Ultra Street Fighter IV PS4 Review

Street Fighter II was a milestone moment in gaming. It was very much the case for eleven-year-old me; who spent an entire twenty-four hour period playing it with friends and family on the day I finally got a home console version. Obsessing over perfecting the move sets and stepping up to the challenge of winning fight after fight became my passion for long after that and subsequent entries were met with unabashed glee as new and exciting characters were added (and some dire ones of course). That was true up until the day twenty seven-year-old me rushed to the local game emporium and snapped up my copy of Street Fighter IV on PlayStation 3.

The reason for my disappointment was hard to figure out at first. I generally liked the new characters (C.Viper especially, less so Seth), the visual style was a refreshing change and the game ran smooth as butter. It then dawned on me. Street Fighter IV just didn’t feel fun. I’m still pondering what the major factor for this was. It could be the unbalanced nature of the fighters that made both online and local multiplayer such a pain to endure as a slew of players picked the same spam-happy combatants over and over. Final Boss Seth was no better, a walking flurry of cheap moves and a personality vacuum. Or could it be that I’ve not got the patience for Street Fighter anymore? That my countless hours invested in the Alphas, EX-Alphas and crossover titles such as Marvel vs Capcom had caused a burnout? Entirely probable. So after several iterations of IV in the past few years being given a miss I’m finally back at the World Warrior tournament with all the tweaks and trimmings of the last six years added in the form of this PS4 version of Ultra Street Fighter IV, itself a re-release of last year’s PS3 game.

Ultra features every aspect of every version of Street Fighter IV to date including a sizable amount of extra costumes, characters and stages that were added in each variant. The sheer mass of window dressing is a nice treat of course and the newer characters are fine additions for the most part, but not what needed improving, so the tweaks are especially important and thankfully there have been many that address the niggly balance issues I first encountered, but has this upped the enjoyment level?

It was quickly obvious that the roster feels far more balanced now. Even the shiny, spammy, teleporting plebian Seth has been nixed to a far less irritating level (still a terrible character though). Ken feels more like his old self and Viper controls better than ever. The new and the reintroduced fit in nicely. I’m glad to see the likes of Rolento and Adon back as they were two of my favourites from the Alpha-era and they remain surprisingly comfortable to play as, keeping their original play style to a large degree. It also became apparent that Ultra Street Fighter IV feels far deeper now thanks to various play styles (you can use unaltered versions of the original characters, but don’t have access to Ultra moves and any additional tweaks) and the majority of those balancing issues have been sorted. There are tweaks that go down to details as small as adding a frame here and there to move animations and up to the ability to switch up versions of a character and trickier, harder-hitting variants of existing moves. This harks back to what made the series so engrossing in the first place. 

I’ll not deny it. I was gravely worried after my first hour with Ultra. It was undoubtedly an improvement on the base model, but I couldn’t find that fun factor. A large part of that was down to having to educate myself about the redesigned aspects of Ultra and re-educating myself to play SF IV’s slower, more methodically paced defensive battles after the nimbler, more aggressive fare of Marvel VS Capcom, Injustice and Dead or Alive 5 in the past few years. The other factor is the depth of interaction. Street Fighter has nearly always been this way. Offering a fairly standard button masher for the uninitiated and a deep, complex vault of combos, counters and variables for those investing time with it. I’m certainly nowhere near as time rich now as I was even six years ago, but even then, the idea of spending a hefty chunk of my gaming time learning the intricacies of Street Fighter again seemed like a herculean task. So once I decided to play it at my own pace and not worry about the many options at hand, Ultra Street Fighter IV suddenly clicked and I was truly enjoying a Street Fighter for the first time in many years—something that was greatly enhanced when I invited a couple of friends to play it too. 

That was when the old magic started to shine through once again. Cursing and joking as we took turns to fight each other, using nearly the entire roster in one session. We laughed at the ridiculous costumes, swore at each other for perceived ‘’cheapness’’ and shouted our disbelief as a thrilling match ended with merely a sliver of health between the two combatants. It was a timely reminder of both the value of playing games together in the same room and the reason Street Fighter resonated with many a young person in the early 90’s and beyond.

Sadly, despite my personal enjoyment of the series being restored, there are bigger problems that prevent this being essential. The question regarding the actual point of this re-release remains. Not only did this come out only last year on PS3, but Street Fighter V isn’t all that far away either. So who is this PS4 version for? The hardcore would be the most obvious answer, but are they really that bothered about upgrading for merely minor visual upgrades (which, as I will touch on soon, are anything but superior)? You could of course argue that there are people who have yet to experience SF IV despite it being six-years old, but if you’ve never been into Street Fighter before then Ultra is certainly not going to change your mind. The budget price (£25) for everything that has been done for Street Fighter IV to date should be fine value if you fall into that ridiculously small bracket of people who never bought any version of IV and like fighting games.

But even that value feels diminished when the game starts lagging and glitching for no particular reason. It’s then when you notice quite how sloppy this port is. The glitching—which tends to be where several frames of animation appear on screen at once, but is not the only example—in particular is incredibly surprising given the amount of times the game has been refined. While not so frequent that it destroys the game, it happens just enough to stick in your mind and irritate. Throw in the aforementioned lag in places it really shouldn’t be showing up in and you—as it stands currently—have a fine experience being marred by potentially damaging technical flaws that have no right being in a title that has had so many rehashes. All in all, this hardly comes across as an essential purchase. If anything, it feels like the most cynical of cash grabs.



The Final Word

Ultra Street Fighter IV should feel like the finished, definitive product on PS4, but it’s incredibly hard to justify double, triple or even quadruple-dipping for long term fans when Street Fighter V is so close and this port is so poor in quality.