If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee in one of their famous martial arts films, Sifu (referring to 'a master’ in Cantonese) might just be as close as it gets. This new Xbox release by French studio Sloclap (Absolver) first launched on PlayStation and the Epic Store a year ago, and is a 3D next-gen take on the classic beat ‘em up formula. It introduces a unique roguelike element that quite literally ages your character whenever they’re killed in combat, and there are no resets in between levels – so your age carries over until you’ve run out of lives or have completed your mission.
The story feels like a traditional martial arts tale, where an individual sets out to avenge their fallen father who was killed by his former student. The plot runs deeper than this, with a mysterious amulet triggering the aging process, but we’ll refrain from spoilers. What the story does do is send players on a trip through all sorts of dangerous locales – from factory-like drug dens to neon-lit nightclubs that look like they’re straight out of a John Wick movie.
You’re thrown into the action after a prologue level which not only sets the scene, but also stylishly incorporates the game’s tutorials in the opening credits. With this out of the way, you’re now trained and ready to go. The game wastes no time introducing you to combat which is inspired by the Chinese martial artist Bak Mei, with the team at Sloclap apparently consulting Benjamin Colussi – a master of Lao Siu Leung Pak Mei. Earlier fights will no doubt be a little bit scrappy as you get your head around the controls and try to perform the occasional combo, but your training should pay off in time.
Be careful though, as Sifu is not an easy game. Veteran fighting game enthusiasts will even be putting their hands on ice after prolonged sessions. Winning individual battles isn’t necessarily hard, but the sheer volume of enemies you’ll face per level, mixed in with special enemies and bosses means you’ll need to think on your feet about how to efficiently dismantle this army of opponents.