FPS Games on Consoles

Those of you who read this blog know that I am an exclusive PC gamer. I don’t own any of the current gen consoles, and I’m not really planning to buy any of them because they really don’t offer anything to me. Last console that I have actually owned was the original Playstation. Some of the youngsters on the interwebs these days probably don’t remember this, but back in the PS1 days, playing FPS games on consoles was a slightly odd idea. To that end, I never actually played one. Not until last week when a friend invited me to play some Call of Duty on his PS3.

It was an interesting experience, since it allowed me to see first hand how the FPS games work on the consoles. I always scoff at the idea of playing them with a controller but I have never actually tried it before. Console players swear by their gaming devices, and keep telling me how the technology leaped ahead since the days of venerable PS1. And perhaps it did. I did not expect perfect mouse like controls, but I went there with an open mind.

I did few hours of intensive testing of the “console FPS experience is not much worse than PC FPS experience” hypothesis, then went back home and fired up Team Fortress 2. After the whole ordeal, I just needed to play a real FPS game for a little while. Yes, it was that bad.

It is not just the controls though. Granted, I was really, really struggling at first. I believe that most FPS games on consoles use both analog sticks for control: the left one for movement, and the right one for looking around. It was really strange to have to use two thumbs on two hands for something I usually do without thinking by just flicking my wrist around. While the analog sticks have pretty decent sensitivity range, it is almost impossible to use them to move the way I usually do in multiplayer games. It is for example really difficult to quickly glance behind you without actually stopping or changing direction too much.

I don't care what anyone says, this thing was not designed for FPS games.

Fun fact I noticed: when faced with an enemy a lot of CoD players would suddenly drop prone instead of dodging behind cover. This struck me as unusual, until I realized that I was not the only person in the game who struggled with the up/down movement of the analog stick. I confirmed this by watching kill cams and spectating while waiting to re-spawn. Most players would try to keep their gun barrel leveled, and then when they found the enemy they would zig-zag their right stick left and right until they got their cross-hair on the target. You almost always seem to push it to hard the first time, and then need few fine movements to get it where it needs to be. Dropping prone introduces a whole new axis to the equation and confuses the attacker, giving the prone player an extra second to aim. Initially I thought I had this problem because I was unaccustomed to the controls, but I have seen this happen more than once while we were playing. I was actually kinda amused – you would never actually find two players stand in place facing each other fumbling with their aim controls on the PC. Then again, perhaps there were a lot of n00bs online that day – I don’t know. All I’m saying is that aiming using the dual shock controller is slower and less accurate. I really haven’t seen beautiful, fluid head shots while playing, but instead I have witnessed a lot of zig-zaggy, wavy movement.

Here is another thing I did not like about the console experience: resolution. I don’t know if it was just me, or if it was because we were playing split-screen game but the game looked decidedly worse than what I grown used to playing current generation PC games. Let me put it this way: when I played PS1 games I always felt the graphics were “grainy”. Now I was messing around with a PS3 game, and the same “grain” was back. Maybe this is an artifact of the pixel size on most TV’s as opposed to monitors. It made me feel as if we were playing a 3 year old game and not something that was released few days ago.

Quick question: when was the last time I have complained about graphics on this blog? I won’t say never, because someone will probably find a link and rub it in my face but I can honestly say I can’t remember the last time I did it. I just don’t pay that much attention to visual side of games. So for me to notice and reflect on it, you know this had to be fairly drastic. I don’t know… Maybe I’m spoiled. I mean, it could be that my gaming machine is actually a bit above PS3 in specs. I’m to lazy to actually look it up though. If anyone wants to do the leg work, feel free.

The bottom line is this: I now know how people play FPS games on a console, but I am still not sure how they enjoy it. I mean, yes the games are still fun, but it feels so… I don’t even know how to describe it. It is as if someone took an FPS game, then rounded off all the sharp edges, and padded it with foam so that the kids don’t hurt themselves. It is like playing a kiddie playground toy version of the real thing. At least that’s my impression.

Oh, and IMHO Team Fortress 2 is a much better game than CoD: Black Ops when it comes to multiplayer experience. Then again I have formed this opinion after playing CoD for like 3 hours on split screen so don’t crucify me over it.

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11 Responses to FPS Games on Consoles

  1. xWittaker UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    I own both current generation consoles and the only fps that I’ve found palatable on them is Uncharted 2.

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  2. Phil UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    @ xWittaker:

    and that isn’t even an fps! :)

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  3. IceBrain PORTUGAL Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    Coincidentally, I’ve just played Medal of Honor today on a PS3 on a local shop. I wholly agree with you, it sucks royally.

    One of the major problems, in my opinion, is that with the mouse you control the position of the aim (translated from the plane to a sphere), while with the stick you control the velocity at which it changes, which makes it inherently more difficult to control.

    This is in part because the range of movement is so much more limited, that it’s impossible to translate it to position without restricting movement to 20º :P

    About the graphics, apparently COD:BO isn’t optimized for the Cell, so instead of 1080p they use 960×544; and then you display that on a 42″ screen and you get ~22 DPI, which is ludicrous compared to any PC connected to an average monitor.

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  4. jambarama UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I agree, FPS should be PC only. Ditto for RTS. But there are plenty of other reasons to get a current gen console.

    We got a Wii as a gift, and we love it – I softmodded it so now it runs about any emulator you want, I backed up my discs to a USB hard drive, I can stream videos from my file server, and it does netflix. The best resolution the Wii does is 480p, but it looks fine, and was definitely worth getting.

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  5. k00pa FINLAND Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    I know the feeling… I have played lots of fps games on pc, so I have relatively good reflex/aim skills.

    When I played killzone 2 on my friends ps3, it was sure fun to play, but I would get much more kills with mouse.

    It is just bit annoying to watch the game when you see the enemy, you know it is there, you know that you could kill it, but then you try to slowly move the crosshair over it and try to hit it. On pc enemy would already be dead!

    I didn’t see the zig-zag movement on killzone2, maybe because players had more healt/weapons didn’t kill so quickly.

    And about the splitscreen. Consoles already have low CPU(ps3 is expection here),RAM and GPU power and then you force them to draw the image TWICE per frame. Splitscreen effectively doubles the load it makes. Yes, both screens still have smaller resolution than normal fullscreen, but it is still lot for console to do.

    Usually consoles drop graphics/effects/textures LOT when you run it splitscreen.

    I bought the Black ops for PC yesterday and I like it. However it isn’t even close to TF2. I can see myself playing black ops for ~100hours, but not for 720+ hours that I have played TF2.

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  6. SapientIdiot UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Linux Terminalist says:

    I have to say that while i agree with you, Controlling a game on PC can be equally as awkward for someone used to Consoles. My girlfriend had played games like Oblivion and Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360 lots before we met. She recently moved in with me, and I do most of my gaming on PC as well, Watching her fumble around with keyboard and mouse controls in Oblivion was probably more amusing for me then it should have been. She actually got frustrated after not too long and gave up playing. Lately she’s just been playing the Sims 3.

    I myself got big on FPS games with the last gen of 90′s consoles. Although i did play a few first on PC (doom, duke nukem, quake etc) on PC. The first FPS i played where Doom 64, Turok, and Goldeneye. I also got into FPS games on the Dreamcast (mainly Quake 3). Both of these consoles where great to play FPS on in my opinion. Both consoles had controls that would use the digital buttons to move (the C buttons for N64, or ABXY on DC) with the analog stick to look around, and the triggers to fire and jump. Multiplayer on the Dreamcast was especially great.

    But since the Dreamcast no other consoles has come close to having controllers for FPS games that are to my liking. I remember the first time i played halo I was horrible, because the controls seemed backwards. Now I stick pretty exclusively to PC gaming, but i still like my older consoles (PS2 is the newest console I own, but my N64 and Dreamcast see the most use)

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  7. copperfish Google Chrome Ubuntu Linux Terminalist says:

    I was always a big PC gamer. LAN games, online and fast twitch FPS games. But, the last FPS i played on PC was probably the first Half-Life 2.

    Yes the control and graphics on PC are better.

    So why do I only play on consoles now?

    Time and ease of use. My desktop PC is far to low spec to play modern games. I switched to Linux and I’ve got no intention of installing Windows again just so I can play new games. So about all I bother with on my notebook are “retro” games like Alien Arena. My Xbox “just works”. I’ve learned to live with a controller and I’m used to the limitations. That “rounded edge” feeling is just part of the package.

    I know it isn’t cool to admit, but I’m a console convert.

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  8. Luke Maciak UNITED STATES Mozilla Firefox Windows Terminalist says:

    IceBrain wrote:

    One of the major problems, in my opinion, is that with the mouse you control the position of the aim (translated from the plane to a sphere), while with the stick you control the velocity at which it changes, which makes it inherently more difficult to control.

    Yes, this is exactly it.

    IceBrain wrote:

    About the graphics, apparently COD:BO isn’t optimized for the Cell, so instead of 1080p they use 960×544; and then you display that on a 42″ screen and you get ~22 DPI, which is ludicrous compared to any PC connected to an average monitor.

    So in other words, PS3 is still getting the short end of the stick? I sort of assumed that Sony was the “loser” of the current console generation when it had like no exclusives on launch day. My friend was trying to convince me that this has changed and developers are treating the platform more seriously now, but I guess that’s not the case. :P

    @ jambarama:

    IMHO Wii is the most fun when you have bunch of people over and everyone is drunk. I really don’t think there are any titles for it that would interest me for solo-type-play that wouldn’t be available for PC…

    k00pa wrote:

    And about the splitscreen. Consoles already have low CPU(ps3 is expection here),RAM and GPU power and then you force them to draw the image TWICE per frame. Splitscreen effectively doubles the load it makes. Yes, both screens still have smaller resolution than normal fullscreen, but it is still lot for console to do.

    Yeah, I guess this was probably the biggest part of the quality drop I saw.

    SapientIdiot wrote:

    My girlfriend had played games like Oblivion and Fallout 3 on the Xbox 360 lots before we met. She recently moved in with me, and I do most of my gaming on PC as well, Watching her fumble around with keyboard and mouse controls in Oblivion was probably more amusing for me then it should have been. She actually got frustrated after not too long and gave up playing.

    Now I’m jealous that you get to have a girlfriend with good taste in games and I don’t. :P Seriously though, that’s actually pretty interesting. I always sort of assumed that mouse control in FPS games was intuitive enough. I mean, if you can use the mouse to navigate your desktop, you should be able to play an FPS. I guess it is not as easy…

    copperfish wrote:

    Time and ease of use. My desktop PC is far to low spec to play modern games. I switched to Linux and I’ve got no intention of installing Windows again just so I can play new games. So about all I bother with on my notebook are “retro” games like Alien Arena. My Xbox “just works”. I’ve learned to live with a controller and I’m used to the limitations. That “rounded edge” feeling is just part of the package.

    Yeah, this is actually pretty logical thing to do. Consoles are indeed cheaper in the long run. Hardware remains stable for an entire generation, you don’t have to worry about keeping up, and it frees you up to run whatever OS you want on your main PC.

    On the other hand, if you are a PC gamer you can sometimes get away with a different types of “savings”. You know, as in not necessarily paying for games you play. Not that I would endorse that. Of course you can also pirate console games, but from what I know it is slightly harder (as in you may need to mod your hardware).

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  9. Alex Bedel UNITED STATES Google Chrome Windows says:

    being an Xbox Gamer myself, i have to say that the XBox Controller is more suited to the FPS genra than the Duel shock. the sensitivity is better and it is easy to use. i dont play COD but halo, and i can say that i can barely see an opponent and instinctivly tap the controller and headshot them before they can react. a good example is playing swat and getting 20 kills in a row without dying. you actually have to practice. i can say i would not be able to play with a mouse and do the same thing. its a learned skill. however black ops is not nearly as good as halo in sheer scale. much more versitality.

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  10. Byth Mozilla Firefox Windows says:

    I was a console gamer until I got into the indie games scene, and now I’m playing most of my games, even mainstream ones, on the PC. And to be honest, the first day I tried Quake Live (having only played Doom on the PC before) I thought it sucked. The controls were ridiculous. You can’t judge it from one day, now it’s plenty natural on both console and PC. The PC has the best controls, but the console just takes a little getting used to and really works better for a lot of games.

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  11. Morghan UNITED STATES Safari Linux says:

    I just downloaded the black ops demo and have to say I agree with the control issues. Mass Effect 2 is the only game with guns that I can seem to aim properly on PS3. Well, Fallout 3 works just fine if I use VATS, but I can’t hit the wide side of a barn when I’m waiting for my AP to recover.

    The sad part is I have a Logitech wireless desktop combo hooked up to it, it’s just no games seem to take keyboard/mouse input.

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