EVO 2023, the world’s largest fighting game tournament, is just around the corner. And with it, the start of the Capcom Pro Tour (or CPT) on August 4.
The newly released Street Fighter 6 will be featured at the Las Vegas-based event and marks the first leg of CPT, which this year has a record prize pool of $2 million, half of that going to the winner. As per usual, the tournament maintains a ‘bring your own controller’ rule, meaning participating players can make use of the best PS5 controllers or the best fight sticks at their discretion.
There’s one major change this year, however, that’s proven to be quite divisive, and that’s Capcom’s decision to crack down on the use of leverless controllers like the Hit Box and the Victrix Pro FS Fight Stick. Or in other words, gamepads that swap sticks for face buttons for movement. What this allows players to do is enter specific inputs much faster than those on a stick or controller.
This essentially creates an advantage for players using leverless controllers, as the fully digital input reduces the travel time an analog stick would need to do in order to perform an identical input. Using a leverless also makes it easier to perform charge inputs, where you need to hold a specific direction for a certain amount of time.
So what's happening?
You might see some suggesting that Hit Box controllers and the like have been banned from CPT, but that’s not the whole story. Here’s what the official Capcom Pro Tour rules page says on the issue:
“If up and down directions are input at the same time both inputs must be maintained or both inputs must be rejected.
“To clarify, if up and down inputs are made simultaneously, the character must not perform a jump or crouch action, and if the left and right inputs are made simultaneously, the character must not perform a forward or backward movement action.”
This is addressing many of the advantages leverless controllers have in regards to a concept known as Simultaneous Opposing Cardinal Directions (or SOCD), which basically means up and down inputs (or left and right) can be held at the same time. If you try this on a controller or fight stick, I think you’ll have a pretty hard time doing so.
So why is this a problem? It all lies in how SOCD inputs are registered for leverless versus a traditional controller. In Street Fighter 6, pressing up and down simultaneously on a pad (using both the D-pad and analog stick to perform the input) registers neutral, meaning no action will be taken.
For a leverless, that same input results in an up command. This is an issue when it comes to charged special moves, which on leverless can be performed faster due to the player never needing to return to neutral position.
Ultimately, though, it’s worth noting that leverless controllers have not been banned entirely from Capcom Pro Tour. Rather, Capcom is cracking down on these specific SOCD inputs. You can still bring your leverless to CPT, so long as you’re not using these advantageous shortcuts.
What do pro players think of the decision?
At Red Bull Kumite 2023 in South Africa, I was able to ask a number of pro players their thoughts on Capcom’s leverless controller rule changes. I first spoke to Benjamin ‘Problem X’ Simon, EVO 2018 Street Fighter 5 Arcade Edition champion, who was receptive of the decision.
“In the previous game,” he says, “Hit Box did give you a significant advantage. For example you could charge in a way that’s not physically possible on a levered controller. Because it’s just buttons you’re pressing, you can be charging whilst doing other stuff. Whereas on a pad, you have to hold [the input] so your hand is inactive.
“Whereas you’re holding down+back and doing everything with Guile while still having the Flash Kick. Little things where it gave certain characters an edge, [Capcom] just kind of tried to do what they can to tweak that, which I think is more normalizing rather than nerfing.”
The sentiment was shared by Jabhi ‘JabhiM’ Mabuza, who shocked the crowd when he eliminated one of the series’ best players in the opening round. He said: “When someone dashes on you it’s really hard to stop that, especially with Hit Box players because they’re so quick.
“I think [Capcom] did good because it was an unfair advantage; you didn’t have to do the full inputs for certain moves. And now Capcom is saying that you have to do those inputs, even if there is a shortcut, but it can’t be that big of a difference to pad and stick.”
Unless there’s significant pushback, then, it seems like Capcom’s new leverless rules will be here to stay. Hit Box has confirmed it will be reaching out to CPT to “encourage a standard moving forward.” Hopefully, that’ll mean players who prefer leverless controllers won’t feel like they need to pivot to other hardware in the years to come.
Also at Red Bull Kumite 2023, we asked several pro players who they thought were the strongest characters in Street Fighter 6. Their answers highlighted many of the same fighters in the currently playable roster.
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Rhys is TRG's Hardware Editor, and has been part of the TechRadar team for more than two years. Particularly passionate about high-quality third-party controllers and headsets, as well as the latest and greatest in fight sticks and VR, Rhys strives to provide easy-to-read, informative coverage on gaming hardware of all kinds. As for the games themselves, Rhys is especially keen on fighting and racing games, as well as soulslikes and RPGs.