Battle Hub & Online Play
Poor online lobbies are a point of serious contention for fighting game fans who have to brave convoluted systems just to play the game they like. Battle Hub is Street Fighter 6's answer to a social space where you can just hang out and play Street Fighter with anyone in the world. It's both great, and entirely optional if you prefer menu-based matchmaking (more on that in Fighting Ground later).
In Battle Hub, you select a server and go hang out in a virtual arcade with up to 100 other players. It's easy to play the game in this mode; simply sit down at an unmanned cabinet and wait for someone to sit on the other side. Any other person in the server can come over and watch your match, or queue up to take the loser's place.
While you're not playing in matches, Battle Hub gives you lots to do. Simply being in the space and hearing the arcade ambiance of soft jazz music, idle chatter and the pressing of buttons from nearby cabinets makes the place feel alive. There are various spaces in the arcade for shopping for avatar clothes, listening to in-game music, and even playing old Capcom titles like Street Fighter II on unlimited credits. All players are represented by their current World Tour avatar, and you can run around emoting and forcing others to laugh at your strange abominations.
All of this will sound familiar to those who played the beta tests, as nothing has changed there. What has changed is the ability to do avatar battles in the center ring, free to spectate just like any other match. All the moves and stats of your avatar carry over into this battle, and I did not see any way to normalize things like health or damage values, so leveling up a character's base stats will be important. I imagine this will be a fun diversion mainly aimed at casual players, but I'm glad it's in the game. You can use training mode with your avatar too, but you'll have to go to World Tour to do that, and the training mode is a stripped down version of what you'll normally use. Still, I expect it's enough to allow creators to make wacky combo videos.
I frequently used Battle Hub as a kind of "Street Fighter TV" when I wanted to rest my hands after playing for a while. It's easy to go into a random populated server and just walk around spectating matches. While you can do this by viewing replays in the excellent Capcom Fighters Network menus, something about watching live matches in an arcade setting on loop brought its own charm. The spectator feature is excellent, showing you live inputs, frame data and damage numbers if you want, and cycling the stage and song selection each time the players rematched. The marquee above each cabinet shows you which characters were playing, making it easy to find a match of interest to watch.
Ultimately, I suspect most competitive players will simply use the excellent menu-based matchmaking in Fighting Ground to do their online play, but whenever you want to be in a social space with other like-minded Street Fighter fans, especially if you want to hang out in a "virtual local" with more people than what is supported by private lobbies, the Battle Hub is great.
Street Fighter 6 brings the best rollback netcode that any Street Fighter game has seen yet. My internet is very poor, so I am a good test subject for putting high lag and high jitter matches through their paces. You can see the rollback working to keep all fights in sync and your anti-air reactions can work even as your ping reaches 180ms and beyond. Playing across oceans is certainly possible, especially from west coast USA to Japan, or east coast USA to Europe.
The netcode has one flaw though; input delay frames are not fixed at match start. Matches that take place from 0-99 ms will have 0 added delay frames, 100-199 ms will have 1 added delay frame, and 200+ ms will have 2 delay frames. If you cross one of these ping boundaries during play, the online delay frame will change upwards (and then never back down again, even if the ping falls below the threshold). This won't affect most matches that will sit comfortably in the 30-80ms ping range, but when you play a match that hovers around 95ms, or you hit an uncomfortable temporary spike, you will have a small change in your input lag for the rest of the match.
While SF6 is a game full of generous buffers on most combos, there are techniques that are quite precise; Perfect Parry is a 2 frame window and some combos, like Luke's perfect knuckle, might have you reacting to visual flashes within 3 frames. One added delay frame here can make an important difference.
I'm hopeful in the future that SF6 patches their netcode to be like other rollback games, where you can choose your own input delay in a menu and the game never fluctuates from that, forcing rollback to take over if the ping gets high. They can even keep this current mode of operation in the game, calling it "Automatic" or something, as long as knowledgeable players are able to set their delay frames manually.
That said, it's a shame I even have to focus on this drawback. It's the only issue I can find, and I'm encouraged by how technically sound the rest of their rollback implementation is, especially after Street Fighter V was plagued with finicky, non-functioning rollback for the entirety of the game's life. The vast majority of matches will be buttery smooth, and if you are a casual player who is not looking to optimize frames, you will have no trouble.