately vanished as soon as I put the pad down. Based on those early chapters, it hasn't convinced me that it's an exciting new extension of the Street Fighter formula. It's simply a distraction from those awesome, edge-of-your-seat fights that make Street Fighter special.