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No matter how hard I try to get into a game … if it doesn't have tight, responsive controls, then I just can't do it. I don't like being caught up in a session and then launching myself or someone else sky-high because the grenade button is in an unorthodox position.
When people talk about what makes a game immersive, you'll probably hear the usual bullet points: graphics, music, atmosphere, etc. While all of them are definitely imperative to the experience, one thing has always made a huge difference in whether a game totally immersed me or just detached me from it all: the controls.
Of course, my example above applies almost exclusively to first- or third-person shooters, which have been standardized to what I call the "Call of Duty control scheme." This standard is by no means bad since the input layout itself easy to pick up and learn. After a while, you almost forget that you have a controller in your hands.
Recently, I played through the Metal Gear Solid series. While the story was great and the gameplay was satisfying, I found myself constantly struggling with the wonky and outdated controls. It was hard to really get into the game and the character of Snake when the controls made me feel like less of an awesome, highly skilled solider and more like a clumsy buffoon who lucked his way out of most situations. The controls grew on me after some time, but they were still never as great as I wanted them to be.
If one genre relies the most on good controls, it's platformers. If you want to get past the challenge that a lot of these games offer, tight controls are an absolute must.
Nintendo was a pioneer in such controls for 2D platformers, and for a long time, they seemed to be the only company that could do it right. Of course, now we have games like Super Meat Boy, Rayman Orgins, and a plethora of others that offer great controls and solid gameplay.
Super Meat Boy is one that I played for a long time. Not only because my pride wouldn’t allow me to succumb to Meat Boy’s masochistic ways or because it was a download-only title so I couldn’t throw it out the window. I kept playing it because it was so easy to just pick up, play for a few hours, and leave for another month. The controls never get as complicated as run and jump.
Rayman Orgins was, in my opinion, 2011's game of the year. With great gameplay and even better controls, Orgins was easily one of the best retail platformers we have had in years.
Having good controls can make or break a game in the long run. Whether I am traversing huge landscapes or simply running to the right, I want the experience to be simple and smooth. The more I don’t realize that I'm holding a controller, the better.
And that doesn’t have to mean dancing in front of my TV.