Review: Super Stardust Ultra (PS4)

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Title: Super Stardust Ultra
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.4 GB)
Release Date: February 10, 2015
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Developer: d3t ltd
Original MSRP: $12.99
ESRB Rating: E
Super Stardust Ultra is exclusive to PlayStation 4.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

I’m not going to lie, Super Stardust HD is definitely in my top five games for the PS3. It pushes every one of my buttons and I can’t find a single fault with it. My level of excitement when they announced a PS4 version was incalculable and well, the amount of sleep I get is about to decrease greatly.

Gameplay:
To me, Super Stardust HD was the ultimate twin-stick shooter. The weapons were unique and an integral piece of the insidious rock-paper-scissors mechanic that drives the entirety of the game. Everything about the design was absolutely brilliant. I normally don’t get too involved in score chases (mainly because I usually have too much to play) but this game was the exception to that forced rule and it was for a long time. Other versions of the game came out on the PSP and Vita but those never captured me like the original did. Then, at the PlayStation Experience, there it was. Super Stardust was coming to the PlayStation 4 and it looked amazing. I only played it once because I didn’t want to have to pine for it until its release, but surprisingly we didn’t have to wait for very long.

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The transition to the PS4 wasn’t even handled by the masters at Housemarque, but you’ll never be able to tell. Everything that you liked about the original is faithfully reproduced on the PS4 and honestly, the DualShock 4’s sticks feel even better than those on the DualShock 3, to me at least. Everything about the game will feel 100% familiar if you’ve played it before and if this is your first time playing then you’re in for a frantic treat.

… different though are the five new planets …
Your three main weapons are there to blast specific materials – Rocks, Ice, or Gold. Every weapon will do damage but if you use the correct weapon for each specific material it becomes much more effective. Switching between the weapons is done using the triggers and the more you play, the more adept you’ll become at pulling some sweet combos off. You’re also going to need to become effective with the Boost (which regenerates over a short period of time). This allows you not only to swoop directly through obstacles, but also increases the value of any bonuses you boost through. It’s a vital move that you need to keep in mind, especially when a huge amount of obstacles drop all around you.

All of this comes together in probably your ultimate goal: keep the multiplier alive and make it increase as much as possible. For score-chasers especially, this is THE answer to the puzzle. To keep the multiplier from resetting, you need to consistently demolish whatever is present on the screen. Go a few seconds without doing so and it resets, and your resulting score suffers greatly.

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This isn’t simply a port of the original game either, although most everything in terms of actual content is similar. What’s different though are the five new planets and a couple of new modes. Honestly though in terms of the new planets really all that seems to have changed are the aesthetics and some of the drop patterns (and I’m completely fine with that.) The bosses are still the same as far as I’ve seen and their patterns and weaknesses haven’t changed either. Again, I’m completely fine with that.

In single-player you’ve got a decent amount of modes to choose from. They include Arcade (the default), Planet, Endless, Survival (no weapons, just avoid everything thrown at you), Bomber, Time-Attack, Impact, and Blockade (which is the ‘Endless’ with a trail of rocks spawning behind you as you progress).

… notable addition is the Interactive Live Streaming mode …
Visuals:
I don’t think that I’m exaggerating when I say that Super Stardust HD was and still is one of the best looking games on the PS3 so the move to the PS4 may be perceived as a bit more subtle than some other series out there. It still runs at 60FPS and is still in 1080P, but what has changed are the different planets that your battles take place over. Also, when you start a new planet the view now swoops past some of the other objects that are present in the planet’s proximity.

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The game runs like butter with nary a hiccup no matter how much appears on screen. In true Super Stardust tradition the number of objects can become truly immense too, giving you that sinking feeling that you don’t even have somewhere to run to. Every effect you can imagine will appear at some point too, especially a GPU-taxing amount of particles and still the framerate never dips.

Oh yeah, if you’re one of those crazy people that bought a 3D display never fear, because Ultra supports it on PS4! It was always great on the PS3 but things have definitely improved, with less flicker and ghosting. Although many will probably barely notice those improvements (I played both back-to-back for this review.)

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The one issue that I had (and that others have mentioned to me) is that the newly created planets have features like volcanoes spewing bright liquid that actually can obscure items within the playfield. Enemy shots will disappear as they blend with what’s happening in the background and that definitely increases the possibility for an errant and avoidable death. It doesn’t happen with every planet thankfully but that’s probably the one regression that’s happened in this new version of Super Stardust.

… a stellar transition from PlayStation 3 to PlayStation 4 …
Audio:
Again, nothing has been altered all that much and once again this is a very good thing. One change that I like though, especially with how things were handled in RESOGUN, is that the player is given the option to run any voice-work through the speaker on the DualShock 4. I also like that it’s an option and not mandated. All three soundtracks are still available (Default, Retro, and Orchestral), and even though I like the others, the original soundtrack is still my go-to.

Online/Multiplayer:
The most notable addition to Super Stardust Ultra is the new Interactive Live Streaming mode. It’s basically an Endless run but when you stream via Share, viewers are given the opportunity to vote on different items that either give the player much needed power-ups like extra ships or extra bombs, or on the other end of the spectrum will throw huge amounts of enemies at you.

Luckily, it does seem that the mode will give you some momentary lulls in the action to let you compose yourself and pick some items up. The biggest Achilles heel of this mode though is that you actually need viewers for it to be effective. Since the mode is endless, if you don’t have any voting it ends-up being pretty boring with no challenge and your score will never build enough to be a threat on the leaderboards.

 

Speaking of leaderboards, Super Stardust HD became one of the early score chase games for the community on PS3 and the desire to have that top score has definitely transferred to Super Stardust Ultra for many in our circles. The online leaderboards have become a thing that many check as soon as they boot this game up and as our forums indicate, the sense of competition is strong with this one. Plus, being able to grab a screenshot with Share just makes things that much easier now. No longer do we have to try to take a shot with the camera on our phone and upload it that way.

Conclusion:
Except for one thing, this newer version of Super Stardust HD is next to perfect. I’m hoping that maybe d3t becomes aware of the issue many of us are having with the backgrounds masking items and objects that can potentially result in a death.

Other than that though, my only regret is that I don’t have enough time to devote to attempting a high score run and that’s just a shame. Genuine kudos goes to d3t Ltd. on a stellar transition from PS3 to PS4 while at the same time bringing a fresh take to a fan favorite. If you’ve never played Super Stardust HD and normally enjoy frantic twin-stick shooter action, this one’s the gold standard that all others are compared to.

Score:
9.5

Written by Glenn Percival

Glenn Percival

Just a guy that loves games, movies, Golf, Football, and Baseball.

Podcast Co-Host, Editor-in-Chief, Video Producer, and whipping-boy

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  • Keith Dunn

    HOW did I miss this happening?!?!