The final update to Capcom’s wildly popular fighter, Ultra Street Fighter IV, has arrived on PlayStation 4 bringing with it every last scrap of content from previous iterations. Sony claims that this is the definitive version of the Street Fighter IV experience. It isn’t, but neither is it the complete catastrophe die-hard fans have been making out to be.
My review code for this title arrived well after the release of the game’s first patch, thus I was never exposed to the horrors of buggy animations, invisible projectile moves and extreme input lag. Thankfully, the patch appears to address the bulk of these problems and the experience as it stands now is, by and large, as strong and entertaining as it’s ever been. It’s not all good news however – input lag that plagued nearly every version of Street Fighter IV still seems to dog the current-gen version too, even after the patch to limit it. Menus take their sweet time responding and when in a fight, even in single player, the game still feels a touch on the lethargic side. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t fun to play – it most definitely is – but it feels a touch slower than previous installments.
Jumping into the online modes presents its own set of lag-based challenges. Just choosing your character and mode is a struggle due to a massive, noticeable leap in the amount of menu-based input lag. I don’t want to keep harping on this point. This is a menu we’re talking about here. It should not be taxing a machine as powerful as a PlayStation 4 to this extent. Actually playing online was different again – some matches ran perfectly, allowing for a good, fun fight while others suffered from intense, game-breaking slowdown.
The input lag also extends to executing specific character attacks. I watched a friend who has taken Chun Li as his main in every version of Street Fighter IV since its release, someone with a lot of experience with this game, fail repeatedly to properly perform a simple spinning bird kick. This is a standard attack of hers and one every Chun Li player has mastered. He was only able to pull it off once out of every eight or nine attempts. Frustrating for him, certainly. The flip side of this was that I (a much less experienced player) had no problem executing all of Ryu’s base moves – shoryukens, hadoukens and tatsumaki (his hurricane kick) – with a near 100% success rate. That said, the lag meant his supers and ultras were all pretty much off the table. I was never once able to get Ryu’s supers off when I actually meant to. This is doubly frustrating during online matches where attempting to pull off any actual moves becomes inadvisable, forcing you to rely on standard punch and kick combos instead.
Graphically and aesthetically, I still think Ultra Street Fighter IV is one of the most beautifully realised fighters out there. Its anime-inspired 3D models, deliberately distracting backgrounds and swirling paintbrush effects during especially vicious special moves are a real treat for the eyes. Having said that, there isn’t a huge or even very noticeable upgrade on display in this current-gen version. With the exception of the higher resolution, the game still boasts the same silky smooth frame rate and characterful models of its last-generation cousins. Those hoping for The Last of Us: Remastered levels of significant graphical embellishments may be disappointed.
The biggest draw in this release is easily the total tonnage of content included. Every last bizarre and amusing costume, level and character is present and accounted for (wolf-head Ryu and daggy tourist Ken are personal favourites) as well as all nine game modes online and off including Endless Battle, Tournament and Team Battle.
Despite its technical issues, the truth is that casual fans and those who prefer to break it out for party play will likely find nothing wrong with it all. Enthusiast fans and pro players, on the other hand, shouldn’t go packing away their PS3 or Xbox 360 copy just yet. Despite the low price point, it’s still hard to recommend Ultra Street Fighter IV to anyone but fighting game newcomers. It’s possible future patches could cure the game of its more glaring faults but for now it feels like a bit of a lazy and unoptimised port.
Review Score: 6.0 out of 10
Highlights: Huge amount of content; gorgeous visuals
Lowlights: Input lag is a big problem; unsuitable for legitimate pro play
Released: May 27, 2015
Platform: PlayStation 4
Reviewed on PlayStation 4