I have been a PC gamer for far longer than I have owned consoles. I still remember starting out playing Mario is Missing on MS-DOS, an edutainment game where you play the lanky plumber instead of the fat one. Later on I moved to slightly more adult games with Earthworm Jim and the brilliant Lion King game, both still booted up from DOS.
It all started to snow ball from here with the arm chair generalling of Command & Conquer, the anti social crime sprees of Grand Theft Auto and the murderous historical romps through the Medal of Honour series. All of the above have worked brilliant on PC and have had a fair life on consoles too, but not necessarily living in equality.
Medal of Honour indeed started life on a console, and GTA has migrated to being more of a console game, but Command & Conquer has always been a stickler when it comes to importing it to consoles. The mouse and keyboard control scheme just seem able to hug it a bit more satisfyingly than the malice grip of two joysticks on a pad, bickering with each other on how to tell tank A to strike down man B.
It used to be the case that the PC was generally quite dominant of the strategy and shooter market, but as consoles are now starting to become more mainstream, the delicate balance that has been in place for years is suddenly starting to fade faster than Garry Glitter’s popularity after 1997.
Instead of the PC passing down the nicer franchises it seems to be getting stuck with multi-platform release titles that have clearly been designed for consoles. On one hand it might seem great that the PC gets a share of the action that it might have missed out on, but at the same time, controls that work perfectly on a game pad often transfer quite clunkily over to the mouse and keyboard. At times it can feel like it would actually be easier to poke and prod a console controller with chopsticks rather than using the mouse and keys.
Having recently played the highly acclaimed Dead Space for the first time I have decided that I don’t like it, not because it is necessarily a bad game, but the PC controls feel completely off. The sluggish aim of the bronze suited protagonist just doesn’t fit well with the mouse at all, and seems to be designed for a not so responsive thumb nub joystick to ensure a steadier aim. The inventory screen is a devil to navigate too as you can’t use the mouse to do it because it is still locked in to controlling where your eyes point.
The whole thing just feels like it is designed to be amazing on consoles, but was just shoe horned on to the PC just because it exists. If you ask me it just feels like a wasted opportunity, and instead of a nice refined game that is optimised to most people’s PCs (without game pads), it is a clunky disaster which is as responsive as directing a herd of sheep with a Yorkshire Terrier.
Having recently played Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising on PS3, I can say that it worked very well on the console, but I could see some very frustrating elements if it were the PC version. The radial command menu worked brilliantly with analogue nubs, but on a mouse and keyboard, again, I can see the system being rather clunky and not as fluent as it was clearly designed to be.
Clunky is the word coming across the most here when describing how a lot of PC ports come over, which doesn’t seem right seeing as a mouse is more accurate and responsive than a joystick. I’m a man from the school of thought that if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
I just feel that the PC is having games shovelled on to it just because it holds a portion of the market that might not have a console to play on yet. With the multimedia age of consoles that are also DVD and Blu-ray players, a lot of people must have one in their living room, which might just start to be putting them ahead of PCs when it comes to gaming platforms.
I just hope that things start levelling out soon and that more thought and support will get put into PC ports as there really are some great games out there being criminally underdone by shoddy platform transfers.