Platform: PlayStation 4
I don't exactly recall hearing great demand to see Ultra Street Fighter IV on PlayStation 4. After all, we're going to be getting Street Fighter V at some point next year, and in the meantime, there's certainly plenty of Mortal Kombat X and Guilty Gear to go around.
Regardless, the game has its plethora of die-hard fans, and for good reason – it's the most comprehensive and complete version to date, packing characters, DLC and balance tweaks that make it a sharp fighting experience that takes time to truly master, as fans at any given EVO event can attest. So I can understand Capcom and Sony's reasoning behind releasing Ultra for PS4 in that regard, and for those fans, mostly good news awaits.
The Gang's (Almost) All Here
Ultra Street Fighter IV features a cast of over 40 characters, literally a who's who of the series' historical ranks. This includes a number of fighters that range from Street Fighter II all the way to Street Fighter Alpha 3, so, yes, Cody fans, you'll get your fix.
In addition to the various characters, Ultra has all the previously released downloadable content for the game included with purchase, so that means you can switch between obscure and just plain weird costumes with the flick of a button. We're not sure who would try to fight as Blanka dressed up in traditional warrior garb, but it's sweet to have that extra customization angle, especially when you're fighting against others online.
Visually, the game isn't much of a jump over previous versions of Ultra – it can only be pushed so far to be considered next-gen – but it runs efficiently enough, with a 60 frames per second speed and plenty of cool little details, like the flash coming from fireball effects and the faces on opponents when they found out they just lost with a final hit. I assume Street Fighter V will go the extra mile next year with its visual performance, but, for now, fans should be pleased by these results.
Play On, Fighter
Now let's talk gameplay. When Ultra came out for PlayStation 3, I had a tough time getting into it, but mainly because of that system's DualShock 3 controller. Let's be honest, it wasn't built for fighting games. With the PS4, however, we have a more durable set-up with the DualShock 4, as it feels a bit more natural. That doesn't mean it's set to replace traditional fight pads, but if it's all you've got, you'll certainly be pleased.
The overall gameplay meshes well within the Street Fighter realm, with each move coming off almost naturally (though some, like Zangief's spinning piledriver, require more complex movement) and defensive techniques coming off like a breeze. The balancing really pays off with each match, giving you less and less reason to blame the game for your lackluster performance. C'mon, you just need to practice up – which you can also do in Ultra, by the way.
Also, kudos to Capcom for supporting PS3 fight sticks for the game. It's a little complicated when it comes to set-up, but a welcome feature that fans will certainly appreciate, in case they don't feel like giving up the hardware that they've highly invested in. The only downside is that there might be a little bit of input lag, depending on the device. Your best bet is to tinker with your set-up and, eventually, see the results as they play out on-screen.
Hard-Hitting, To a Point
Ultra Street Fighter IV has the performance (especially with some great audio in the music and voicework – "Oh craaaaaaap!") and the controls to back it up, but one important component that had to be looked at is online play. After all, if you can't fight your buddies online in a game such as this, that limits whatever competition you may face.
And it's here that Ultra probably ran into some of its bigger problems. That's not to say the game doesn't work online – it does – but there are some minor issues that could use ironing over with a forthcoming patch. The lag during some of the matches (and even on the menu screen) is hard to miss at times, and there are occasional glitches that can turn your match into a potential laugh-fest on YouTube. They're not concurrent enough that they get in the way of every match, but they're easy to spot – and hopefully Capcom is working on fixing them with a patch as we speak.
The rest of the game – the various modes, the competition, the ability to practice and perfect your character – is about on point, and for a reasonably priced $24.99 at that. Had Capcom priced this at $50, we'd be having some real problems here. But at half that, it's a fairly good value, especially to those who feel like practicing up for the EVO tournament happening a couple of months from now.