I hate many current action games because their controls are often too complicated. I still can't remember all of Bayonetta's moves unless I have an FAQ file on my computer.
But Assassin's Creed made action games fun for me again … just by simplifying all the controller commands.
Its control scheme might almost be too simple. You get one attack button and one jump button. Holding down the right trigger (on the Xbox 360; R2 on the PlayStation 3) opens up a bunch of other moves, but I usually only use attack and jump. That's all I need to pull off all the acrobatic moves I want to use..
Expert gamers would say I'm just an amateur who doesn't understand hardcore action. They're wrong. Game developers started making controls too complicated right around the Playstation 2 era — I don't know why … maybe to make the action more intense. But whatever the case, you don't need to make things complicated just to make them fun.
Take Metal Gear Solid 3. On the PlayStation, I always have to concentrate on how long I hold onto the square button; a little puts a choke hold on an unsuspecting solider, but too much, and he's a goner. I don't slit anyone's throat by mistake. The Xbox port shows some improvement, but I still need to keep track of too many commands while fighting complicated bosses with better attacks. Those controls never made much sense to me.
Assassin's Creed, on the other hand, makes everything easy. Developer Ubisoft tends to gravitate toward simple control configurations, and I tend to gravitate toward them because of it. Their 2003 masterpiece, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, had some of the best controls I've ever used. I usually only had to focus on jumping, attacking, and rewinding time (in case of accidents) with the shoulder buttons. The controls felt so natural that playing it was a pure pleasure.
Assassin's Creed evolves those controls in excellent ways. It took time to adjust to the sword fights's rhythms, but I quickly learned the ropes as my assassin climbed the ranks. I simply locked onto soldiers and hacked at them with the attack button or parry-riposted.
The battles almost became too easy after I earned that counter-attack. I could divert every single enemy slash at the moment of impact, then wipe out every guard I encountered. In fact, I didn't even have to sneak around anymore. It's not like anybody could stop me if I walked right in through the front door.
It did become somewhat repetitive, but the easy-as-pie controls have a magnetic appeal for me. Playing through Bayonetta, I need an instruction manual for everything, because it's impossible to remember the exact timing of every single combo attack. I suppose I could use the techniques outlined in the pause menu, but how is consulting a manual every five seconds fun? I came to play, not to repeatedly stop and study. Too-specific, timed-button combos like those keep me from enjoying — or finishing — otherwise brilliant games.
It's not a matter of dumbing games down, but other developers could learn a thing about streamlining control schemes from Ubisoft in general and Assassin's Creed in particular. Two buttons and one trigger let me massacre entire armies. That's all I want, and that's all I need.
What are some other games with excellent control setups? How can current beat-em-ups and shooters benefit from such a simple control scheme?