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State of Play: Sifu Is an Authentic Kung Fu Action Game From the Developers of Absolver

Sifu is a new action game with a unique take on the Kung Fu genre. Announced at PlayStation’s February 2021 State of Play, Sifu will quite literally turn the student into the master as each time the player character dies, they’re revived slightly older, and more skilled.

Developer Sloclap is returning to the world of hand-to-hand combat after Absolver with a true 3D Kung Fu game. Draped in a story of revenge and redemption, Sifu is the closest thing you’ll get to a Kung Fu movie in video game form, or at so the developer hopes. IGN spoke with Sloclap co-founders Pierre Tarno and Jordan Layani to find out more about the upcoming PlayStation (and Epic Games Store) exclusive.

Kung Fu is not a new concept in video games, but a bulk of it is siloed in the world of fighting games. Sifu is dyed in the wool about Kung Fu. “We’re very passionate about martial arts, Kung Fu in particular. Jordan, as he’ll tell you, actually practices Bak Mei Kung Fu and other team members have joined the school where Jordan practices,” says Tarno. And the team channeled this passion into Sifu.

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While you can expect true-to-form Kung Fu combat, the one twist in Sifu is how death is handled. Instead of dying, the main character ages just a bit. As with the spirit of Kung Fu, this now older version of the character knows a few more skills to go with the wrinkles.

Designer Jordan Layani says this mechanic is an important metaphor. “Gung Fu literally means mastery by practicing. So it was important for us that Kung Fu cannot be learned by reading books or watching videos,” says Layani. “You have to practice a lot to improve your Kung Fu. The aging shows the time of practicing for us.”

Kung Fu movies, of course, were an important inspiration in Sifu. Films like the works of Jackie Chan and The Raid (not strictly a Kung Fu film, but still features fantastic action) helped shape the design pillars for Sifu. The trailer showed off an intense hallway fight scene, but players will navigate around 3D maps to lay a beatdown on multiple enemies.

Source: Sloclap
Source: Sloclap

“It’s really about hand-to-hand combat. You know in Jackie Chan movies it’s one versus multiple enemies fighting in close quarters and importantly the environment playing a big part,” says Tarno. “You see in Jackie Chan movies it’s about strategic positioning. Like, ‘I’m going to jump over the table to position the table between me and these three guys so I can tackle the guys over there.”

And while the tone of Sifu will be more serious than some Jackie Chan classics, the combat will allow players to utilize the environment to their advantage. Bottles and other environmental hazards can be used against enemies. You can push bad guys down the stairs, or break items to create makeshift weapons. Either way, you’ll need to be quick to figure out the best way to fight through so many baddies at once.

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“It’s very much about Kung Fu and we’re making significant efforts in regards to lore and authenticity to portray the values [of Kung Fu]. In the teaser, you see the main character practicing Kung Fu forms and for the actual trailer we really worked in-depth with Jordan’s Sifu who we brought in as a consultant on the project.”

Players will also be able to choose the gender of the main character, and in-line with the metaphor of aging there will be some evolution in the main character’s design as Sifu progresses, but don’t expect an in-depth character creation suite.

And if you’re interested in what kind of Kung Fu films developer Sloclap enjoys to get a sense for Sifu, Layani cites The Prodigal Son, a 1981 Hong Kong martial arts movie directed by Sammo Hung.

For more check out IGN’s full coverage of today’s State of Play, including a recap of all the biggest PlayStation news and announcements.

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Matt T.M. Kim is News Editor at IGN.