Capcom’s Street Fighter IV is often noted for reinvigorating the hardcore beat-’em-up video game scene in the many years following the release of its predecessor. Originally released in 2009, the seminal brawler wowed critics with its lush visuals, diverse character roster, and comprehensive moves set; unsurprising, then, that it’s gone down as the greatest fighting game of the PS3 era. Keen to exploit its potential, Capcom set about improving the celebrated title with a series of incremental updates, starting with Super Street Fighter IV in 2010, Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition in 2011, and finally, Ultra Street Fighter IV.
While cynics have lambasted the Japanese giant for milking the Street Fighter IV experience, series aficionados have welcomed the extra tweaks, characters, stages, and other bits and bobs these subsequent updates have offered. Indeed, Ultra is a perpetuation of Capcom’s attempts at offering its hardcore fanbase the most complete SFIV experience possible, which long-time players will no doubt lap up. Make no mistake, this isn’t for the casual audience; Ultra’s additions are subtle, but for the hardcore player, this latest iteration of the popular brawler offers all the nuance that SFIV fanatics that been craving for -- it’s been shaped by the community, after all.
Chief among Ultra’s additions is of course the addition of five new combatants: Poison, Hugo, Decapre, Elena and Rolento. Pleasingly, there’s something here for everyone, with this eclectic line-up covering a wide variety of play styles, as is the case with pretty much the rest of the cast. Hugo is a hulking, beast of a man that compensates for his slow speed with some massively-damaging attacks, and a great go-to guy for newcomers (yes, myself included). He’s so chunky it’s almost comical. Conversely, the slim and nimble Decapre - a clone of Cammy - is faster and definitely aimed at the more accomplished player, with more complex moves and combos. In fact, you’ll need some pretty dexterous button work to exploit her Super/Ultra maneuvers, and I spent ages faffing around in Training Mode trying to get them to work, much to my frustration. Then there’s Poison, the scantily-clad, whip-wielding officer from hell, who is an absolutely joy to play as, with more streamlined moves coupled with some great Ultra combos that are both aesthetically pleasing and lethal to boot.
Elena is a flashy capoeira master and essentially Ultra’s answer to Tekken’s Eddie Gordo, possessing some conspicuously long limbs able to strike out at foes from quite some distance. Rounding things off is Rolento, a hardened military type who comes equipped with a few nasty surprises, such as grenades, which are used to devastating effect for his Ultra combo. He’s not the fastest character out of the new players, although his ability to quickly roll backwards or quickly leap off of walls gives him great evasive properties. All in all, there’s something for everyone, and each combatant boasts distinct strengths and weakness, providing a diverse package for fans and casual gamers alike. Even if you’re coming into Ultra relatively fresh-faced, you can still pick up most of the newcomers and feel comfortable getting to grips with them in training. Still, a few might prove intimidating for those unfamiliar with the series.
Elsewhere, Ultra offers up five more stages, all of which are plucked straight out of Street Fighter x Tekken (as is the case with four of the five new fighters). Yes, it’s a bit of a cop out, as for 11 quid it would have been nice to see some arenas built from the ground up; however, the levels themselves are pretty dazzling, so it’s hard to complain. More prominent however, are the array of tweaks to the combat system itself. Chief among the additions include the ability to select two Ultra Combos instead of one or the other, which opens up a wealth of new tactical options. However, there’s a catch; doing so will tone down the amount of damage they do compared to if you select just one of the cinematic showstoppers. Still, this option accentuates the game’s diversity in terms of playing style, and switches things up nicely so you have more tactics to employ in battle.