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Over the top taunts abound

HADOKEN! I've always been a Street Fighter fan, but that's not to say I'm a beat 'em up lover. Oh no. You illiterate girlies can keep your Mortal Kombat - it may have spine-ripping finishing moves, but it involves not one jot of skill. Tekken can button-mash right off - I'm sick of losing bouts to some fat-fingered fool who hasn't learnt any moves but can hammer random buttons like an epileptic baboon. And Virtua Fighter can... actually that can stay - it's not too bad really, even if it does chronically lack personality. And the others? Well, they most of them barely deserve to be called games - they may be a laugh for 5 minutes but the lack of moves means they soon wear thin.

Street Fighter, though, has it all, and this isn't some rose-tinted opinion. This is true facts, look: Brilliant, genre-defining characters? Of course. Sound effects that will be remembered throughout the ages? Even Churchill shouted HADOKEN whilst beating Hitler. Eye-catching backdrops that are a pleasure to fight in front of? Just look at them, will you! Hundreds of moves to beat your mate about the face with? Hell yes. Simple controls that actually respond to your furiously flying fingers? Yup, they're here. And by far the most important thing, tied in with those last two points - moves that are easy to pull off but take actual skill and timing to execute effectively? Thank God, yes. I'm only two paragraphs into this review but, Street Fighter, my word I salute you.

TIGER UPPERCUT! The 4th iteration (excluding all the Turbo-Alpha-MegaSMACK versions) of this classic fighting series has a huge legacy to live up to and, let's be honest, it was never going to fail was it? All it really needed to do was give you more of the same, with some modern graphics and a couple of additional skills thrown into the mix. Hark at me - in my excitement, I'm getting way ahead of myself. Let's go back to the beginning. Street Fighter is, obviously, a beat 'em up. 'Em being a variety of over-the-top characters with distinctive looks, sounds, and fighting moves.

The reason Street Fighter has always been so successful, apart from the brilliant characters, has always been the ease with which you can pull the moves off. There are three punch buttons (hard, medium and light) and three kick buttons, and these can be aimed high and low. You can jump and you can block. And of course there are the special moves, pulled off by using a combo of directions and a punch or a kick.

That's not to say this simplicity means it's an easy scrap. As mentioned at the start of the review, these easy to pull off moves take a lot of skill and practice to time correctly - if you come up against someone of a much higher skill than you, you WILL get a sound thrashing. Street Fighter embraces the old saying: Give a man a fireball and he can fight for a day, teach him how to chain counters into combos and he'll fight forever. You can pick up the basic moves and give the easier AI a pounding in minutes, but learning the nuances and combos required to beat the best will take days, weeks, MONTHS of dedication.

SONIC BOOM! It's worth putting in months of dedication because Street Fighter has always been brilliant and number 4 is the best yet. The introduction of the new focus attacks add an extra layer to the fighting and will give the veterans something to get their teeth into. These allow you to charge a move that can absorb one attack on you, whilst also allowing you to cancel moves and, after lots of practice, chain long combos together. The updated graphics are glorious eye candy - it looks like an animated comic book of the highest calibre. The new backgrounds and art styles suit the game perfectly and animation of the fighters is top notch. The sound is also brilliant - reminiscent of the older versions whilst satisfyingly updated in the right places. The character’s voices are fantastically over-the-top and the ability to select Japanese speech is a genius touch. In fact, I can’t play it in English any more – it just doesn’t sound right. And as a PC conversion it’s a work of art – it all runs flawlessly. Anyone else thinking of converting a console game to the PC in the future must play this first or face certain humiliation.

Played against either the pretty decent AI or a human opponent (either with an extra joypad, or via Games For Windows Live and a matchmaking service that paired me off against someone who pummelled my face to hell, every single time), this is simply awesome. Street Fighter IV is an astonishing update of an all-time classic and it’s by far the best beat ‘em there is. SHORYUKEN!