Recently I received an e-mail from the editorial team asking for someone to review Ultra Street Fighter IV (USFIV) and I couldn’t help but illicit a mental groan with the thought of “Another version? Milking the cow much?” However, as I did a little bit of research on the title it turns out it is more of a patch for the current Street Fighter IV with the addition of six new stages, five new characters and two new game modes. With the focus being on the Ultra portion of Street Fighter IV I am not going to re-hash anything from the presentation side of the game and focus on the new characters, stages and of course all the tweaks. Let’s face it, if you’re reading this review you want to know about all the new stuff in the game because you probably already own it and want to take the plunge. If you don’t own it for Xbox 360 then you’re in luck because it’s an upcoming Games with Gold title starting on June 16, 2014 it will be free for Xbox Live Gold members until the end of June.
Being completely honest I have only played Street Fighter IV a few times here or there at friend’s homes. Friends who really love the series and spend hours upon hours playing the game and perfecting in and out. When it comes to fighters I definitely enjoy them but do not have the patience or skills to really become competitive with other players but love going through the arcade/story modes to learn about the characters. The five new characters in USFIV consist of three different types, at least how I classify them, of speed, balanced and strength characters. Decapre and Elena are the speedsters, Poison and Rolento are balanced and you finally have Hugo who is the brute of the bunch.
Decapre was the first character I used and she is by far my favourite as I prefer a speedier character and this was one that I was able to pick up and figure out the controls quite easily. For a novice like myself having to learn complicated controls for certain characters is often a burden. With Decapre I was able to pull of some sweet 10 hit combos with very little time and was by far the easiest to become used to. Although speedy she is a bit underpowered in offensive and defensive capabilities so a hit and run strategy is the best way to go to keep out of the reach of more powerful characters.
Elena is the second of the speedier characters; another female added into the mix and is a dance type fighter as well. I have played dance themed characters in other fighting games and in the case of Elena she had to be the most unnatural to use ever. Accustomed to a more fluid experience with these type of characters I found it quite difficult to get any groove going with Elena as all of the combos seemed to not link together at all and almost felt broken. However, I do have to say Elena has quite a bit of reach with her abnormally long legs which can be used as part of your strategy.
Poison is either a stripper or a dominatrix, perhaps both? She wields a whip while wearing short shorts with a white cut off tank top to reveal as much skin as possible. Then she tops it off with a black leather hat and six inch heels. We’re talking top calibre fighter here folks! For the record, she’s not a stripper but a manager of talent (bands and wrestlers) according to her story. The story probably would have been more believable as a stripper but I only get to critique the character and she isn’t half bad. She does take some time to get used to but uses her whip and legs quite well to fend off the attackers. Checking out the moves list is a whole lot of help with this character rather than mashing through and figuring out what you can do naturally.
Rolento is a soldier and was my second favourite character mainly because he wields a staff which is my weapon of choice in most fighting games because of its reach. For some reason I found Rolento a bit complicated to use at first. He probably should have been an easier one to get used to when looking at his moves list but I can best compare Rolento as a good alternative to players who are fans of Guile. Both being of military backgrounds I found them quite comparable but personality wise Rolento is a super hard core military man whereas Guile has a bit more extroverted personality quirks.
Finally, we got the big man named Hugo who is quite limited when it comes to the speed department but boy does he pack a wallop. After doing a bit of research I wasn’t surprised to learn that Hugo is modelled after wrestling great Andre the Giant. Being the tallest fighter in the game he does have quite a bit of reach which makes up a bit for his slower speed but with slower characters one mistake can spell the end of the match for you and open yourself up to attack. The great thing about Hugo is that he grapples quite easily and you’re able to get in for a powerful slam attack that greatly depletes the opposing fighter’s health. Although slower type characters are generally not my type of fighter I did enjoy the perks of this big man’s reach and power.
With my general thoughts about the fighters summed up you might wonder what really makes this update “Ultra”? Well for starters there are some new gameplay mechanics with the addition of Ultra Combos. Players are allowed to choose both of their Ultra Combos but they will be significantly reduced in power seeing as you now have two attacks instead of one.
Another tactical addition is Delayed Standing where you can press any two buttons when you’re knocked down to the ground to delay your fighter from standing up. This throws a wrench into advanced player’s tactics as they now need to know the exact timing of when your character is going to stand up to continue their onslaught.
Finally, the last change is Red Focus Attack and in all honesty I had a hard time mastering it. With this move you actually hold down the medium kick and punch buttons along with the light punch to absorb multiple hits from your opponent then turn around and attack your opponent without taking damage. However, it is still vulnerable to armor breaking and throw moves.
As mentioned above there are some new stages thrown into the mix but they are recycled levels from Street Fighter X Tekken which is great fan service for people who love to play in those levels and for someone like myself who hasn’t played every edition of Street Fighter to experience it all. I know these stages are all beautiful, wonderfully crafted but when you get down to it it’s just another background to kick some ass on. Do we honestly really pay a whole lot of attention to what is going on in the background when you’re in the middle of the match? I actually had to watch my son play the title to check out what the stages looked like because I don’t pay attention to the stages when I am trying to kick some ass. Mind you it’s a great compliment to the stage designers that the stages themselves only add to the battle rather than distract the player.
In addition to all this there were two new game modes added called Elimination and Online Training. Elimination is a pretty standard 3v3 where once a fighter has been defeated that fighter is out of the match and the last team standing is the winner. Online Training is straight forward as well where you get to go online and train with friends. For a player like myself where I am interested but don’t really have the patience to figure things out right away a helpful online pal could train me up for battle.
Another great addition considering how much we like to show off everything on social media these days is the new Youtube integration. Now it’s easier than ever to show everyone your Street Fighter prowess.
With all these additions there have been oodles of improvements. Newer players like myself wouldn’t notice them off hand but there have been hundreds of changes throughout the game to improve everything. The change list is staggering and can be found here.
Bottom line is if you’re at Street Fighter IV fan you need to upgrade to Ultra Street Fighter IV to get all of the stuff I mentioned above to remain competitive and unlock all the new goodies. However, if you’re a novice player like myself you may want to think about how much time you want to sink into the title. This DLC is definitely a must buy for diehards but is something casual players really need to think about before making the plunge. Keep in mind though that Ultra Street Fighter IV is what this fighter should be and it has been perfected through hours of hard work to get it there.