The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Five years ago, Capcom’s Street Fighter IV single-handedly revitalized the fighting genre it helped create. Several other competitors have followed in its wake, but few are able to match the popularity Street Fighter IV. How does a series stay on top for so long? By keeping itself relevant. Rather than re-inventing the engine, Capcom has released several updates containing new characters, modes, and balance tweaks to keep SFIV fresh. Ultra Street Fighter IV is the latest iteration in this incremental approach.
Five new characters join the roster, bringing the total fighter count up to 44. Four of these “new” characters are familiar faces in the Capcom universe; Hugo, Rolento, and Poison first made appearances in the Final Fight series, while Elena’s first time on the scene was back in Street Fighter III. More recently, all of these fighters were in Capcom’s Street Fighter X Tekken series. Their character models and movesets are virtually identical to their SFxT counterparts, but their gameplay has been changed to match the slower paced SFIV.
The only newcomer to the series is Decapre, who (according to Street Fighter lore) is literally a clone of another character: Cammy. Thankfully, the similarities are only skin-deep, since Decapre’s charge move gameplay is vastly different than her counterpart’s directional motions. Overall, the new characters fit right in with the existing ones.
Character imports aside, Street Fighter veterans will welcome the significant changes made to the mechanics and balancing of the engine. You are now able to use both of your Ultra Combos during a match (albeit with a damage decrease). In previous editions, you were forced to choose only one, limiting your options and perhaps telegraphing your strategy. With both unlocked, character versatility increases. A much-needed delayed standing mechanic gives you the option of changing the timing of your standing animation, reducing the effectiveness of opponents that lock you into an annoying vortex.
The most interesting of the mechanic additions is the implementation of red focus – a souped up version of a regular focus attack. Red focus cancels moves that you normally could not, creating more aggressive playstyles. Additionally, you can absorb more attacks, giving characters a defensive boost.
Other inclusions of note are online training rooms and team battle mode. If you want to work on setups, combos, or just endlessly duke it out with a buddy, an online training room is finally here to help. 3v3 team battles add a layer of excitement and flavor to an otherwise lengthy wait until your next match in the lobby.
Community feedback heavily influenced the tweaks and rebalancing of all of the characters. Many of them seem minor on paper, but are instrumental in the tournament scene and improving the overall longevity.
Minimal effort has been put into making Ultra Street Fighter IV a brand new title. The handful of new characters and modes won’t entice newcomers, but considerable changes and balances have been made to the engine. It isn’t groundbreaking, but it keeps the venerable Street Fighter IV on top of the fighting game hierarchy.