Ultra Street Fighter IV Review
Initial NA Release Date: (SFIV) February 17, 2009, (SSFIV) April 27, 2010, (SSFIV:AE) June 28, 2011, (SSFIV:AE 2012) December 13, 2011, (USFIV) June 3, 2014
Review Date: October 18, 2016
Reviewed on: Xbox 360, PC
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, PC
Street Fighter may not have been the first fighting game franchise, but there is no doubt that the series is the torchbearer when it comes to fighting games. A few new mechanics coupled with the traditional core feel of Street Fighter, the latest iteration of Street Fighter IV; Ultra Street Fighter IV (USFIV) is a fine addition that contributes to the franchise’s prowess and tradition.
With a plethora of characters to choose from, the style of play is really up to the player depending on how the character is used, going wild with El Fuerte, jumping off walls is an option or if searching for a more traditional fighter who sports a fireball and an uppercut, an array of shotos are available to pick from. Flexibility is a must have trait when playing USFIV as there are many styles to play with and adapt against.
Presentation – Ultra Street Fighter IV certainly bares an interesting look, it might play on a 2D scale, however the 2.5D models are almost as detailed as some 3D character models. Cell shading and coarse textures are fitting to the overall aesthetic of the game. The unique art style in motion is found to be realistic, yet still arcadey.
To go along with their unique look, characters in USFIV come in all shapes and sizes, towering figures like Sagat and Hugo to smaller fighters like Sakura and Blanka, as well as everything in between, USFIV cast is full of uncommon individuals that might not look the part, but can sure fit the part.
Although some may affect performance, like the Jurassic Era Research Facility, stages in the game are responsive and add a little more flare to the scene. Spectating hippos, bouncing cars, day and night cycles, are all nice little touches in the background that aid in making the stage livelier, but not distracting to the foreground.
Special moves, supers, and ultras manage to strike the balance of looking flashy, yet still maintaining Street Fighter’s groundedness. Slow motion and victory screen flares are also nice touches that grant the fighting game its charm.
On the last note from a presentation standpoint, the sound in USFIV is also quite fitting to the overall theme. Soundtracks, like the fighters, are lively and come in a variety of different styles. Traditional attack names like “Hadoken!” and “Shoryuken!” never seem to get old, and catchy phrases during fights are also a nice touch.
Gameplay – Mechanically Ultra Street Fighter IV carries some resemblance of the core mechanics in other Street Fighter games, however it also separates itself from the mold of the long running franchise with some unique game characteristics. The game sports the common fighting game traits such as a 4 bar super gauge, ex or enhanced moves, button normals, and command specials. There is also the Ultra gauge, which is filled up as you take damage, once filled up over half way, you have access to yet another high damaging attack akin to super.
With a roster of 44 characters, core gameplay is constantly shifting, making it unpredictable, characters who lack defensive options tend to lean towards heavy, rushdown style offense, and characters who thrive by pushing you back tend to lean towards a space controlling, zone heavy offense. There is still the factor of traditional “footsies” Street Fighter veterans are so fond of, but there is also an implementation of the new age style fighting which much rather disregard playing the spacing game, bypassing it with moves like Yun’s dive kick, and Decapre’s scramble.
There are two major mechanics that make USFIV differ from older games in the franchise, the first being the Focus Attack; which allows the player to absorb an attack of 1-hit, resulting in the loss of grey life or regenerating life. Once an attack is absorbed, the player may choose to release the Focus Attack, which may result in a crumple or knockdown of the opponent when counter hit, or the player may choose to dash either forward or backwards depending on the situation.
The Focus attack is primarily used in two ways, the first being absorbing an attack at the expense of grey life, but filling up the Ultra gauge, and the second use is for canceling moves or specials (Focus Attack Dash Cancel) into other moves at the cost of two bars of super meter, an effort used to extend combos or making unsafe situations safer. There is also the variation of Red Focus; which at the cost of 3 bars of super meter, the player can absorb multiple attacks.
The second major mechanic is the invincible backdash; which lends the player to go untouched by back-dashing away at the time of any attack that is being thrown out. The importance of the invincible backdash comes into play when avoiding a throw, or on a higher degree, a level 3 Focus Attack; which is unblockable.
The combination of the two mentioned mechanics plays a major part in the metagame of USFIV, “footsies” can now be countered by focusing through space, and back-dashing is helpful when either running away or turtling. All of the characters use these properties, however the tempo is really dictated by how the characters decide to implement them in their fighting style.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, from a mechanical sense, Ultra Street Fighter IV is not an easy fighter to just pick up. Links in the game vary, however, most characters have a few links that may be too timely or specific for those who are new the fighting games. The fighting game, unfortunately is not very beginner friendly, but learning the fundamentals of fighting games through a Street Fighter game is a valuable thing to have, due to the fact that these fundamentals translate to just about any other fighting game.
Final Impression – When all is said and done, Ultra Street Fighter IV still very much belongs in the family of the traditional Street Fighter games. It combines its long-established fundamentals with a few new age style mechanics seen in faster paced fighting games.
The constant variability of USFIV is a great way of keeping things interesting. Not having an actual tutorial or better way of explaining the mechanics, may be a bit jarring for novice players, however with some time spent practicing in training mode and going over trial mode, players will eventually get a better understanding of the game, as the fundamentals will begin to surface.
As a whole, USFIV is a mechanically sound fighting game, there are elements of the mechanics that can be abused, but nothing detrimental enough to ruin the experience of the game. The constant clash of the old-school “footsie” based characters vs the new age rushdown and more mobile characters, combined with the game’s unique mechanics, all the more add to the mind games and thrill of fighting.
+ Unique art style
+ Large character variety
+ Sound mechanics
– Not beginner friendly
Final Score – 8.0/10 Great