Prey for Predators
When you play a fighting game, you want to feel powerful, be totally in control of your character, and know the consistency of the game’s balance will lead to the best player almost always winning–barring some dumb thumb moments. Capcom’s Street Fighter series has always offered this to us since its second installment. No game or series does it quite like Capcom. The Street Fighter games, including its crossovers, created Capcom’s own brand of physics that has often been emulated by other companies, but never to a satisfactory point and never to where it does something better than SF. Ultra Street Fighter IV gives fighting game fans everything they need and expect in a competitive fighting game. With emphasis on player creativity, timing, strategy, and execution, the power is put into the hands of the player to take a character and turn them into a winner. This past month, we caught up with the USFIV port for the PS4 to see what the deal is with it. Results ranged from profoundly impressive to utterly underwhelming. If you are a true SF fan, and have a PS4, you should and probably will eventually own this version of USFIV.
Ultra Street Fighter IV released on the PS4 to poor reviews in May 2015. This was due mostly to a lot of reported bugs and glitches that had surfaced since this ported game launched. All of the gameplay related issues have since been addressed and fixed. Players also seemed to be confused and complained about one of the screens saying “Press Start” instead of “Press Options”, not realizing the homage Capcom thought they were making. Amidst all this averse reaction, EVO 2015 decided to go with the XBox 360 version for its huge worldwide video game competition. Coming into 2016, EVO has eliminated USFIV altogether from its major line up this year. EVO reps say this is to prevent double bookings of SFIV and SFV players in tournaments. The Capcom World Tour itself stopped offering USFIV. What this means, for now, is that the PS4 Ultra Street Fighter IV is the little engine that can. It has the capacity to support a thriving Street Fighter community, but lays dormant awaiting the challenge. My personal feeling is that with SFV being a PS4 and PC exclusive, we will eventually see a rise in the online community for this hidden gem. If the online community wasn’t so quaint for the PS4 version of USFIV, it would have been easy to say that this is the definitive edition. But, we shall see.
Being an upgraded translation of the last gen 360 and PS3 game, Ultra Street Fighter IV is still a beautiful game. It somehow celebrates the turning of the characters into three dimensions with ink that flows from them in a unique style that commemorates the 2D art of the old sprites. The voices, sound, and music pull you into the game’s presentation with ease. The weak storylines for the arcade mode are not why we are really here. Street Fighter IV, in all of its incarnations, is a celebration of small bits of flavor and artistry. With 44 fighters, tons of costumes, many modes of play on and offline, and multiple variations of each character to play, this is the most extensive and greatest fighting game currently available on the PS4. This is Street Fighter action at its best with the classic gameplay you remember from Street Fighter 2 with a few new mechanics thrown in meant to bridge the gap between fighting game veterans and new players. The focus attack is a great addition to break the flow of the average game without cheapening the experience.
When I plugged into Ultra Street Fighter IV for PS4 late January this year to try it out, I found it to be a near perfect port of the game. The way the game puts its logo prominently in the top left corner of the screen when you record video to your console irks me a bit. And then I went online. It had been since early June 2014 when I played any amount of SFIV, and since about 2011/2012 that I played any ranked. I like to play a variety of characters in ranked mode, and go out of my way to avoid the same players to avoid catching myself counter-picking characters. The two issues I had was that there were only one or two opponents to pick from online at any time I played, and the variety of opponents I did face were underskilled. I pride myself at making adjustments mid-game and from match to match, so in the event I do lose, I will never lose that way again. Players I faced on the PS4 all seemed to attack in preset algorythms designed to hose inexperienced players. Some were more masterful than others, but only a few improved as I played them. So, I would recommend this game to you right now if you are an inexperienced player that wants to skill up online. If you are a truly competitive gamer, and do your ranked tournaments offline, then you have an opportunity here to get ahead of the game while the focus is on SFV.
Having played some Street Fighter V, here is how I weigh in with “Is Ultra Street Fighter IV still worth my time?” While Street Fighter V has probably the most impressive character models and skill-based game play of any fighting game ever–in USFIV you feel you are in better touch with your character. USFIV characters don’t feel like they were designed to play in a cookie cutter comboriffic algorhythm the way that SFV deploys its hit chains. The cancelable focus attack from SFIV makes the V-trigger system of SFV feel like a cheap gag. SFV adds limitation to the characters and kills some of the creativity for the player. So, as of right now, USFIV is still the game to beat in my heart.