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Sifu: Review

Have you ever been handed a card by life that you didn’t want? Lost everything in a matter of seconds because of someone else? Been cut down at the age of 12 by a hobo with a machete? This criteria seems very specific but if you’re all these things then you are the protagonist of martial arts beat 'em up Sifu. Developed by Sloclap and released in February 2022, Sifu takes place in modern-day China and sticks you in the shoes of the child of a martial arts school’s Sifu (Master).

Upon being killed by his former pupil, Sifu’s child is seen in a cupboard nearby and is told to come out by the group of killers responsible for his death. The child is then cut down and left to bleed out on the floor of the dojo. This however is where the game's respawn mechanic is revealed, in the form of a set of medallions that grant resurrection. It’s here that the child sets in motion their aim for the future, to destroy the ones who took their father from them and seek revenge.

This leads to a montage of opening credits that show the child growing into an adult and training to fight every member of the team of killers. After successfully mastering some basic combat and giving the imaginary killers some well-deserved ass whooping’s, we enter the present day as a 20-year-old. Here we see that the child has become a young man or woman depending on your choice at the start of the game. We can then begin our adventure, moving through sections of the cityscape in search of these murderers.

Each district acts as a level and contains a different scope to fit the gang member that you are hunting. From a botanist in the city slums to a CEO in a massive business building, Sifu shows you a plethora of environments and allows you to fight your way through it like John Wick at a dog show. The unfortunate feature of these areas is that aside from a skin change, standard enemies do the same things and can be overcome in the same way. They are, however, thrown at you in several different ways that create a new challenge as you battle through each section.

Each area reflects the boss that awaits you at the end of the sector, and as you progress toward the leaders you are drawn more and more into spiritual dungeons. These are reflections of the area that you are in but from the perspective of the area boss, such as the botanist's drug den being a jungle.

This is all well-crafted and weaves a very interesting plot, but the main selling point of this game was the combat and lord does it deliver. If you’ve ever watched old Chinese or Japanese movies that are heavy on kung fu, then like me you always wanted to be a swift force of nature. Sifu allows this dream to be a reality, allowing the player to learn from previous mistakes and use a mixture of skill and upgrades to advance through areas. The combat when executed right feels significantly more satisfying than other beat 'em ups and is made all the more attainable with the game’s additional easy mode.

As mentioned before however, Sifu does not leave you without some help as you kick your way through its world. Arming you with various skills provided by jade statues, found through each level and allowing you to increase your skills in varying ways. This can include a larger meter that represents your stance in combat or even reducing the toll of the medallions on your life. The medallions, as mentioned before, allow you to resurrect upon death, however, this process does come at a cost. Every death ages you by several years depending on difficulty. This means that by the end of the game you can look as old as 78-year-old, so be wary of what death means in this world.

Overall Sifu truly is an amazing Kung-fu beat 'em up, showing you a fantasy of how you can move through a large area breaking everyone in your path. Although aggressive is the way to play this game, be wary that sometimes restraint is a better path to follow to fully experience what Sloclap set out for.

I would be at fault if I didn’t mention that the game is a truly beautiful experience with an amazing cartoon art style coupled with very a realistic world, setting and people. If you haven’t grabbed this incredible game yet I cannot recommend it enough, especially to those who love a challenge for the harder game modes. Sifu is available on PS4, PS5 and Microsoft Windows.

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