Probably the hottest topic in online gaming in the coming weeks – if not months – is going to be an endless, grinding debate about Capcom’s major new revelation for Street Fighter 6: Modern Controls.
A major shake up to the established Street Fighter status quo, Modern Controls have a considerably lower barrier to entry in execution terms – but have been balanced out with their own set of shortcomings, too. Despite that, some folk, naturally, are mad as hell.
Wonderful gaming salt compilation account ScrubQuotes has already changed its avatar to the modern control icon, though flipped upside down, turning that ‘M’ into a ‘W’ – as it’s flooded with examples of the bountiful salt mines opening in response to the new Modern control scheme. This is just from the open beta. With the full game out, it’s going to get much, much worse.
If you’ve not tried it out, Modern controls are designed to fit better on a controller – and to simplify the Street Fighter experience. Usually, Street Fighter has three punch buttons and three kick buttons, representing light, medium, and heavy strikes. There’s also special moves and unique normals, activated by pressing the stick in a certain direction or making a certain motion – like the quarter-circle forward (down-foward) plus a punch for a fireball, or the Z-shaped motion (forward-down-forward) with a punch for an uppercut. Modern controls change all that.
Instead, you have a light button, a medium button, and a heavy button. The game adjusts the move set for each character, meaning you can’t choose to specifically throw out a medium kick or punch, for instance. Medium will do a specific move when you’re either standing or crouching, and that’s that. Specials, meanwhile, are executed with a single button and a direction, Smash Bros. style.
As Ryu, for instance, a fireball is triggered by simply pressing Triangle/Y. An uppercut is Y with the stick tilted forward. Because there’s four directions (neutral, left, down, right – up is jump), that means you’re limited to just four special moves. Characters that have more than four, which is much of the cast, simply lose access to any other specials. In addition, specials triggered this way, without the more complicated inputs, do 20% less damage.
And finally there’s the most contentious point: the auto combos. This is where you can hold the right trigger and hammer either light, medium, or heavy, and get a basic four-to-five hit combo string. Usually these auto combos end in an Overdrive Art (formerly known as EX moves), which means they burn valuable meter. Three Overdrive Arts deplete your meter – which removes your ability to parry, cancel, or drive rush, key mechanics for survival. Plus, if your opponent blocks and you don’t stop the auto combo early, you’ll be left extremely vulnerable for a massive counter-attack.
Basically, you lose a lot when using Modern controls. Optimum combo routes aren’t available to you, even if you’re doing manual button inputs, as you don’t have access to all moves. Meter management is arguably a bigger headache. And your overall damage output is lower. But this doesn’t mean Modern controls are consigned to the bin.
Quite the opposite, in fact. Like almost anything in Street Fighter (or any other half-decent fighting game), the use of Modern controls is situational. Some characters in some matchups and situations are inevitably going to be pretty sick with them. There’s already a lot of buzz around ‘Modern Guile’. And though manual combo potential is dented, it isn’t dead. Capcom seems to know this, too – all characters have Combo Trials for both Modern and Classic control schemes, and later Modern trials have some pretty complex inputs of their own.
And this is the point, isn’t it? It’s a choice. We are eventually going to see Modern players in Capcom Cup and Evo top 8; it’s inevitable. The game has been carefully balanced around it. And so it’s valid. Hitting the in-game chat to tell someone they’re an auto-combo scrub is braindead stuff. They were doing 20% less special damage, after all, and had access to about half of their character’s natural move set – so surely your manual combos should’ve been good enough to keep up?
Furthermore, let’s be real; this sort of thing is part of the fighting game meta. People mess around with what shape ‘gate’ their stick has and pick up ‘silent buttons’ so your opponent can’t hear and react to your inputs. Hitboxes and keyboards have soared in popularity. And Street Fighter has long basked in choice, choosing from Supers, ISMs, or V-Skills and whatever other mechanical systems over the years. As always in competition, it’s whatever you can do to get an edge. In some situations, Modern controls might be that. In others, they might be a setback.
I’m a stick player, and like my traditional inputs. I’m not an amazing player, but I’m decent: when I was a regular SF5 player, I hovered around Super Gold. But I respect Modern controls, and I’m actually excited for how it’s going to provide an opportunity for more players to bed into the nitty-gritty of SF6’s features and some of the deeper elements of the meta. I’ll approach a battle against someone with Modern controls the same as I would any other player. And if I lose, I’ll think about how to remedy the loss in the same way, too.
Also... they’re kind of great? I made a point of playing through almost the entire World Tour campaign on a controller with Modern controls, and I enjoyed it. I can see the advantages of it, and I might even have a Modern version of a particular character in my back pocket, for an emergency pace-changer, in the future.
This new control scheme shouldn’t be feared by old players, and it shouldn’t be a mark of shame for those who want to use it. It’s just another obstacle to prepare for and work through – and that’s what Street Fighter is all about. If it helps even one new player engage with the game on a deeper level, it’s accomplished its mission.
Plus, it’ll be worth it for the laughs at the inevitable salt in the in-game chat alone.