Make a game feel new without modding it
Today for absolutely no reason I decided to boot up Half Life 2. I had been grinding other games lately, poking around other games lore, among other geeky stuff.
That on its own doesn't sound very noteworthy but this time it was different: I had no clue what I was doing.
Now, I've been playing Half Life 2 for over 9 years running now. It was very catchy, sleek, and revolutionary compared to a lot of PC games I had played prior.
What makes this playthrough different from all other other hundreds of times, is this time I had a controller.
I quickly saw half the game transform before my very eyes without so much as a button press. The controller automatically configured itself and the controls to the optimal setting, all I did was plug it in.
My first indication that something changed other than the obvious with controls, is the crosshair and crosshair behavior changed. It grew two new outer brackets, and is color coded to where waving the crosshairs over an enemy or shootable object (i.e. Explosive barrels) it will turn from amber to orange. At first I thought to myself "It has been a while since I played, did I forget about some crosshair mod I installed?" almost believing it seeing how modded my game is. But I eventually realized that was the XBOX 360 build's crosshairs.
The next shift I noticed was crouch jumping. Naturally being the monkey person I am, evne during the entirety of Point Insertion I've taken to hopping and leaping over everything just because I could. Well some objects, waist-high for example, required the use of a duck-jump. Well when I plugged that controller in and turned it on the game began duck-jumping for me (which is good because it wasn't until a lot later I actually found the crouch button, which is actually a toggle now.
By Route Canal I had almost gotten the hang of controls. I'll refer to the Playstation controller in analogy for this as its what my controller mostly resembles; not familiar with the XBOX controllers myself. Although my controllers buttons are marked with R1, R2, L1, L2, XY AB buttons with a start and select (and a bonus "turbo" and "clear" button, whatever they do)
"X (or "Cross")" is jump, as you might expect
"Square" Is USE
"Triangle" is the flashlight
"Circle" is to reload.
The directional + pad is set for weapon selection, R1 confirms a highlighted weapon selection (as opposed to using the fire button to select which might waste you a bullet).
Move and strafe with the L analog stick
Look and aim with the right.
R2 is fire, it has a pressure-gauged trigger but doesn't affect anything
L1 is sprint
L2 is the alternate fire
Press in the left analog stick to toggle crouching
Press in the right analog stick to use the suitzoom
Now, I've quickly found a few incompatibilities with my specific controller.
My controller is a FENEK, not sure what model exactly anymore, its not labelled. Its advertised as having autoconfig with any game that supports "XInput/XBOX" styled controllers and joypads, which explains how it configured itself, I assume to what the respective controls were on Half Life 2's Xbox 360 release.
Mostly the inablility to use corner combos on the directional + pad (Up+left, Down-Right, that kinda thing) which prevents me from selecting some weapons, I have to tap 5 on my keyboard still to select a frag grenade for instance due to explosives being set to "Down-Left", which brings me to the next transformation I noticed.
The weapon selection HUD is now a radial menu, which of course corresponds to directional input from the Directional + pad. The "bucket" is categorized for each angle. Up is crowbar, right chooses pistols, down chooses SMG's etc, and again R1 confirms the selection and closes the HUD.
If you have a Pistol and a 357 both in your inventory, you select the 357 by pressing right twice for an example of control optimization.
The controller itself is also said to be compatible with Steam, as it has a "Home" button which can be pressed at any time to focus on the Steam window if it is minimized or something so long a game isn't being run; holding the Home button and pressing directional buttons changes settings on the controller, for up to 4 modes. The game seems to respond to the button being pressed as it plays the "deny" sound when pressed, possibly due to it being moot to focus on the steam window while in game.
Whatever skilled PC shooter you are with the mouse, you can forget all of that with a controller, unsurprisingly. While I make it sound worse than it is, I went from never missing a nearly shot to a practical Stormtrooper, however that is where another feature kicks in: Auto-aim. I think all E-sports whatever they are should be played on console.
The Auto Aim will home in on enemies within around a centimeter in diameter of the reticule, this is most noticeable during Water Hazard in the airboat where you can look ahead and the crosshairs will "aimbot" their way to passing enemies -- all you have to do is shoot when it does that.
One more change I noticed was the NPC's accuracy with weapons. It has decreased dramatically, unless of course standing two feet from them. I gather this must be to balance the extra time it takes to aim using the clunky control stick --- I'm playing on Medium. It feels like a classic FPS in how robotic and stiff the camera movement becomes.
Never realized how good I had it, playing it on PC. Although I think it would be fair to say playing on the PC only grants you 98% of the game, the other 2% of features comes to life when you insert a controller.
It feels awfully weird to be able to softly turn the wheels on the buggy.
So is this how it feels to play Half Life 2 on a console?
Wish I could find that old pciture I found on icanhazcheezeburger long time ago, I'd use it as a header; the one where the top panel is captioned "PC" and shows a sniper and the bottom frame captioned "Console" with a stormtrooper.