Developer: Capcom/Other Ocean Interactive
Platform: PlayStation 4
Release Date: May 26th, 2015
A review copy was provided for the purposes of this article.
Ultra Street Fighter IV is one of the many iterations that has come along for Street Fighter IV. It, as with any other fighting game expansion, it brought with it new characters, costumes, balance changes and the like. There is no denying that the longevity of the game in the competitive scene is a testament to the quality of the core product. When it comes to fighting games there are few names as synonymous with the genre as Capcom’s long-running Street Fighter franchise. The original game, co-developed with DIMPS, hit the scene in 2008 and has been the dominant tournament fighter since. That tradition continues into 2015 and beyond due to Sony stepping in. They not only brought funding for the next version, Street Fighter V, but push money into big tournaments like EVO and the Capcom Pro Tour for greater prize pools. Those who enjoy fighting games from a more casual perspective, though, will surely wonder about this latest version of Ultra Street Fighter IV. The jump to current-gen hardware should make this the definitive version of the game, right? Capcom and Sony both even claimed as much in the lead up to release.
The reaction to its launch was less than stellar from the fighting game community at large and gamers in general. Perhaps in the rush to get out a PS4 port of the game Other Ocean Interactive had issues with Quality Assurance? Sony was, after all, pushing the PS4 version of Ultra to be the one at EVO 2015. The tournament organizers have since decided to stick with the Xbox 360 version of the game.
My initial time with the game was, to say the least, rough. Lag time between menu transitions, whether one was online or offline, felt glacial. Character animations and moves were missing effects, sounds switched out or worse. Online play was atrocious on launch with numerous matches I attempted to play ending in frustration, numerous dropped combos or outright disconnect. A patch was issued, to the credit of Other Ocean/Sony, to address many of those issues not long after release. Some of those issues were definitely addressed and the game, as it sits right now in June, is in a better place.
The biggest offender, though, of all the problems that have plagued Ultra Street Fighter IV for PS4? Input lag.
Input lag or delay refers to, specifically for a fighting game such as this, the time between a button press and the executed action. The Xbox 360 version, the current tournament standard, has about 5.1 frames of delay. The PC version, with completely optimal conditions, has about 3.5. The PS3 hovers at about 6.4. Why does this matter? When it comes to playing against a live opponent and winning comes down to minute frames of animation? The difference between executing a combo and dropping it entirely? That delay is a BIG DEAL. The PS4 version clocks in at 8 frames of input delay according to DisplayLag’s testing. 8 frames of delay is quite high in comparison to the PC or Xbox 360. That lag can throw off an entire set of motions from a player, professional or not, and lead to frustration. It certainly did for me as numerous matches I played offline and via network left me scratching my head in wonder as to how I didn’t execute simple things that were second nature to me.
That might sound like a whole lot of crazy enthusiast whining but even those unfamiliar to this genre can notice the difference. Side by side if a person presses a button on an Xbox 360 controller the amount of time between the press and the action happening feels natural. The PS4 version? Not so much. What makes this all the worse were the proclamations by publisher and developer both that this version would be the penultimate one! Not just Ultra Street Fighter IV but the ULTIMATE one! That delay is, frankly, unacceptable. I’m not exactly setting the world on fire with my skills with Ken or Dudley but if a delay of that nature means I have to actively slow down how I approach the game and think about it? That isn’t a definitive version but rather a buggy one that needs some serious TLC.
When I started in on this latest iteration of this game I was furious with Other Ocean/Sony/Capcom for “letting this happen.” The cries of “Where was the quality assurance?!” and other such sentiments I had were echoed online. Devs even took to Twitter and Combofiend attempted to soothe the masses via the Capcom Unity blog that a patch was already in the works. Patch 1.02 dropped and fixed issues regarding lag between menu transitions, some online play tweaks and even some graphical fixes to AF (Anisotropic Filtering) and the like. That was a start! There were still all sorts of sound issues, random move glitches and the input lag situation remained dire. But then…
They actually did it! Patch 1.03 comes along on June 11th and the biggest issue of them all, input lag, is fixed. The PS4 version of Ultra Street Fighter IV went from an embarrassing 8 frames of delay to 5.3 frames. The 360 version, as stated earlier, sits at 5.1. That means the PS4 version is at tournament standards. That is acceptable. THAT is what we asked for. A number of audio bugs and other graphical fixes worked their way in as well. Is it perfect? No. Not quite. Guile’s Sonic Boom graphics and a few other scant animations still have issues. The net code needs work. These days, though, if connection speeds are good between the two combatants then the match should run as expected. Now Other Ocean/Sony are in mop-up duty with bug fixes, etc. If only this had launched correctly perhaps the entire tournament scene could begin its shift to the current generation. That will have to wait for next year and Street Fighter V.
Ultra Street Fighter IV, now that the launch drama has abated, for PS4 is damn close to being the best version of the game. All the crazy Omega Mode costumes are here, the characters you know and love and the same smartly designed fighting game mechanics are all present. They look better than ever before and online play is as good as it has ever been on consoles yet for a Street Fighter game. If you’ve never jumped in before now is the time to start. Time to get back to lab, warriors.
+Crisp graphics, smooth frame rate.
+This is the same fantastic fighting game you've known for years with all the costume, DLC and characters you love on the next generation. It plays very well now that patches have been sorted.
+When online play is working solidly (which is far better than it was at launch) it works like a dream.
-Sound issues with audio balancing, certain effects still need work.
-Missing graphics for certain projectile effects like Guile's Sonic Boom.
-Online play can still be spotty in this version at times. Thankfully not as often since subsequent patches.
-This is the third version of the game in three years (technically). Typical business for fighting games but those getting into them for the first time might be a bit turned off by that.