Input lag has been a hot topic in the FGC ever since Street Fighter V’s mess of a release last year. For the purposes of this article, I’ll only be talking about the PS4 versions of the games mentioned. While input lag can be reduced on PC, the PS4 is the tournament standard platform for pretty much every game so it’s the most relevant here.
The newest target of this discussion is Tekken 7, which has been measured to have just over 7 frames of delay. Katsuhiro Harada, director of the game, has claimed that the Unreal Engine 4 eats 3-4 frames, causing the increase in input lag we’ve seen from this generation’s fighters.
This is a worrying statement since Unreal Engine 4 has been the engine of choice for pretty much all of the modern fighting games, which have all been criticised for their bad input lag. Street Fighter V was crucified by its community shortly after its launch for its infamous 8 frames of lag, which was reduced to 7 by the time its season 2 patch hit. Injustice 2 and the Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite demo both have about 6 frames of lag. While this is better, it’s still not up to the standard that modern fighting games should be.
To put it in perspective, Ultra Street Fighter IV (Xbox 360) had about 5 frames of lag and Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 (Xbox 360) had about 4.5 frames of lag. Both of these games had increases to 8 frames and 6 frames of lag respectively in their PS4 versions, none of which were on Unreal Engine 4. To compare it to a recent fighting game that hasn’t had these issues, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, which uses Unreal Engine 3, only has around 3.5 frames of lag.
Now, why is this an issue? Behind all the chaos of fireballs and uppercuts, fighting games have a whole numbers game that most people have no idea about. This is called frame data. Frame data tells you pretty much everything you need to know about each move, such as how long it takes to start up, or how much advantage/disadvantage you have after your move lands or is blocked.
In Tekken 7, some of the fastest moves take 10 frames to come out. With a game running at 60 fps, that’s only 1/6th of a second. Now add in those 7 frames of lag and you only have 3 frames to block the move on reaction. Add in human reaction on top of that and it just becomes impossible. The higher the input lag, the more of a guessing game fighting games become. Those small fractions of a second can mean everything in a crucial moment.
I’m not sure what the solution is here. Will we see fighting game developers ditch the Unreal Engine? Or maybe they’ll focus more on the PC side of things? All I know is these issues are pushing me further towards making the PC my primary system for fighting games and I’m getting worried about Dragon Ball FighterZ, which will be Arc System Works’ first game on the Unreal Engine 4.