Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Intuitive Controls and Responses

 Controls are something that you almost don't even think of once you've gotten accustomed to them, that is, unless they're bad.

The recent review of AMY on Destructoid lambastes a great deal of problems present in the title but to me one of the things that struck a particular chord was the talk about the controls:

"Although AMY uses modern analog stick controls, Lana still moves with the precision of a PlayStation-era Resident Evil character, behaving more like a lift-truck than a human being. Getting Lana to sprint involves holding one button, mashing another, pushing on the stick, and hoping that the game decides she is allowed to run (sometimes it decides not to). Her walking speed is slower than her crawling speed, and adjusting the camera while moving causes her to stagger with half-animated stumbles."

Anyone who has played those original Resident Evil games can attest to the strangeness of the control scheme. It's not too out of bounds to say that the controls are reminiscent of a tank, which would be fine if Resident Evil were a game about driving tanks. The fact is though that the awkward, sometimes frustratingly slow pace of it was meant to invoke some of the helplessness of the situation. The series did move away from such schemes when Resident Evil 4 featured a control scheme that was better suited for the more heavily action oriented direction the series was taking (hordes of enemies vs. one or two, lots of need to actually be able to dodge, etc.). This leads me to ask: how did we ever put up with it then, or think it was actually a good idea? We certainly don't believe it is now, and it's honestly not that hard to understand why.

Even though control schemes are harder to do today than ever before (what with 3D movement vs. 2D movement and all that jazz) I think that on the whole gamers have become a lot more unforgiving of a game that has a piss poor control scheme, as they should. Nothing makes a game more frustrating and the difficulty more fake than having to fight to do the simplest things like running or turning around. I can't say for sure, but I think that if Resident Evil were released today as a new franchise that offered this control scheme that people would balk. It's a fine game, and might still have some good backing, but the controls would be listed as one of the low points. Hell, even during its first release back on the Playstation the controls were one of the larger points of consternation and contention among detractors of the title.

Oddly enough, I believe that intuitive controls (and lack thereof) are one of the reasons that I don't like motion control gaming a lot at the moment. Certainly there's a lot of room for improvement, but while the current version certainly looks good on paper you just can't do enough with it in practical circumstances. Motion controls don't offer me the same flexibility and freedom that a keyboard or controller paired with a game that has a decent control set up can.

Like I said previously, at this point there's almost no excuse for not having controls that make sense alongside response that are likewise. If I'm playing a man I don't want to move like a tank, hell, I don't think that the people playing as tanks want to move as tanks. It's a matter of immersion vs. gimmick, and in this case immersion wins every time.

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