The launch of Street Fighter V has been rockier than I and most others had hoped. The seemingly constant state of maintenance and fixes have made it difficult to give any proper evaluation of how the game functions or what people can expect from it in the future. I’ve had the opportunity to play the game’s online mode both before the game was officially released and for about a week after it was released, so I feel like I’ve seen the game at both its best and worst points. Putting it all together to describe the experience itself is tricky, however, so what I’ve decided to do is review my first week of Street Fighting online in V, and go over the highs and lows of my experience so far.
Let’s start by getting the bad out of the way.
My absolute worst experience online came from my ranked match immediately after hitting about 1000 League Points and entering the pantheon of Super Bronze rank members. I got paired up with a Karin about 400 points below me. “Hey, this might be an easy win!” I thought. I thought wrong. The first sign things were going south was that the match was taking an unusually long time to load. Things started to look worse when the fighter introduction cutscenes were stuttering really badly. As soon as the fight began, all hell broke loose.
I admit I didn’t play much Karin in Street Fighter Alpha 3, but I’m pretty sure she never had the ability to teleport all over the place and be in six places at once. Since Street Fighter V has a rollback system in place for its online play, any kind of lag gets conveyed by constant warping as the game tries to keep up with what should actually happen. Whatever kind of crazy online connection this Karin had, it was making the game absolutely unplayable. Of course I ended up losing the match, which ranked me back down to a regular old Bronze rank fighter, leaving me feeling disappointed and confused.
Beyond scheduled maintenances, Capcom servers seem to be going through some growing pains when it comes to the actual matches. During the times it was possible to create a Battle Lobby and play with a friend (this mode was completely broken for a few days) I found that the connections seemed to be strangely inconsistent. Playing against a fellow American produced the most consistently good match connections, but playing against one of my friends from Canada was odd. Some matches were flawless, but others would become warp-y. At first we thought it might be tied to the stages we were picking, but once the warps happened in the training stage, all bets were off. Previous fighting games we played together always worked fine, so I think it’s more likely an issue on the game’s end rather than ours.
But while particular fights can be bad, I don’t think it would be fair to characterize that as Street Fighter V’s online as a whole. Ranked matches have consistently given me the best connections and most satisfying fights so far. I have only fought someone with bad lag twice in over 50+ games, and from those games I never felt like I had played someone completely out of my league. I’m actually really impressed by how smooth the matchmaking has been. Anyone who played previous Capcom fighters like Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 should remember how absolutely frustrating it could be to find a ranked match due to failed connections, and eventually ending up with someone who’s played hundreds of more matches than you.
A lot has also been done to make social aspect of playing online more engaging. Everyone has an easily visible Fighter Profile for you to scour for information. There seems to be a fairly robust amount of stats in your fighter card giving you information about things like how many attacks you do of a certain type, how many times you can land a hit, how many times you successfully blocked, and how well you do against each character. Unfortunately this seems to be totally broken currently, as every time I’ve checked the stats they all just show up as 0%s.
What does work right now is that you can set literally anyone with an account as a “favorite player,” allowing you to stalk their match history and watch their replays. I personally looked up some of the profiles of top fighting game players I’ve heard of like BrolyLegs and PR Balrog just so I could watch them play and hopefully absorb some skill by osmosis. While not all of the Fighter Profile features are currently functioning, this is still one of the coolest and easy to use features I’ve seen in a fighting game.
To sum up my Street Fighter V online experience so far, I’d say that when it works, it works really well. On average playing against a random person online in ranked feels much better than playing just about anyone online in Street Fighter IV did. I’m genuinely impressed by how improved the matchmaking and social features seem to be. But the lows can be pretty low, and sometimes I wonder if I’d prefer lag matches to go in slow motion like the old days instead of becoming incomprehensible teleportation disasters. I’ve enjoyed a lot more of my time with Street Fighter V than I’ve dreaded, but I can only hope that the game’s online situation gets stabilized at some point.
Food for Thought:
1. The Battle Lounge currently only supports two players at a time, but an update releasing sometime in March should be increasing the cap to allow for eight players and the ability to spectate matches. Personally I think this is the biggest thing missing at launch. It’s kind of crazy that I can’t play in a lobby and spectate matches with more than one friend right now, but at least the feature is coming soon.
2. Losing to a lag-y teleporting Karin is pretty frustrating, but what may be worse is when you win a match and the game simply fails to upload your results. I’ve won multiple matches where the game just gives me an error notification that the results weren’t uploaded, so the match simply never happened according to the game’s servers. I suppose it could be worse, but I really wanted those League Points.