You see, I’ve always held movies like Kung Fu Panda and shows like Dragon Ball Z near and dear to my increasingly cynical heart, and very similar to that, I’ve held the love of martial arts right beside that fondness as well, so when I got the opportunity to play Sifu, I was more than excited. Getting to play as a master Martial Artist hellbent on revenge? With a secret branching narrative? How could I ever say no? And while this review isn’t on the central game as a whole, the Arena’s expansion has done such an exceptional job, that it truly exemplifies every facet of this wonderful game and its truly difficult to only review the expansion itself. But alas, I shall.
Arena’s is an expansion pack released for Sifu, which was developed by Sloclap and published jointly by the latter and Kepler Interactive. Arena’s takes what made Sifu so fun and condenses it into bite sized experiences through the multitude of modes added through the expansion. These modes are split off into about 5 different forms across 45 new challenges, which all increase in difficulty as the player hammers through this new gauntlet. One of these modes is Manhunt, my personal favorite, which sets the player against a timer and forces them to take out specific enemies in an certain amount of time. Another mode is Performance, which is more or less a survival mode with an highest score to overcome. Waves upon waves of enemies will spawn and mercilessly attempt to halt your point accumulation (I had a LOT of fun on this mode; I can’t describe the intangible glee that is Sifu’s combat and the flow state achieved after playing it enough); its really hard, but MAN, is it FUN.
There is also Capture, which is akin to Call of Duty’s Domination game mode, but instead of a bunch of sweaty 12-year olds screaming obscenities at you, its just some goons eager to get their teeth kicked in (a much better trade off if you ask me). There is also Time Attack, which similar to Manhunt but without the specific targets that needed to be defeated. There is also Survive, which is very similar to Performance, but with a higher emphasis on getting faster times without dying and progressing in age (Sifu’s version of consequential death is that your character gets older as you play, which buffs damage but increases damage taken). It’s overall a really great time, regardless of the mode! Whether it was grinding through a Performance wave or barely beating a Manhunt, there was never a time where I was bored. Which is something incredibly profound to say, at least for me, a 23 year-old man who’s dopamine receptors have been shot due to excessive time spent on the internet and TikTok (I seriously need constant stimulus less the world regresses into grayscale monotony. This isn’t a flex, its truly a curse, please send help!) and its something to be incredibly admired.
Sifu somehow condensed a truly impactful narrative/gameplay loop into its core parts: rewarding gameplay comfortably intertwined with combative spins that incentivize players to approach their Sifu mastery in different ways, and the different modes each embody that. Do you play too defensively? Well, Manhunt will force you out of that niche. Do you play too aggressively? Well, Survive will require you to temper your calloused fists in favor of preserving your fleeting lifespan for a better score. Sifu Arena’s pushes the boundaries on what is already an incredible game and somehow makes an already badass game even more badass. So, if I had to scale Arena’s on a numerical list, I’d truly give it a 9/10 due to the massive amounts of fun I had. It’s a great DLC absolutely worth purchasing, even if you’re a casual Sifu fan.
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Related: Reviews by Fabian Bautista
Whether it be diving deep into uncharted oceanic depths, wading through knee-deep pools of demon blood, or taking a leisurely walk through a fictional western frontier, I am always eager to explore previously unknown sectors of the creative space, impatiently overturning every stone begging to be flipped over. Dabbling in both speculative and realistic fiction, with a sprinkle of journalistic fanaticism, I enjoy any game that displays narrative magnificence, or if it's just plain fun!