Super Stardust Ultra Review: Asteroids Attack

Housemarque have gradually built a reputation for their unique brand of visually spectacular, high quality shoot ’em up arcade games, and Super Stardust could be argued as the title that originally earned them that reputation. First featuring on the Playstation 3, Super Stardust is effectively asteroids taken to the next-level, with hundreds of particles appearing on screen for you to blast away, while you weave your way around the games various, hazard filled stages. It’s a pleasant surprise then, to see an updated version of this formula move onto the Playstation 4. Here we take a look at this iteration of the game examine how the series has evolved as it moves to the 8th generation of our medium.

From the outset you’ll notice that Super Stardust Ultra isn’t quite the visual spectacle offered by Housemarquee’s other Playstation 4 title, Resogun, and neither does it look on-par with their upcoming title, Alienation. The spectacular visual effects that graced the Playstation 3 and Vita iterations of the game remain present, however the capabilities of hardware and subsequent and expectations have changed, sadly Super Stardust Ultra hasn’t moved to meet those expectations. Features like the games texture resolutions while perfectly acceptable on the Vita and Playstation 3, stand out as blemish on the visual spectacle on the Playstation 4, and its immediately clear that this iteration hasn’t been built from the ground up for this system.

Despite this, the extent to which an arcade game is considered valuable is usually measured by the quality of its gameplay and in accordance with that philosophy, Super Stardust’s gameplay is excellent. Blasting around the games planets, defeating bosses, shattering asteroids into smaller, and smaller pieces is a satisfying experience, and progressing your ships strength through power-ups to become an increasingly powerful force is continually rewarding. The game manages to be consistently engaging as the planets progressively become more and more difficult to progress through, and the inclusion of a wide variety of modes, enemy types and additions such as co-operative play make this one of the most content-packed arcade shooters that we’ve ever played.

SuperStardustUltrascreenshot

Co-operative and online additions add a breath of fresh air into the title too, as you can play local split screen, or perhaps more interesting is a mode where you can stream the game and your viewers are able to influence the gameplay through specific phrases that they can type into the chat. Interesting is perhaps the operative word here, as while this integration is always novel, I feel developers are yet to understand its best form of its application, and for the moment, the majority of consumers are unlikely to get much out of the addition. Either way, it’s there, along with a bounty of other modes ranging from survival, to bomber and impact. Many of these offer unique spins on the typical gameplay formula, for instance bomber requires that you defeat as much as possible while only using bombs, while impact does the same, but yet you’re restricted to only using your ships charge ability. None of these modes reinvent the experience per se, but they’re unique enough to offer a diversion when the primary modes become stale.

While these additional modes add a little replayability to the original formula, it’s difficult to shake the feeling that Super Stardust Ultra is a game that many of us have played before. If you own the Vita, or Playstation 3 versions of the game, considering Ultra does not offer a significant graphical improvement one wonders how to justify its purchase. Considering how similar this is to the Playstation 3 version of the game, it’s somewhat surprising that Ultra isn’t a cross-buy title, as it’s hard to see many consumers leaping at the chance to shell out for this near identical game, a second time around. In addition, Stardust evolved, albeit a little in the Vita version of the game, with the introduction of a small number of powerups and mechanics, these however are absent in Super Stardust Ultra. While this does not spoil the experience it comes across as a little odd, and in some albeit small ways Ultra feels as though a step back, rather than forward for the series.

SuperStardustUltrascreenshot2

Good

  • Wide variety of modes
  • Refined asteroid-esque gameplay that’s unique to the series
  • Fantastic, adrenaline pumping soundtrack

Bad

  • Visual spectacle is somewhat lost as texture resolutions and particle effects fail to match hardware capabilities
  • Short-lived, sometimes ‘gimmicky’ additional modes

Ultimately Super Stardust Ultra is an enjoyable and well designed arcade game, just as it were when it originally launched on the Playstation 3. This then, is the crucial problem, as this iteration doesn’t offer enough change to justify repurchase if you own either of the previous versions of the game. Ultra is the most feature packed iteration, but most of its additions are mere novelty, and visually it doesn’t take advantage of the Playstation 4’s hardware, paling in comparison to Housemarque’s Resogun or other similar titles such as Geometry Wars 3. The game remains a terribly well designed, and overall enjoyable arcade shoot-em-up, but for anyone but newcomers to the series Super Stardust Ultra simply doesn’t do enough different to justify returning. These failings don’t prevent it from being an excellent game, but do make it hard to justify repurchase.

newScore7

Author: Jozef Kulik

Share This Post On

Leave a Reply