I've looked at a lot of games since I started taking fighting games seriously around two years ago. I've covered most of the subgenres and found what I like and dislike about most of them. However, this is my first time covering a game that isn't finished.
I don't care enough about frame data to get upset about some of this, but there are things that affect the characters I play, and I can feel it.
“On block Super grants the opponent 100% of the "on hit" meter.
Ultra 2 input cannot end with any UP input. 2X half circle back -> up back +3P results in EX Rekka instead of U2. Fireball input cannot end with any UP input. QCF+Up results in a jump instead of canceling the prejump frames into fireball.”
“Move list priority is incorrectly set. Elena's super and ultras are ranked as higher than appeal or focus. This allows for canceling focus attack into ultra / super by utilizing an armor absorb cancel.
Most multi hit specials are inconsistent on a large majority of the cast resulting in mid move drop outs.”
It may not mean much to new players, but I ended up spending around $35 for this game ($20 for the base game, $15 for the Ultra update) and that's a lot of money for a game that's not finished. The weird glitches aren't the only reason why I say this. There's things that I found which hampered my ability to learn SF4 as a new player.
Ultra Street Fighter IV has no tutorial. The previous iteration Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition 2012 had no tutorial. And despite the theory that Street Fighter IV is great to get beginners into fighting games, I don't see it. I'm not new to the genre, but I am new to this game and there is just one included resource to learn how to play: an in-game text manual.
Do you know what a Focus Attack is or how to perform it? I didn't without looking it up! I also didn't know that Focus Attacks have three levels with different attack properties or how to do the extremely important Focus Attack Dash Cancel.
The “Trial” mode is the closest the game comes to a tutorial. You're given a set of 24 combos to perform, the first few teaching you how to input some of your character's special moves and Ultras.
The problem is that Trial mode is one part of the game that's currently unfinished. Upon entering Trial Mode you see this screen:
This game has seen many iterations since 2009. The Ultra Street Fighter IV versions of characters have changed since the previous iteration, AE2012. Trial Mode gives you combos that might not even be possible in Ultra. The inputs for Super or Ultra Combos are occasionally inaccurate, since a handful of them did change with the latest update. And Trial Mode never teaches you about the new mechanics for Ultra, Delayed Wakeup and Red Focus. There are entire characters missing from Trial Mode, so you'll have to go to Training Mode to try out their movesets.
And even if this mode were fully updated, it would be inferior to Persona 4 Arena's challenge mode. That challenge mode displays your needed inputs for Special Moves on screen at all times, allows you to quickly reset both characters positions with one button press, and includes a Demonstration where you can see the computer performing the combo so you can tell what you need to do.
For a game where combos are extremely reliant on timing and 1 frame button presses, it's crazy to me that there's no Demonstration so I can even see how the combo should look.
Since the game just straight up leaves out the resources you'll want or need to learn it, I looked elsewhere. Luckily there's a large database online, and I'll link a few videos that helped me a lot in learning.
It's good that this game has been around so long that people are REALLY good at it and willing to teach.
So, since there were no Trials for my character of choice, I jumped into Training Mode and just messed around for a while. Training has its ups and downs.
+You can set the CPU to “Auto Block” which is crucial for learning the timing on combos. If you time your combo correctly, every attack will connect. If you mess up, the CPU will block and you'll know that the timing is wrong. “Random Block” is also useful for learning to cut your combos short if they're getting blocked.
+Input Display lets you see if you're inputting a move incorrectly, so you know why it's not coming out.
+It's very easy and quick to record and replay a training dummy's actions
+You can turn on Fight Request from here, allowing you to train while waiting for online matches. Way better than sitting in a lobby!
-You can't quickly restart the training state by hitting the Back or Select button
-You can disable Fight Request from Training Mode, but you can't turn it back on
-It takes too long to leave Training, pick a character, and go back in due to the load times
-You can't set the dummy to break throws
-You can't set the dummy to do Delayed Wakeup
The last one is also silly because Delayed Wakeup affects some characters significantly. Characters like Ibuki and Cammy prey on opponents getting up after a knockdown because they can put them in an extremely difficult to block situation, but Delayed Wakeup can throw off their timing when used correctly. So why isn't a Training option? The game's not finished.
(Your worst nightmare until you get good at the game)
So, after spending not enough time learning my commands I jumped into Ranked mode online. I would highly recommend going into Ranked over Endless Battle, and be sure to set the skill level to “Same Skill”. Jumping into Endless Battle or Ranked (not on Same Skill) is like diving into shark infested waters. This game has been around for so long that basically everyone playing it is good, or at least better than you will be at first.
I found getting into matches via Fight Request in Training was preferable, because the experience of going to “Xbox Live Battle” is a mess of refreshing, clicking lobbies as they disappear and kick you back a layer, loading, refreshing the search, loading, loading again.
Once you get online, the netcode ranges from “OK” to “atrocious”. I've had many matches where “Waiting For Player” messages pop up every few seconds, making the game nearly unplayable. I've had matches where the game felt fine but my controller inputs were blatantly not coming out, resulting in it registering two simultaneous button presses when I presses three, or a double QCF registering as only one. I've been playing with friends for several matches in a row, and for some matches it randomly decides to make the netcode much worse for no real reason. It's not the worst netcode I've ever experienced, but it's outclassed by nearly all of its contemporaries.
Playing Ultra Street Fighter IV online actually wasn't an endless loop of me losing every match like I expected, but I'm sure it's only because I'm on Same Skill. I win the majority of my matches in my rank, but if I'm fighting someone more skilled it's never close. I feel like I'm stuck and won't ever be able to beat people at a higher rank than me, no matter how often I play.
But I can admit Street Fighter IV is a unique case here. There are people playing this game that have been playing since 2009. I can't realistically expect to get to that level because I can't make up for the several years of practice other people have on me. It's one of the reasons why I wouldn't recommend this game to beginners.
The timing for combos and inputs for certain special moves makes this game even more difficult to get into. Many combos rely on one frame links which rely on pressing buttons in some esoteric, unexplained timing. There are a few characters with “Target Combos” which work like strings in other fighing games (input moves as quickly as possible) but not everyone has the benefit of having easy, reliable combos. Some special moves like Cammy's Hooligan Throw have weird inputs like
360 commands are very difficult to do without jumping, so playing grappler characters as a beginner is an exercise in accidentally jumping forward when trying to do a command throw, and your opponent realizing you're trying to do a command throw and avoiding it. I still can't do double 360s consistently without jumping. I've had issues pulling off Delayed Wakeup even though I input it correctly, and I can't really explain why.
What I Liked: +Large cast of unique characters. Even the ones who fall into the same class feel different
+Launching into online Ranked mode straight from Training or Arcade
+Animated cutscenes in Story Mode
+Ability to individually change character voice languages
What I Didn't Like: -No tutorial
-Trials aren't helpful
-Online netcode isn't good
-Combos rely on strict timing and it's difficult to tell how to do them correctly
-Numerous glitches, some of which affected my gameplay (like hurtbox glitches and inputs being overlapped)
-Some special moves have very complex inputs
-Training Mode lacks a few options like setting the dummy to break throws or use Delayed Wakeup
-Arcade Mode isn't useful for learning the game because the AI reads inputs, making it an unfair match
-Online menus are clunky
-Lots of loading
Ultra Street Fighter IV is an update of an older game and will understandably have some drawbacks. From my perspective as a new player trying to learn it, it wasn't very enjoyable. I think it's difficult for new players to get into in terms of gameplay and its dated presentation. The only reason I've won 100 online matches so far is because I've built up fundamentals playing other games. I keep it simple online and never try to do advanced combos, partly because of online lag, partly because I find the combo system awkward.
Ultra Street Fighter IV is a good game to get into if you've already been playing Street Fighter IV for a while, or you're incredibly dedicated and want to dedicate your time to making it the only fighting game you play. For new players, trying to play this game as your first will be frustrating and I'd recommend other, more modern games.
Here's some links again for beginner tutorials that helped me out.