Steam Deck’s Great Controls Show Regular Gamepads Are Outdated

Steam Deck's Great Controls Show Regular Gamepads Are Outdated
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Steam Deck’s front touch panels allow you to quickly switch to aiming like a mouse in the blink of an eye.
gif: 343 Industries / Kotaku

What makes the Steam Deck the most unique piece of gaming hardware available today? You might be tempted to suggest its impressive graphics power in such a small form factor, or the portable access to Steam, or even the software gymnastics it does to make Windows games play on Linux. Sure all of that is great, but for my money the Deck’s main feature is its rear grip buttons and two front touchpads, which make it totally unique among gaming devices. These non-standard controls are rapidly changing the way I play a particular genre: first-person shooters.

Just being able to enjoy such games so easily on a handheld is certainly praiseworthy on its own. But as I played the game, mapping the shooter controls to different areas of the machine, I began to realize that the Steam Deck is uniquely positioned to change the way we interact with shooters. Transforming PC mouse and keyboard control schemes into gamepads has always required compromises, but the Steam Deck’s unique variety of inputs allows for novel combinations that prioritize movement and aim while providing new ways to interact with the game. play.

Consider the rear grips. Anyone with a Scuf or Xbox Elite controller is no stranger to rear paddles. While many swear by these things, which clearly offer advantageous control flexibility not otherwise possible, Scuf’s Control functions patent on the rear Mid paddles will remain a rarely enjoyed novelty until hardware manufacturers figure out a way to standardize their inclusion. Valve has arguably done exactly this with the Steam Deck.

All Steam Deck models, even the cheapest ones, give you a set of four rear-mounted buttons that absolutely help with games that weren’t designed with controllers in mind. But they also benefit games designed for gamepads.

While it’s been great to play games like Hello no need to take your thumbs off the analog sticks, turning on crisis has informed me of the other benefit of back buttons: leaving behind the tyranny of standard video game controller design as it existed, largely unchanged, since the late ’90s.

To be fair, crisis it’s translated well enough into a standard controller experience since its 2011 Xbox 360/PS3 port. But the 2008 PC original took the PC’s wide variety of buttons and keys for granted. Switching between suit functions, picking up items, and swapping attachments and shooting modes all felt much more natural on a mouse and keyboard.

The console’s gamepad controls were full of compromises. Running, for example, automatically activated the suit in Speed ​​mode and therefore consumed energy. On PC, you used a combination of button and mouse movements to change the powers of the suits, something that translates well to the Steam Deck’s rear grips. Switching the controls to “Classic” mode allows you to quickly bring up the selection menu with either bumper and then select the appropriate mode with the assigned buttons on the back, leaving your thumbs free to focus on aiming and moving. Such a control scheme retains the advanced features of the original PC, without the need to compromise and cram too many features into fewer inputs.

Immediate access to advanced controls without including movement or aiming keeps the action fluid.
gif: Crytek/Kotaku

Another great example of a game where bonus entries would rule, albeit in a heartbreaking twist, the Steam Deck can’t play it right now, appears infinity halo and his gun falling. That usually requires holding Y, but you can assign “weapon drop” to a paddle or keyboard key to drop weapons instantly, and without sacrificing a thumb on your sticks. This instant weapon drop is so disruptive to the competitive meta that eUnited’s Tyler “Spartan” Ganza recently expressed how it unfairly favors those with paddles.

If having more features at your fingertips can change and perhaps improve a game, why not consider a future where paddles are standard on game controllers? Imagine the expanded features and ease of gameplay we’re missing out on by sticking with the same sets of entries from decades ago on each “new” generation of consoles.

Steam Deck offers a glimpse of that future. In crisisthe rear paddles allow me to instantly power jump, crouch and prone, swap weapons, or change suit functions, all without sacrificing aim or movement. crisis it can get quite difficult and hectic, so prioritizing agility while still having quick access to suit features is not only very convenient, I think it lives up to the spirit of the game’s fantasy of being a soldier in armor super powerful It’s a shame Destiny 2 not as easily accessible on deck; It would also benefit a lot.

the front touchthe pads are just as revealing. With the ability to recognize simple directional gestures as well as being able to click on them, touchpads are my go-to option when I’m shooting. it’s kind of a shame Halo: The Master Chief CollectionThe multiplayer anti-cheat system doesn’t work well with the Steam Deck, as placing the trackpad under the right analog stick for fast, accurate shooting offers a new level of control that I’d love to test against other players. . For now, only the Covenant, Flood, and Prometheans in the campaigns will have to cower in fear of my new death snipes.

The Steam Deck control experience is not perfect. Halo: The Master Chief Collection in particular, it doesn’t want you to use a keyboard, mouse, and controller at the same time, so you’re still sometimes limited in how much you can rearrange links. But even having a secondary form of analog input to control precise aiming or zoom level makes the game feel a bit more complex and nuanced. I’d love to see what a developer could do if they natively considered the extended Steam Deck entries in a game design.

First-person shooter controls have been stuck in the mud for a long time; the genre has revolved around the same handful of control schemes for decades. The Steam Deck provides a powerful demonstration of how new input styles and button layouts can offer legitimately better ways to interact with even these highly standardized game types. There’s a lot to build on here, but first hardware manufacturers have to choose to make such innovations possible by going beyond today’s antiquated gamepad conventions and really trying something new.

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