Sega’s flagship fighting game franchise returns next week with the release of Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, yet another update to the original Virtua Fighter 5 from 2006. Ultimate Showdown sports updated graphics courtesy of the PlayStation 4, but its netcode will remain tethered to the past.
Speaking with Kotaku via email, a Sega rep explained that Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown’s online modes build directly off the previous console release, 2012’s Final Showdown. And while that game’s online multiplayer was well received at the time, its use of an archaic technology known as delay-based netcode, which is more prone to debilitating bouts of lag, might hinder its acceptance in today’s fighting game community.
With everyone stuck at home over the last year due to the covid-19 pandemic, fighting game competitors have grown more vocal about the need for developers to pay special attention to the stability of their online modes. The best way to do this is through the use of what’s called “rollback” netcode, a technology that, without getting too wrapped up in jargon, makes online play feel more like offline. Rollback isn’t the perfect solution and can still be implemented poorly (looking at you, Street Fighter V), but it’s the best tool developers have right now.
That said, Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, which every PlayStation Plus member is about to receive for free, isn’t without online improvements. Sega AM2 and Yakuza developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio have added 16-player private rooms, tournament and league match types, and a new spectator mode to the game. It’s just a bummer that serious players can’t look forward to a more stable online environment for competition.