Street Fighter 6‘s recent beta left an amazing impression on me and, according social media chatter, lots of other fans too. The upcoming fighting game has already delivered on many fronts, even during its beta, with stylistic battles and a thoughtful social integration.
For fans of the genre though, much of the conversation is centered around the game’s universal battle mechanic, called Drive Impact. This system is broken into five separate pieces that can be used in different creative ways, which adds a lot of extra flavor to matches. I can see the DNA of several other fighting games present in the system, as Drive pulls some of the best ideas from previous Street Fighter games and even Mortal Kombat.
Shut up and drive
When playing Street Fighter 6, you’ll immediately notice a meter right under your character’s life bar. This is the Drive Gauge. The gauge has six bars and players will lose a tick of it when they use a Drive skill, get hit by attacks while blocking, or are countered after whiffing an attack. Just as you can lose ticks, you can gain them back by successfully Drive Parrying, or simply waiting for it to replenish over time.
When the Drive system was originally unveiled, I thought it would replicate Street Fighter 4‘s Focus Attack system. While it’s ultimately different from that system, there is one similarity. Like Focus, Drive Impact activates super armor, which absorbs a select number of incoming hits and knocks the opponent down, giving players enough time to get a free combo in. This throws another mind game into the flow of battle, just as Focus Attack did in Street Fighter 4.
Drive Impact’s biggest fear factor comes from its usage in corners. If you’re hit with this technique, even while blocking in the corner, you’ll be bounced right back into pressure, unlike when you’re simply bounced away when hit on block mid-screen. But that’s not to say there isn’t counterplay. Among other ways to beat Drive Impact, there is the Drive Parry. Like in Street Fighter 3, this move can be activated against an incoming attack to nullify it and return the game to neutral, start a counteroffensive, or completely punish an attack. By successfully doing so, you’ll also gain a set amount of Drive Gauge as well.
One of the most impressive parts of this new system comes from Drive Rush, a mechanic that allows your character to run forward. Activating this Drive technique isn’t limited to neutral moments. You can also cancel into it after hitting an opponent with a normal attack. Doing this costs an extra tick of your Drive meter, but the advantages greatly outweigh that negative. This gives instant access to close pressure and longer-range hit confirmations from low-committal hit attempts. It reminds me of the run mechanic present in games like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 and Mortal Kombat X.
This was one of the most pleasant surprises that a past Mortal Kombat X devotee like myself could find in the game. Not only does this tool add the things I previously detailed, but it brings more creativity to the mix. In one clip, a player showcased a mix-up using the run where they hit a character out of an aerial juggle, ran to the other side, and followed up with a side-switch. This is only the tip of the iceberg found in the beta; imagine when there’s 24/7 access to training mode.
Drive Gauge isn’t exclusively for the offensive. There’s also Drive Reversal, which is an instant “get off me” counter that can be activated when blocking attacks. Like the Street Fighter Alpha series Alpha Counter or Street Fighter 5‘s V-Reversal, it pushes back an opponent with a very low damage reversal, getting the pressure off you and returning the game to neutral. Well, unless your opponent baits the reversal out.
Street Fighter 6 already had my curiosity, but it has my full attention coming out of the promising beta. It blends together a lot of the series’ past entries while still pushing its own unique flavor. After such a great introduction to the Drive system, I’m not sure if I can wait until 2023 to keep playing around with it.
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