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Ultra Street Fighter 4 review (PC)

Tom Morgan
21 Aug 2014
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Ultra Street Fighter IV 1
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
23
inc VAT

Enough gameplay changes and new characters to refresh the formula, but Ultra Street Fighter 4's online play needs work

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Specifications

Available formats: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Capcom loves to confuse Street Fighter fans with countless iterations of each new entry in the series. The last completely new game in the series, Street Fighter IV, was released in 2008; fast forward six years and there have been no less than four different versions, with this month's Ultra Street Fighter IV being the latest. Adding five new characters, new stages and several new gameplay mechanics, it's the definitive version of the game and one of the best ways to justify that costly arcade stick purchase.

In many respects, Ultra feels like a lazy update. Four of the new characters have been ported directly from 2012's Street Fighter X Tekken, as have the new stages. Mercenary Rolento, capoeira fighter Elena, and Mad Gear Gang members Poison and Hugo have been tweaked to suit vanilla Street Fighter's gameplay style, but most of their moves look the same and the models are direct copies.


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It's only Decapre that arrives as a truly "new" character, and even she feels a little half-baked. According to series lore, the Russian assassin is a clone of military fighter Cammy, created by dictator M. Bison, but in reality this means Capcom has been able to make the minimum amount of changes to an existing character model and add yet another face to the roster. Start to play her, however, and it's clear Decapre is a very different beast to Cammy's pushdown play style. As a charge character, you have to wait for your opportunity to land attacks rather than constantly apply pressure, but she's still incredibly mobile and crucially, plays differently to every other character in the sizeable roster.

All the existing characters have received balance updates too, speeding up some moves, adding extra frames of invincibility to others and slowing down some "overpowered" attacks. Although these won't make a major difference to casual players, it completely overhauls the game for dedicated players, giving characters that had all but been written off in previous versions of the game a genuine fighting chance.


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Even if you stick with a familiar face like Ken or Ryu, the new gameplay mechanics help improve the overall game balance, giving certain characters more options once their Ultra meter has filled and letting others combat the knockdown play style that proved so successful in previous versions of the game. With Ultra Combo Double, you can take both versions of a character's most damaging special move into a match, opening up potential anti-air attacks or reversals that you would otherwise be unable to use had you picked one Ultra combo over another. The cost of this flexibility is reduced damage, but for characters like Rose and Dhalsim its usefulness greatly outweighs the reduction in power.

Delayed wakeup, activated by pressing any two buttons when knocked down by your opponent, lets you rise up a few milliseconds later than usual, throwing off the timing used by "vortex" characters like Akuma and Ibuki to keep you pinned down. Finally, Red Focus is able to absorb as many hits as your enemy can land for the duration of its animation, not just the single hit a regular focus attack can soak up. When you let it fly you're guaranteed to score a crumple state, too - leaving the opponent defenceless and wide open for a damaging Ultra combo. It can be used in combos and opens up a whole host of new offensive options for characters that aren't traditionally known for their burst damage, but as a result costs a whopping three EX meters.

Ultra also adds a new Edition Select mode, letting you cherry pick the best version of your character from all four versions of Street Fighter IV. If you don't mind losing a second Ultra combo and want raw damage potential, vanilla Sagat could be your best choice, but if you're a combo machine Yun from Arcade Edition can put in a dominating performance.


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Played side-by-side with another player, Ultra Street Fighter IV is undeniably one of the best fighting games out there - it's just a shame that at launch, the same couldnt be said of its online multiplayer mode. On learning that Games for Windows Live would be shutting down, Capcom switched Ultra over to Valve's Steam matchmaking, but something appears to have broken along the way; every single match we played was lousy with lag, stutters, disconnects and dropped frames. Thankfully, just before we went to press, a beta patch is available for public testing on Steam. It takes no time at all to download, and once wed installed it we could play problem-free against opponents from all over the world. Lag will still depend heavily on your internet connection, but its a massive improvement over the original release. Hopefully Capcom will soon enable it for all users, not just those enrolled in the beta programme.

If Capcom can release a permanent fix for its multiplayer woes, Ultra Street Fighter IV will quickly become a must-buy for even casual fighting game fans, but right now the main reason to pick up the PC version is if you've already traded in your Xbox 360 or PS3 for a next-gen console. With no Xbox One or PS4 release on the horizon, it will be the only way to try out the new characters or put the new gameplay mechanics to the test.

Available formats
Available formatsPC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
PC requirements
OS SupportWindows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8
Minimum CPUIntel Core 2 Duo 2GHz
Minimum GPUNvidia GeForce 6600, AMD Radeon X1550
Minimum RAM1GB
Hard disk space12GB
Availability
Price including VAT£23
Supplierhttp://store.steampowered.com/app/45760/
Detailshttp://www.streetfighter.com/us/usfiv
Product code45760