The wait for Guile finally ended and just like with Alex he's free to play and try out until the zenny store is open for business. The update came out on Thursday night and by Friday morning the internet was filled was ridiculous Guile combo videos and people calling for his head, calling him overpowered and a pay-to-win character. That lasted about 48 hours. Right now the current narrative is that Guile is terrible, one of the worst characters in the game with no good buttons. As usual, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle of both sets of hot takes. Let's look at both sides here.
I'm not going to call Guile's normals BAD after a week of play. But I am going to say that some of Guile's traditionally important buttons are underwhelming. Let's start with the crouching MK. This is traditionally THE Guile button, a button he can use to set range while holding both a back and down charge. The frames are virtually identical on this SF4 to SF5. In SF4 it's 7f startup, 14f recovery, -4 on block. In SF5 it's 7f startup, 15f recovery, -5 on block. Yet the move feels so much worse in this game mostly due to range. This move is expected to be a dominant mid range poke yet in SF5 it barely even qualifies. Part of that is just SF5; Guile's crouching MK isn't significantly shorter in range than say Necalli's or Ken's or Chun-Li's but it just FEELS weak. Since he's a charge character that can't attack in the same ways those characters can, the shorter range bothers him more. The followup on crouching MK, the towards+MP overhead is also interruptible. All characters, even those without a 3 frame jab can mash and interrupt that string on block.
Guile's air options are also shorter than it feels they should be. Guile jumping HK is traditionally a move with huge horizontal range. This is so that he can throw sonic booms and shut down neutral jumps but still land safely. In SF5 jumping HK is angled downwards and is a fine normal for a jumpin but it doesn't serve that traditional purpose. The jumping MK is animated similar to the old jumping HK but it doesn't have much range at all and is not really a notable button.
And on the topic of short range, Guile's standing MP has almost negative range. It's a good button for frame trapping purposes and grants a combo followup on hit, either a chain to the backfist or a link to crouching LP. Both standing LP and standing MP are +3 on block, ideal for frame trapping but it's almost impossible to exaggerate how small the hitbox on standing MP is. If Guile's boot is touching another character's foot it's still possible for standing MP to whiff!
So obviously range is going to be an issue, both setting range for frame traps and pushing the opponent back in the poking game. That means it's going to be even more important to identify the best range buttons he has and to use them as well as possible. It looks like those tools are going to be the backfist, the step kick (back or neutral HK), the straight punch (back+HP) and the sobat kicks (towards/back+MK).
The backfist whiffs crouchers like in SF4 but it's still worth going for since it's Guile's best crush counter move allowing for a dash in combo. The back+HP crush counter doesn't allow much of a followup on crush counter but it's 8f startup and only -1 on block so it's good to end blockstrings with. Both the forward sobat and the step kicks move Guile forward a bit giving him extra range. On counter hit the sobat allows a link into a crouching LP meaning that instead of just being a minor poke like in other SF games, this could potentially be an important button.
He's got the best theme AND the best fireball in SFV. No surprises here!
As expected, Guile's sonic boom is the best normal projectile in the game frame wise. According to Gilley's frame data, Guile sonic booms are all 38 frames, 10f startup, 28f recovery. By comparison Nash sonic booms are 45f, 45f, 47f, Chun-Li kikokens are 45f, 43f and 451, Ryu hadokens are 46f, 48f, 49f. So Guile's are the best but not by as much as you might think. In practical terms, it's not as easy to clash projectiles then follow up with backfist like Guile's been doing since SF2:WW. The best part of the move is the frame advantage granted off a hit, 8f minimum. This means that as long as he's close enough he can always sweep after a connected sonic boom or always get a crouching MP into flash kick or more sonic booms.
No version of flash kick acts as a true reversal other than EX. All are projectile and throw invulnerable for all the relevant and early frames, but he can still be meatied on the ground. The LK flash kick has full invulnerability from frames 4-6, MK has full invulnerability from frames 5-7 and HK has full invulnerability from frames 6-8. So if you don't need a true reversal and are using it as an anti-jumpin, the regular version of flash kick will probably be fine.
The angle on the flash kicks is somewhat steeper than in SF4 but this may turn out to be a good thing in the long run. Guile traditionally has trouble with crossups but since the HK and EX flash kicks go so close to straight up he can use HK flash kick early or use the EX flash kick late to stop some of the higher angle crossups like the type that Ken goes for. Tight or low angled crossups still give him a problem and will still cause the EX flash kick to whiff, but he's better covered here than usual. Something else to mention, characters with air mixups like Necalli or Ken divekick or normal strike mixups, Guile has a strong answer with the HK flash kick, the frames where HK flash kick are at its best are in that area where other anti-airs could potentially have trouble with an air mixup.
His other anti-air options are the crouching HP as expected, air throw and the neutral standing MK. Mined hitbox data on the neutral standing MK has shown that the hitbox on top of Guile from the foot all the way to the upper body covers the hurtbox so this is a very solid anti-air button at the right ranges. Using the move correctly takes a little getting used to since back+MK and forward+MK will give a sobat kick but it's worth it in the long run as this button covers angles that crouching HP doesn't. Crouching HP doesn't seem as strong as in previous games as it tends to trade with some jumping attacks. It could be that the move is just slow (8f startup) or it could be that the hitbox is just not as dominant as it has been in other games.
V-skill and V-trigger
Guile's v-skill (sonic blade) has multiple uses. It can be used to block a projectile, it can be used as a meaty for okizeme setups, it even has some use as an anti-air. But the most common use is to enhance sonic booms. When Guile throws a sonic boom through a sitting v-skill, the sonic boom turns into a sonic cross where it then gets bigger, has 2 hits of durability and gains juggle potential. The v-skill will go away relatively quickly so you can't put the v-skill out, think about it for a bit, make sure they haven't jumped and THEN throw the sonic boom through it. So if you plan on using sonic crosses, they have to be set up. So a common pattern I've seen so far is to play a normal zoning game, see that they blocked a sonic boom from greater than half screen, then set up v-skill, throw a LP sonic boom through it and then follow the LP sonic cross and look for a mixup.
The LP sonic cross is especially interesting because of how slow it moves. At full screen Guile can catch up to it and even pass it if the opponent cooperates and stretches the screen allowing him to set up both high low and left right mixups. If it hits, Guile can follow with the Guile high kick (down-towards+HK) into EX flash kick for over 250 damage. Or he can knock them out of the air with a LP and go for a high/low/throw mixup.
They're good to throw out even if you don't plan on playing aggressively and hunting for mixups. If you just play to zone the sonic cross has uses as well. Sonic cross means he essentially gets an EX fireball without spending meter (if you do throw an EX sonic boom through the v-skill is turns into a 3 hit version of sonic cross and is very fast) and it also means that he shouldn't ever lose a full screen firefight against any character. Even better, each blocked hit of sonic cross fills up 1/15th of a bar of his v-gauge. So he's one of the rare characters who can fill his own v-gauge while he's zoning which is what he probably wants to be doing anyways.
And v-trigger is where Guile really shines. You've probably already seen the v-trigger combos he has (and if you haven't, we'll get to that in a second) but it has other uses besides just combos. While v-trigger is activated he has access to chargeless sonic booms just by tapping HP+HK. He can create a wave of sonic booms either to zone more effectively or to walk/dash behind and get a mixup. If he throws one sonic boom then follows with a single sonic break he can get 4 different tries to get in on 1 v-trigger. Or he could throw one giant wave of a sonic boom and 4 sonic breaks and then another boom and 2 more sonic breaks. There are plenty of options here.
A potentially interesting option that I haven't seen explored yet is the ability for Guile to go for v-reversal proof chip kills assuming he has full critical art meter and full v-trigger meter. So for example Guile can be doing a normal ¾ screen zoning pattern and once he's confirmed the other side is blocking, quickly activate v-trigger, throw a sonic boom followed by 4 sonic breaks, bazooka knees to get closer and then v-trigger enhanced critical art for the finish. At no point in that pattern can a character with a strike v-reversal like Ryu or Chun-Li v-reversal through or jump out due to the wave of sonic break coverage. We're not talking huge damage here, we're talking 5-6% at most here. But it's an option to finish out a round that other characters don't have so it's worth thinking about.
Right now Guile is the combo video maker's favorite character. I linked a couple of Desk's combo videos but you can find a bunch of other ones that all have basically the same idea. ToolAssisted put together a Guile themed subreddit that's filled with combos and setups so give that a look if you want more combos.
And it has to be mentioned that at some point Majestros is going to come out with the greatest combo video of all time that'll have us all making the DSP face. I mean really this version of Guile is what that guy's been dreaming of for 20 years now.
In the corner with v-trigger stocked, Guile can kill you very easily. With the absolute perfect setup (following a full screen sonic boom) Guile can go from 0 to dizzy on low stun characters like Cammy. Against the whole cast if he lands the bread and butter v-trigger combo in the corner he's 1 reset away from stun and then another damaging corner combo. Long story short, if you get hit in the corner against a Guile with full meter, you're always 1 reset away from losing the round.
I also wanted to highlight this combo from ssjtony because it shows a useful way of going from midscreen to the corner while using the v-trigger. So far people have just been concentrating on the corner combo (for obvious reasons, it's flashy and amazing) but getting more midscreen damage is important too.
And for all the talk about Guile being a massive damage character and a combo maker's dream, without v-trigger and for common situations Guile is more or less an average damage character. Off lights in close he can get crouch LK, crouch LP xx flash kick or EX sonic boom or he can do the crouch LK, standing MP, towards HP target combo. That's about it for lights. For a close crouching medium punch he can get crouching MP, MP sonic boom into sweep or an abbreviated version of the sonic boom loop against certain characters. Common situations lead to common combos, he really needs jumpins, meter and the corner to be a “combo character.”
Okizeme and setups
This video by PAN is my favorite of the Guile videos so far. 4 minutes of solid tech with frame traps and setups so make sure you take a look at this if you're planning to play Guile seriously. It may seem odd to concentrate on okizeme setups for a zoning character but given the problems Guile has with range and poking it's possible that Capcom intended for this version of Guile to be a more aggressive character.
Guile has some built in reset situations you wouldn't expect a pure keepaway character to have. We already talked about how he can reset off a sonic cross or use it to create a mixup situation. But he can also get something similar off a successful Guile high kick (down-towards+HK). Off Guile high kick he can bazooka knee into meaty standing MP (one of the rare situations where he's close enough to make that button work) or try to set up an upside down kick or throw.
Or take the back throw for example. It's one of the first things I looked at for the character and at first I was a little disappointed that Guile just dropped them right next to him and didn't actually toss them away. For a zoning character that seems like a terrible reward for getting a successful throw, having to deal with more pressure. But looking at Guile's toolset it kinda makes sense. Off a back throw you get a crush counter opportunity with back+HP and in the corner you get meaty crouching MP into the sonic boom loop. Even without using meter 3 reps of the sonic boom loop into sweep is 285 damage and 405 stun.
Guile also gets valid setups off all his common combo enders like EX sonic boom and regular flash kick as seen in the video as well as off his air throws and sweeps. Almost all common situations give him enough time to get at least a meaty setup. If he chooses to go for a meaty standing MP after his flash kick ender for example, that would leave him at +4 or +5, plenty of time to set up any frame trap he wanted.
Of course that leads to an important question. Just because Guile HAS good meaties and CH setups, should he be going for them? Like off a successful flashkick, should Guile dash in and go for the meaty or should he set up the v-skill and go for sonic cross pressure? Or should he not even do that and look to back dash and create separation? I don't know if there's a right answer here but the fact that it's a question is probably good for Guile overall as a character. In SF4 we saw NuckleDu have success with an aggressive risk taking Guile and Dieminion have success with a solid and conservative Guile, we could see the same type of variety of styles in SF5.
So is Guile a good character or not? It's really too early to say. It was easier to judge Alex's strength relative to the rest of the cast because other characters had tools similar to Alex's toolset. He didn't have a reversal but his EX elbow functioned similar to Laura and Mika's armor moves. His grab range was pretty much the same as other grapplers and his +3 move (lariat) was similar to Mika's +3 move (Lady Mika).
This isn't the case with Guile. Guile is more his own character. You look at other charge characters with keepaway potential like FANG and Chun-Li and Guile doesn't have much in common with either of them. This is likely why there's so much divergence of opinion when it comes to Guile's relative strength, because nobody is really sure how Guile's tools are going to work at the top level.
What Guile's good at he's the best in the game at. No character can put up bigger corner combos under optimal situations than Guile can. And no character can outzone Guile at full screen. Characters who already have a hard time against projectiles like Zangief are already starting to see Guile as a nightmare matchup. The 2 hit sonic cross breaks armor and can force an opponent into uncomfortable movement. Combo Fiend swore up and down that this time around Guile vs. Bison is going to be a fair match and not a 7-3 or worse type matchup but I imagine Guile will have at least 1 horrendously unbalanced matchup in his favor just due to one character or another not being able to deal with normal sonic booms and LP sonic crosses.
But Guile's fundamental weaknesses are glaring. His mid range poking game is shaky at best and the weakness of crouching MK is almost too large to ignore. Beyond just being a stubby button it makes Guile very easy to shimmy. Crouching LK has almost no range, crouching MK looks like a bad button and a blocked crouching HK is a “please kill me” button on block. Given how people are playing this game, that's a weakness that he's going to have a hard time overcoming. Are his strong corner combos, fast week speed and full screen zoning enough to overcome that? We'll see.
That's all for this week. Next week we're going to look at meter management and different strategies to close out a round. See you then!