By now many of you have likely seen me ranting & raving on Twitter about this particular fighting game upgrade. While I have had some issues with the offline of "Ultra Street Fighter IV" the core of my complaints revolve around the online experience. With the freshness of a new fighter, and the growing popularity of the fighting game genre amongst the hacking community it has made for a mostly unpleasant encounter online. I get that that most people doubt my fighting game credibility, and that they believe most of my opinions aren't justified, but what I have to say has a solid grounding in reality. Not only do I know the online state of the PS3, and what goes on when it comes to hacking incidents due to prior personal encounters with hackers, but I also know fighting games. Believe it, or not I've spent a majority of my years as a gamer playing fighting games. It's the one genre besides RPGs that really captured my attention, and held it. I have personally played at least a dozen fighters in my time if not more, and have spent quality time learning each one. One fighter amongst all those titles though will always have a special place in my gaming history, and that game series/franchise is "Street Fighter".
I've already told you in a previous article about the tale of my entry into the fighting game genre, and that my first fighting game experience was with "Street Fighter II: Championship Edition". What I didn't tell you however is that I have stuck it through with the "Street Fighter' series from the II's to the Alphas, and even Third Strike. I also stuck by the fourth mini-series including that of the vanilla "Street Fighter IV", "Super Street fighter IV", "Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Ed.", "Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Ed. 2012", and finally the current upgrade of "Ultra Street Fighter IV". From the vanilla forward I continued to find faults within the series that were getting increasingly worse as it evolved. In the vanilla version of SF4 I had encountered my first legit hacker, and ended up having to contact Sony's support via telephone just to straighten things out. The hacker had somehow made me spectate a match I had just joined, and had taken full control of my Vega only in an alternate colored costume. It was one of the most elaborate, and unnerving hacks I had ever seen, but it did not turn me away from the game.
I ended up playing SF4 up until 'Super Street Fighter IV" had made it's debut on the PS3. I was truly excited for the new characters, and new offerings that came along with the new SF4 upgrade. My time with SSF4 was mostly uneventful, and was actually fun until the Arcade Edition was introduced, and patches started coming into play. My favorite character Vega was hit hard, and I could tell the difference. Even so I continued to play the game up until ULTRA was released. Seeing ULTRA's announcement for the first time had me truly excited. Ever since I saw Elena, Poison, and Rolento in SFXT, and heard of their arrival in the SF4 mini-series I couldn't wait to see how they handled in the SF4 environment. Decapre was yet another character addition of interest as well. Additional add-ons like the Ultra Combo Double, the Red Focus, and the Recovery Delay mechanics also had me intrigued. I couldn't wait to see how it all effected the core gameplay of SSF4AE. Probably the most exciting part of all to me though was the fact that there was finally going to be a noteworthy Youtube upload feature. Until the release of ULTRA no fighting game developer had nailed the Youtube upload feature. The replay upload offerings were usually of the poorest resolution, and didn't make it worth the effort to upload. Thankfully that was ultimately rectified, and done so with 720p resolution.
Fast forward to today ... Today I have finally reached the point in my ULTRA playthrough that I feel comfortable in giving a decisive verdict. I have spent several aggravating hours in both the online, and offline portions of the game. Nothing really good has come from what I've experienced, and I feel what I have to say should be known. Let us start from the beginning, shall we ...
When you first put your game disc into the PS3, assuming you have the "SSFIVAE" that I have you will immediately be greeted with the "Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition" intro sequence, as well as it's respective title screen. It isn't until you get past this deceptive front that you realize your digital upgrade actually worked. The new start menu is updated with an in-your-face image of Ryu who is now sporting special artistic effects. The ULTRA icon is also shown onscreen as well just so you know you actually have a working copy of the ULTRA upgrade. As with each previous SF4 upgrade you will find a listing of upgrade details, and an accessible digital manual explaining all that is new within the game. Red Focus which requires the pressing of three buttons (LP + MP + MK), and two bars of meter is shown along with an explanation of the now complicated recovery system. The delayed recovery which requires the pressing of (LP + LK) upon being downed also affects the once easy quick recovery. In order to do a quick recovery you must now either press (DOWN) on the (LEFT THUMBSTICK) as you land, press (DOWN) on the (DPad), or press (LP + LK) to quickly recover. This can cause for some confusing mistakes for veteran SF4, and SSF4 players. I know, because I've had some issues with the new recovery mechanics myself.
As far as 'Red Focus' goes it's never really used online, and from personal use experience I don't really see the reason to do so either. The damage output of 'Red Focus' isn't all that great, and it's deflective properties leave you open for punishment. Not only that, but 'Red Focus' also wastes two bars of your focus meter which could be better spent on EX specials. The other mechanic which is basically the ability to have the choice of both Ultra Combos (aka, "Ultra Combo Double") doesn't really do the player a favor as it weakens the damage output of each Ultra Combo. In my personal opinion it would be better to choose an Ultra Combo that suits your play style, and stick with it.
Onto my complaints ...
In the offline portion of "Ultra Street Fighter IV" you will find a roller coaster ride of an experience that is plagued by the most abusive, and sometimes extremely dumbed down AI/CPU opponents. An 'Arcade Mode' playthrough will definitely test your nerves as it will more often than not pit you up against a boss-like character midways into the series of battles. To top that the once annoying (but manageable) Seth boss fight is so ridiculously hard even on the 'Medium' difficulty setting that it will give even skilled SF players a run for their money. I personally encountered a spamming Rose that was anything, but easy to deal with. Dhalsim, if you should run into him, also has a godlike AI/CPU upgrade that will have you wondering why aren't there more Dhalsim players online if he's so great? Of course the list of faults with the AI/CPU could go on, and on, and on ...
When it comes to my online issues, the more obvious issues, I have noticed that there's more hacker activity in USFIV than in CoD (Call of Duty). At least 90% of the online 'Ranked' lobbies are of fake, duplicate, or triplicate accounts. Most of these hacked accounts are obvious, and look as if they were just created. Some are a little more elaborate, and only show hints of a hacker behind the account with certain unusual details listed in the PSN account bio. As far as specific hacks go I've encountered extreme lagswitching/connection tampering in which the hacker would force multiple connection error messages onscreen in rapid succession while dealing damage to your character of choice. Keep in mind the lag is so intense for the person being hacked in these incidents that it's hard to dodge, or block any incoming attacks. The hacker's character continues to plow through you though like Neo running through the frozen frames of the Matrix.
Extreme lagswitching is not the only hack going around the online portions of USFIV. There are players who can take the extreme lag/connection tampering one step further, and cause you to totally lose control of your own character. I personally experienced this hack in a match against a player who uses the PSN ID "RagnaTheBloodege". The replay which I uploaded as proof did not capture the onscreen error messages, but it did capture the gameplay well enough to show that something was not right. My Vega had abruptly froze in the standing position, had then hopped away in the same frozen position, and remained still while "RagnaTheBloodege" trolled me with his teabag dance. This brings me to another flawed part of the USFIV online experience. As with previous iterations of the SF4 mini-series the replays do not show what actually went on during the online match. If there was lag it will not be shown. The same goes for error messages, and any other visibly hacked anomaly that might occur.Why Capcom chose to record the replays in this fashion is beyond me.
Aside from the extreme lagswitching, and the control hack you will also find some seemingly skilled players that could easily outperform EVO's greatest champ, if they were for real. Of course the name tied with that player is more often than not unknown to the fighting game community. I ran into one such fight earlier today against a "C" Rank Cody. He was hammering out strings of specials, focus attacks, and combos that normally wouldn't fly in a legit USFIV fight. There was no recovery time between each applied series of button inputs giving the player the ability to string everything together in one swift motion. As I mentioned earlier this player's PSN ID account info also did not add up, especially with his godlike playing abilities tallied in. I figure it's a gamer with a modded ISO/bootleg copy of the game that has single button specials programmed into it. Believe me, this sort of thing has occurred before in fighting games, so don't laugh me off stage.
With all the bad of online, and offline weighed I can't help, but think the release of this upgrade was either rushed, or half-assed. The absence of a new intro, and remaining presence of the previous edition's title makes me wonder what the hell Capcom was thinking. Furthermore the botched AI/CPU opponents point to the lack of proper testing as does the commonplace hacking incidents that take place within the online modes of play. Hackers have exploited this game to hell, and back, and keep coming up with new hacks regularly. I can only see the USFIV experience getting worse if Capcom doesn't patch the game soon, and if Sony continues to allow players to keep creating fake PSN accounts.
As far as recommendation goes I say stay the hell away from the USFIV upgrade, at least until I inform you that the issues have been properly dealt with. I do look out for you guys, and gals whether you want to believe me, or not. I do have plenty of skills regardless of what naysayers have to say, and I'm knowledgeable about console hackers despite popular belief. You'd be wise to listen to me, and not some heckler who's calling me out as a scrub, trust me.