Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Console vs. PC: The Definitive Answer

I am an idiot.

Regular readers will not be surprised by this statement, but they may well wonder “what now?”

Simply put: I just bought Dragon Age II twice. Even simpler: I did the same thing with Dragon Age: Origins. “Fool me once…

On both occasions, I bought the Xbox 360 version, found elements of the user interface unusable without the benefit of a mouse and keyboard, switched to the PC, and was able to enjoy the game. My conclusion?

Dragon Age II Is for PCs

Dragon Age 2The Web has been abuzz with complaints about the “dumbing down” of the game to accommodate consoles. With Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, Bioware had demonstrated that they could design a sophisticated RPG on consoles. I figured I was safe this time.

I forgot that the Mass Effect games had been specifically designed for consoles (Xbox in particular), and Dragon Age: Origins had always felt like a fat PC game stuffed into a tiny console pair of shorts.

To be fair, Dragon Age II does lend itself to the dual-thumbstick controls. The combat is so quick that you can essentially play it as an action game if you choose to, and an Xbox controller is well-suited for button mashing. Moving around was much more fluid on the console as well.

Assigning talents was still garbage, however. Once you have more than three talents or spells to use, accessing them quickly is not possible. On the PC, you can line them up across the bottom of the screen like shots on a bar. No fuss, no muss.

Like a field of winter wheat...
Jesus, what's wrong with me?
I saw a nifty graphics boost when I switched to the PC, although that was not why I was playing the game. The characters lost a little of their "possessed mannequin" syndrome, and suddenly the chest hair on that dwarf in the framing story looked creepily realistic. Hypnotic, even. But the hair on top of everyone’s heads still looks like yarn on either platform.

I also had a hard time reading the screen text on the console version, even on a decent-sized HD TV. I freely admit that may have more to do with the poor genetics of my eyes than anything in the game.

Crysis 2 Might Be for Consoles

Crysis 2There’s been a lot of hubbub about the console release of this title as well. Crysis was an excellent game, but it is probably best known for its processor-melting graphics requirements, and a console port for the sequel means an inevitable step down.

From the discussions I've read, I’m not getting a lesser game. Maybe a simplified Nanosuit, but not a step down in terms of gameplay. These same discussions focused overwhelmingly on the graphics issue.

I’m looking forward to playing this one on my Xbox, which has become my FPS platform of choice. I know: heresy! At least to some of you.

Since shooters started coming out in droves for the 360 (and doling out tasty achievements), my muscle memory for controlling them is centered around dual thumbsticks. I find the keyboard/mouse combination to be awkward, to the point that I’m willing to take a hit to the graphics.

I concede that there is another trade-off. Console controls allow for more fluid movement, but the mouse allows for quicker and more precise aiming. The former has become more important to me.

As has being able to slink down in my recliner while I play.

I just had a thought: why don’t I download the Crysis 2 demos and see which one I like more? Wow. Wish I had thought of that before I spent $120 on two copies of Dragon Age II! (Please refer to the first line of this post.)

The Verdict: Console or PC?

Whichever you like better. Womp-wahhh.

I really think it’s a matter of taste. To me, it’s about graphics, UI, and control schemes, and what matters more for a particular game. That's going to vary according to the individual.

Seriously, though: Did you see that dwarf's chest hair?

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