Ultra Street Fighter IV Review (PlayStation 4)
Almost a full year since it debuted on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, Capcom has launched Ultra Street Fighter IV for PlayStation 4. In what is supposed to be the apotheosis of Street Fighter IV (which first launched in 2008), all kinds of bonus features, gameplay modes, special attacks and new characters have been added to create the Ultra version of the game. Capcom handed USFIV's reins over to Other Ocean Interactive, a studio primarily known for #IDARB and the Mortal Kombat Arcade Collection, which was plagued with plenty of glitches, bugs and other emulation issues.
Unfortunately, the team at Other Ocean has let history repeat itself in trying to port the last-gen version of USFIV to the PlayStation 4. Let that "Press Start" command on Ultra Street Fighter IV's title screen for a system that doesn't even have a start button foreshadow how overlooked this game was before its release.
As you would expect with most games jumping from last-gen to current-gen, Ultra Street Fighter IV has had a visual upgrade with a 1080p and 60fps display. Despite how old Street Fighter IV is, USFIV looks amazing on the PlayStation 4. This version of the game achieves a visual presentation that rivals the PC version if it were running on a high-end rig. The characters really pop-out, the backgrounds always have interesting things going on and everything looks absolutely smooth in motion, for the most part. The watercolor theme of SFIV hit its peak in this version. Watching the colorful particle effects of the fireballs and special moves combined with the paintbrush strokes of the Focus Attack during SFIV's fast-paced fights at 60fps is just something that grabs your attention. I started to feel unenthusiastic towards playing the same game over and over again throughout the years, but this version of Street Fighter IV helped rekindle a lot of my interest and appreciation for it. Unfortunately, this impressive upgrade has comes with a huge trade-off.
After playing dozens of matches (including single-player, two-player local and online) and putting in plenty of time in Training Mode, I found some huge issues with Ultra Street Fighter IV. The biggest problem is its noticeable amount of input lag (the delay that happens from when you press a button and the character performs the action on-screen). I encountered input lag regardless of using my FightStick and DualShock 4, so the lag must be on the game's end and not an issue with my peripherals. I never noticed this much input lag playing the PC and last-gen versions of the game, and it's a shame to see it here, knowing so many people intend to play USFIV on a competitive level where things like this matter the most.
Even worse are the presentation hiccups, which undermine the crisp visuals that the game offers. The biggest culprit comes in the form of background sound effects glitching. Nothing beats playing USFIV with your surround sound system cranked up only to hear the level's sound effects glitch and spam repeatedly without end when none of their video cues are happening on-screen. This happens in levels that have a lot of background noises — examples include the children in the Overpass level, the cars in the Drive-In level and the construction workers in the Skyscraper stage. These background sound effects would annoyingly repeat over and over again to the point where I'd just quit the match because they wouldn't stop. Likewise, the character models would glitch-out randomly. I noticed that some of the particle effects, especially the purple ones like M. Bison's teleport, Juri's specials and the fireballs of Evil Ryu, Akuma and Oni would trigger graphical errors more often than other attacks. These errors would result in visible stutters in the characters' movements or portions of the models turning invisible, which certainly wasn't in the last-gen version of the game.
In terms of features, there pretty much isn't anything new going from the last-gen version of Ultra Street Fighter IV to the PS4. A major addition is the inclusion of USFIV's post-launch DLC outfits, like the animal "Wild" costumes and summer-themed "Vacation" outfits that launched as premium content. Ultra Street Fighter IV's core gameplay is changed by the addition of the Red Focus Attack, which works similarly to the original Focus Attack, but it uses up three bars of your Super Meter and its level one charge can still stun you, unlike the regular version. The delayed standup mechanic is nice to help throw off players whose main style of offense is to knock you down and cross you up as you recover. While the additional costumes do help add more variety to the game, there are no real new features here that would entice someone who bought this fighting game last year and already purchased the DLC outfits.
The other major feature added into the PS4 version of Ultra Street fighter IV is the inclusion of Omega Mode. While new costumes are nice, the inclusion of Omega Mode helped make this version of the game stand out from its multiple re-releases in the past. This mode noticeably changes the fighting styles of most of the characters. Out of the entire roster, Ken is one of the most changed in a type of hands-behind-your-back fighting style; his Hadoken is now done with his feet in Omega Mode and his kick-filled Jinraikyaku special attack has returned from the Street Fighter Alpha series.
Most of the roster changes done in Omega Mode is to help incorporate previous mechanics and moves that the roster had in their previous Street Fighter appearances. For example, Guile gained Charlie's ability to throw multiple Sonic Booms at once (that glitch out if you spam the EX version of Sonic Break enough). Some of these Omega Mode changes are a bit strange and unnecessary, like Dee Jay's focus on dancing, which left me wondering if they just ran out of ideas when it came to changing some of the characters. Omega Mode was already available for the last-gen version of the game as premium DLC, but it's still nice to see it included for free.
Fighting game enthusiasts who were looking forward to play Ultra Street Fighter IV on a current-gen console in a competitive manner will have to wait until the many issues surrounding the game are fixed. Whether I was playing Arcade Mode against the computer, two-player with a friend in the room, practicing in Training Mode or trying to fight people online (it took quite a long time to find someone for each match), I always encountered a bug in almost every fight. Combined with the input lag, this took away from the gameplay tremendously. Considering the number of times Capcom has re-released Street Fighter IV over the past seven years, there is no excuse for what is presumably the game's final incarnation to contain this many bugs and have such noticeable input lag.
For the first time in years, I was left wondering if my video game's disc was scratched, only to remember that I was playing a digitally downloaded game. While this is meant to be a proper sendoff to Street Fighter IV, intending to hold us over until the release of Street Fighter V, Capcom has given us the worst-playing version the game to date. While there is a ton of fighters to master and lots of replay value to be found in its bonus features, the detriments of Ultra Street Fighter IV ruin the fighting game experience. You would think that after re-releasing SFIV so many times over the years that Capcom would have this process down.
This review is based on a purchased, digital copy of Ultra Street Fighter IV for PlayStation 4.