French studio Sloclap is not shy about admitting how much its game has been inspired by cinema. Both eastern martial arts classics and modern Hollywood action movies have influenced moments throughout the game. Game Rant sat down with the developers to talk about how exactly those inspirations materialized in Sifu.
Sifu’s first level isn’t just inspired by The Raid’s apartment complex setting. Halfway through, the player character enters a long hallway filled with enemies. The camera angle switches to a side view, and the player recreates the infamous hallway fight scene from 2003 Korean revenge fantasy Oldboy.
Both Oldboy and The Raid were inspirations for Sifu’s design and art teams, Sloclap said. The latter in particular was central to the game’s feel. “With Sifu, we wanted to show authentic kung fu in a serious and credible setting,” Sloclap said. “The goal was to achieve an immersive experience as a kung fu expert confronting dangerous situations.”
The game is also filled with references to other action movies. The game’s second stage, at first, takes place on the dance floor and back rooms of a seedy nightclub, in a scene that feels straight out of John Wick. Other films, like China’s Sha Po Lang/Killzone and Thailand’s Tom-Yum-Goong/The Protector, also influenced Sifu, Sloclap said.
There’s also a fantasy element present in Sifu, which the studio said was inspired by Chinese culture. The player character sports a magic pendant which gives him the ability to revive himself, albeit at an older age every time. The bosses of each level are “linked to a specific Chinese traditional element: wood, fire, water, metal, and earth,” Sloclap said. That magic is explained in Sifu’s lore through the use of “forbidden magic elemental talismans.”
It’s not just the game world that takes notes from the silver screen, Sloclap said. Sifu’s gameplay is also inspired by classic martial arts movies, as well as other combat-focused games.
Players often find themselves squaring off against multiple enemies at once, and have to use anything at their disposal to defeat them. That means grabbing a makeshift weapon, vaulting over a table to reposition, or otherwise using the game's environment to their advantage. Those are game features inspired in particular by Jackie Chan’s movies, which heavily feature environmental choreography against scores of bad guys, Sloclap said. Echoes of famous Chan flicks such as Police Story, Dragons Forever, and Miracles can all be seen in Sifu’s gameplay.
“We weren’t just limited to kung fu movies, but we also included other references that we liked and that influenced our work story-wise. Fearless, The Blade, Blade of the Immortal, and Kill Bill were some of those.”
Of course, the devs didn't just take notes from the silver screen. Other video games, especially ones with complex combat systems, also contributed to Sifu’s gameplay style. Sloclap said that FromSoftware’s 2019 samurai epic Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice was a major influence. The devs were also inspired by classic PS2 brawler God Hand.
“Sifu is a mix of genres: it’s an action game and a beat ‘em up,” Sloclap said. “There were many different inspirations and references for the team.”
Sifu is available now for PC, PS4, and PS5.