Tuesday, September 26, 2006

On fearsome controls

While I understand that development time is limited and you have to make sacrifices, your game's controls simply cannot be at stake.

I've waited for FEAR's 360 demo with baited breath. Granted, I've only yet played it for fifteen minutes, but they have some polishing to do with the controls. There are two big problems.

One: you need to hold the left stick in to crouch. Never do this. It has to be a toggle: crouch/stand up. Even if it's intentional because they don't want you to move while crouched (I doubt), it's a pain.

Two: unless tweaking the sensitivity of the sticks alleviates the problem, the movement and aiming feel horribly off. I tried upping the sensitivity a lot, which didn't help at all. It feels to me like they've copied the PC original's control scheme directly - movement doesn't feel analogue, which it really has to be on a twin-stick setup, and aiming feels like you're using a mouse. Which doesn't work at all. You need to factor in a little auto-aim, you need to make the smallest movement of the stick to register, you need to fine-tune the acceleration until it's natural. I spent many a frustrating second trying to move my aim a head's or a limb's width to get a shot at a stationary target. I didn't have a hope landing shots without the use of the - incredibly nifty - slow-motion power.

Halo did the twin-stick console FPS control scheme so well that each and every FPS designer needs to study it. If you can't make it any better, just copy it. There have been examples of working alternatives; for instance, I never cringed at Battlefield 2's controls. You can look past spotty graphics, but if you don't feel like you're in control, you just can't enjoy the game.

All that said, I remain enthusiastic about the game. Maybe I can learn to live with the controls, but that's really the wrong way around.

Regardless of controls, there were also quite a few graphical glitches, but I'm willing to look past that to bask in the glory of the supremely satisfying bullet-trails, particle effects and chunks blown off the environment. We'll see how it all hangs together after a couple of play-throughs of the demo.

Edit: All right, taking the sensitivity down a lot helped with the aiming. The movement still feels clunky, but I believe I can live with it, now.

Come to think of it, I shouldn't be surprised. Monolith's games have always felt weird to control, all the way back from Shogo and No One Lives Forever. Regardless, those two titles are among my all-time favorite games, which just proves that a game is more than the sum of its parts.

2 comments:

Turkka Hynynen said...

Interestingly enough one of the controls of F.E.A.R. you criticize and then tell the people to copy the exact same thing from Halo. Grouching. In Halo it is not a toggle but a hold to grouch release to stand.

Can’t remember how it is in Halo 2 and can’t check it out since my copy of the game is at your place.

Joonas said...

You're correct. Then again, I never needed crouching in Halo, save for those token moments when you had to go through a low corridor. FEAR's shootouts feel like you need to duck behind cover all the time.

Oh, related to this: FEAR's leaning isn't toggled, either, and it's mapped to the D-pad, making it rather too cumbersome to use.

On the whole, Halo's movement and aiming are without par. I imagine it's a large factor of why they're so popular - they feel easy to play.