We’re not far from the “next generation” of consoles to arrive (yeah baby!). I’ve been seeing a lot of articles about both the Xbox One and the PS4 highlighting why potential consumers should invest in their products. There’s not been much focus on the controllers from the general media but that doesn’t stop Sony and Microsoft from releasing their own PR campaign about their new controllers – they should be proud of their hardware/software.
To highlight the new features they’re most proud of, both Sony and Microsoft have used one game that will show just how gaming experience will improve.
PS4 – Thief
Most of the changes Sony has made to their controller can be visually seen. A touchpad, a share button, a light bar and a new look (which I think looks like an unwanted boomerang). Whilst retiring home after a long day of hard work, I read with interest that the new features of the DualShock 4 will be used to enhance the game ‘Thief’ for PS4 owners. The things reported was the ability to use the touchpad for easier menu navigation without having to face a big screen menu, motion sensor to aim the bow and finally the light bar to indicate whether you’re in the shadow or not.
I like touch screen based interactions, especially selecting items on screen. It’s very annoying when the most used item is the 6th item down from the menu and you have to press down 5 times to get there. The touch pad isn’t exactly the same as touch screen, but it’s very close so it’s actually a good idea; scroll to item you want to as it’s easier and more natural.
The motion sensor can be a hit or miss. Yes it can be a new way to “immerse” the player in the game by allowing the game to simulate part of what the player is doing. This can be a very powerful feeling. Sure the aiming thing will work whilst your character is standing still, but what about when they’re not? Moving your controller and trying to press buttons will mean a lot of movement coordination and I’m just worried that this will complicate things a bit too much.
The final PS4 feature to be mentioned is the light bar shows whether your character is hidden in the shadows or not. I’m not sure how useful this information is. Surely this information should be conveyed visually on the screen without the gamer looking at his controller to re-affirm what’s happening on screen. Why should you need to take your eyes off the screen? To me, that’s quite disruptive and serves as an interruption to the players experience. When captivated by a game, eyes will always be glued to the screen. So why then would the developers think it would be a good idea to suggest to the player – “you might want to look away for a second” to break that connection. Another inconvenience is that the light is facing away from the player, so this requires the player to move their hands and wrist into an uncomfortable position to view the light bar – imagine holding the controller then point both index fingers slightly towards your eyes? Hopefully it’s not going to be mandatory, but I don’t think anybody is going to use it. Why spend more resources on something that no one will use? So it seems odd that they implement the touchpad menu to avoid interruptions to the experience, yet put in a feature which brings back what they intended to remove.
Xbox One – Forza Motorsport 5
In comparison, Microsoft claimed there are over 40 enhancements made to the new Xbox One controller; only to show off one of them with Forza 5. Unlike Sony’s Frankenstein treatment to their controller, Microsoft approach is more subtle approach. Visually, it’s slightly different yes, but most of the improvements are supposedly felt by your body (or hands).
I saw a short video on Xbox Wire about what the team behind Forza are doing with the new impulse triggers. Instead of just tagging it in there to check another tick box, the inclusion of it sounds natural. The aim was to provide the player an extra layer of realism to their gaming experience. To make a comparison, the current controllers will rumble as one unit. It’s like just being able to feel the g-force of your car acceleration/deceleration. But now that they have impulse triggers, it’s like being able to feel your tires losing grip when driving on snow or feeling the pressure of the brake pedals in an emergency stop. So by using your senses more, it makes the gameplay more immersive. It’s a brilliant idea! For a better explanation, please consult the video below:
Who comes out on top?
For me the campaign for the Xbox One controller comes out on top. I just don’t agree taking your eyes off the screen will enhance gaming experience. It would disrupt the flow of the game and possibly create a reflection on the screen (since the light shows whether you’re hidden in the shadow or not). Why did Sony ever choose this as a hero advert for it’s controller? Whereas Microsoft has chosen the perfect example to show what gamers can expect. Now developers can give gamers multiple levels of feedback! Brilliant!