Games these days are diverse in genre and it’s not surprising that the ways in which we control our games are equally as diverse. I thought it’d be fun to take a quick look at the main differences in control methods be it by control pad, joystick or keyboard and mouse to see how each can effect the way that a game plays. It should be noted at this point that I’m by no means any kind of an expert on the subject but I use a variety of control methods when gaming so feel I can share some of my experiences.
I was first introduced to a control pad when I got a NES for Christmas many many years ago. It was perfect for playing Mario and Punch Out and it was tough too, as it soaked up abuse from frustrated kids stuck on a particular level. Since then I’ve played with other pads from Nintendo, Sega, PlayStation, and Xbox, and these days I use my Xbox One Elite pad.
My first experience with a keyboard was whilst playing my friends Amstrad (remember when games came on cassette?) but it wasn’t until I got an Acorn PC that I first experienced keyboard and mouse together. These days I enjoy using my gaming mouse and mediocre keyboard for games like Kerbal Space Programme, Arma 3 and World of Tanks but how do the differences between Keyboard and Mouse and the Contol pad affect the way we play games? Well let’s take a look.
In terms of comfort it must be said that in my opinion nothing quite beats lazing on the couch with a good pad in your hands. I love the feel of modern control pads, especially the Xbox One Elite pad, I can happily play games for hours without any discomfort at all whilst using the Elite and in my opinion it’s one of, if not the best Controller out there for gaming at the minute.
My PC set up isn’t perhaps as comfortable but you can spend ridiculous amounts of money on gaming Keyboards and mice and the ones designed specifically for gaming are exceptionally comfortable but it’s worth noting that with PC gaming you need to consider the desk, wrist support and your chair to get the most from your set up. Whilst equal levels of comfort can be reached I find using a keyboard and mouse set up requires more thought and effort.
Some games work better on the Keyboard and mouse (K&M) such as Kerbal Space Program and some just feel more at home with a pad. Joysticks offer the most immersive flight and space sim experience and whilst you can’t beat a steering wheel for racing games, using a control pad offers a far better experience than using a keyboard and mouse.
I first played Elite Dangerous on Xbox One and the control scheme was excellently mapped out on the pad and works extremely well. Whilst I just can’t get to grips with using the mouse and keyboard I did recently start using a HOTAS joystick set up on the PC version, the result was quite surprising. I don’t think I’ll ever be as good with a joystick as I was with a pad but the immersion means I probably wouldn’t go back to the game pad for this game. So what about a Battlefield or a Rainbow Six game? Well let’s take a look.
I’ve played Battlefield 4 on both Xbox One and PC and the same goes with Rainbow Six but I think its fair to say I’ve considerably more hours invested in the console versions and as such I’m definitely better using a pad. Despite the games being the same. the different control methods alter the way the games play and feel. Let’s start off and say a good keyboard and mouse player will always have an advantage over a player using a game pad in my opinion; there can’t be any argument over that.
In Rainbow Six Siege most of the engagements are close quarters or mid range and recoil is manageable on both console and PC although PC players using K&M are able to achieve seemingly pin point accuracy very quickly where as using a pad takes a bit longer. I’ve been using my Xbox One Elite Pad on the PC version to see how I cope against the PC community and I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Whilst you have to alter your tactics slightly to try to counter the accuracy K&M players achieve its certainly enjoyable to play with a pad and I didn’t feel at too much of a disadvantage. There will always be occasions where it’s clear that you’ve been killed because the other player had K&M but not so much that it stops being fun and I never felt there wasn’t a way for me to overcome any disadvantage I may have had.
With Battlefield 4 the differences can be more apparent because on console, Battlefield 4 has a certain degree of aim assist to help players as a pad is a bit trickier to be accurate with. I’ve found that on console, engagements tend to be close to medium range with longer range engagements (unless you are recon of course) less common. Contrast that to the PC version where K&M allows gamers to be very accurate and manage recoil far more easily and you find that there are more long distance engagements. Obviously the wide open maps allow for this but so does the pin point accuracy of K&M. As a result, the game feels very different between console and PC largely due to the different control methods. Playing Battlefield 4 on PC with a pad did not end well for me!
So which is better? Well obviously I’m not going to declare one better than the other because we will all have different thoughts on the matter but I will conclude that a game can be considerably different between platforms purely because of control input methods and a lot depends on what you are used too.
With games like Arma 2, Arma 3 and DayZ, I’ve always used keyboard and mouse and therefore it feels more natural to me. I couldn’t imagine playing those games with a control pad. For Rainbow Six and Battlefield 4 I’ve tried and failed to get used to K&M probably because I’m just so used to playing those games on a control pad.
With Elite Dangerous I accept I won’t be as good as I was with a pad but I’ll be far too immersed in the game to care. If writing this has taught me anything it’s to think more carefully which platform I buy my usual game series on and consider which control methods I’m used to, and the way they can change a game.
All this leads me to a potential concern about the current generation of consoles and their cross platform abilities with PC. As more games become playable across the different platforms we’ll see more pad gamers pitched against M&K players, I do find myself worrying how this will affect the balance of some games.
Whatever happens, it’s great to see how things have come a long way since the days of twisting a dial to control your paddle in Pong, Control pads are more comfortable and accurate than ever whilst K&M offer a massive selection of options ensuring that almost anyone will find a set up that will suit their needs. Do you prefer Keyboard and Mouse of are you a control pad gamer through and through? Do you have concerns about K&M players playing against control pad players via cross platform games?