Ever since I bought the Xbox 360 Wired Controller for the PC, I have been playing around with it in a variety of games (not always to satisfaction) and wanted to post some surprising thoughts from someone who is PC gaming through and through.
One of the main reasons I bought it in the first place was for Action-Adventure games and it has entirely replaced my KB/Mouse setup for such games. Ideally, these games are best played comfortably leaning back on your chair and taking in the atmosphere and I find the X360 controller perfect for that. I played Assassin’s Creed, Chaos Theory, Prototype, Arkham Asylum demo and quite a number of other games and had a blast in all of them. Though I had completed AC before with the KB/Mouse setup, the X360 controller made free-running just more of a joy to pull off. Same goes for moving Sam around in Chaos Theory (gave a few tries with KB/Mouse but the sheer number of key mappings in this game is overwhelming). And using the left analog stick instead of mouse-wheel to control Sam’s speed greatly adds to the tension when sneaking up on enemies which I absolutely love to do. I could go on adding to the list but you get the idea.
Then, I moved on to games (sports/racing) that are obviously suited to the controller. Again, another game that pushed me towards buying one is Burnout Paradise. I initially played it with a KB/Mouse but it just wasn’t fun to do those crashes in Road Rage/Marked Man and I stopped for a while. The 360 controller with the rumble made pulling off those insane crashes even more awesome and provided the adrenaline rush that the previous setup clearly lacked. I also played around with the Grid demo (having previously played it with KB/Mouse) and got the same feeling. When it comes to sports games, one thing I always find unintuitive about Fifa is the WASD key mapping for shooting/blocking/passing and I have never really gotten into them because of that. Playing the Fifa 09 demo (in anticipation of Fifa 10) opened my eyes on just how much the KB/Mouse lacks when it comes to this type of games.
Another reason in going for the gamepad was GTA-IV. I have played both Vice City and San Andreas and never had a problem with driving, but with this game, driving became really unsatisfying with the KB/Mouse. And GTA-IV is one of those games I mentioned earlier which is played best leaning back and taking in all the joys of Liberty City. After playing around for a while, I decided to use the controller for the shooting portions also. It became boring to put the pad down and move on to the KB/Mouse for shooting. Although shooting with the KB/Mouse is still better; the way availability of ammo/weapons in this game is worked out, it just made more sense to go for the comfort of the pad/auto-aim versus the KB/Mouse because shooting is nearly not as important as a standard FPS.
Finally, I moved on to the acid-test, that of playing a standard fast FPS with the controller and this is where I thought it failed for me personally. I tried out Escape from Butcher Bay with it and the initial portions were decent and the melee combat was actually more satisfying with a controller. But once I picked up a gun and got into some actual firefights the shortcomings of the analog stick/aiming became blatantly evident. I know this may just be because I am so used to the KB/Mouse setup and gave it some time. Sadly, I couldn’t do it as even on Easy difficulty, getting past the first proper firefight without getting reduced to one stick health (or worse, dying) was nearly impossible. Switching to the KB/Mouse setup, I realized how much better FPS still are with this setup. I am sure some people will disagree but, you know, I got past all the initial firefights (and this time on Hard) without breaking a sweat.
But this is still one of the best buys for me in a long time. Combined with a nifty little software called the Pinnacle Game Profiler, it makes playing even older games without 360 controller support a very simple process. Download one of the pre-defined game profiles (or better create one yourself) and you’re good to go on games like Splinter Cell, Pandora Tomorrow and even Oblivion. And all the newer Games for Windows titles come with built-in support for the Xbox 360 controller. Even though Microsoft’s driver software still sucks, it is amazing when you press a button on the pad, all on-screen instructions are delivered in that format and moving on the KB/Mouse immediately switches them over to that setup (this applies for all recent games like GTA-IV, Fallout 3, Prototype, Arkham Asylum etc.).
I still don’t think I will be able to play any kind of first-person shooter (including similar games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age) with the 360 gamepad and it is obviously unsuitable for strategy games, but I can safely say that it has taken over a large majority of my gaming time for pretty much all other types of games.