Review by PreacherCrasH

"How can consoles even compete, you ask? Read on to find out."

An earlier review was titled "How can consoles even compete?" Well, the fact of the matter is they can and do. Read on, and as promised, I'll give you my take on it.

First up -- Hardware power

Superior graphics, superior sound, superior control, superior everything...provided you bought or built a superior PC. And for how long will it be superior? With new hardware coming out every 6 months or so and game developers taking advantage of that new hardware, to play the NEWEST titles (and honestly, who doesn't want to? I didn't want to sit around for a year for GTA III to drop in price), you have to UPGRADE your PC.

So, the positive is that PCs have superior hardware to consoles (except MAYBE at the launch time of a new console--the Xbox 360 blows my dedicated gaming PC away). The downside is you pretty much HAVE TO HAVE that bleeding edge technology and keep upgrading it to play the newest PC games as they arrive.

Consoles, on the other hand, have a longer product life. Companies like Sony and Microsoft need to make their money back that they invested in the console. A sizable chunk of this comes from royalties for releasing games for the systems. That being the case, before Sony or Microsoft are ready to release their next console, they're going to support the current one longer.

And generally, once you've bought a console, you're done. You may want/need accessories like a wireless controller or memory card, but generally, that's it. The video card in the Xbox will play launch titles and titles that are released today. With the PC on the other hand, I have to check the game's requirements to make sure my video card and processor speed will handle it.

So, consoles do have a leg up there. Personally, I wish PC games did the same thing as consoles in that they learn to really squeeze every bit of performance out of some older hardware so that hardware doesn't go obsolete as quickly. But there's a reason they may not. Read on.

Next--Ease of Use

The console is designed to do one thing and do it well...play video games. Developers know that ever PS2 in North America is the same. The same for the Xbox. They know then what they're dealing with and can program to aqueeze every ounce of power out of the hardware without worrying about the speed of the DVD-ROM drive, how much RAM is installed, and how much free hard disk space there is, or the T&L capabilities of the video card because EVERY CONSOLE of a given brand has the SAME SPECS.

Not so with PCs. A host of new bugs and problems comes into the mix. There is no telling what else the user has done to his/her system or exactly what type of environment the game will be played in. After the fiasco with "Enter the Matrix" crashing on consoles, I returned my console version for the PC version. I mapped all my keyboard commands to a gamepad and it was like playing on a console...in my room....on a small screen....sitting in a chair instead of a couch. But the fact is the PC unpredictability can work FOR gamers because of all the settings developers often make available (like resolution, shadowing, anti-aliasing, etc.). If your system can do it, great, if not, turn some of that off. Though you can still play the game, would you really want to when you know your Xbox or Dreamcast can play it smoothly WITH all those fun little bonuses like anti-aliasing and shadows?

In addition, VERY FEW PC games (relatively) have built-in support for PC gamepads. Flying and driving games tend to support flight sticks and race wheels, but that's about it. Even multi-platform games like Fantastic Four and Hitman 2 that are built around that console's controller in terms of game control DO NOT directly support gamepads on PC? Why? Some games DO play better with KB and MOUSE, I'll grant you that. But some were MEANT for gamepads and you know it.

Thankfully, a number of gamepad manufacturers have started including profiling software to let you use your gamepad of a KB and MOUSE game, but that's another step of set up AND there's not always enough buttons, seeing as a KB has so many buttons, developers can assign one function to each, unlike multi-function buttons on a gamepad given the context.

So with a console, you drop the game in and play. With a PC, there's some work to be done but it CAN mean a better, more custom-tailored experience.

Finally--CUSTOM TAILORING--MODS

It is SO MUCH EASIER TO MOD A PC GAME THAN A CONSOLE GAME. Yes, some people have hacked Dead Or Alive Beach Volleyball on PC to change bikinis to naked women, but has anyone changed WCW Nitro on the PSX to actually be WWF Raw by changing all the graphics, skins, and sounds? I didn't think so. But it's been done on PC? On PC, during Enter The Matrix, I changed character skins often, playing as Neo, Agent Smith, and Morpheus, instead of Ghost and Nairobi whom I didn't care at all about. Not an option (at least not easily) on PS2 and Xbox (though the Xbox's HD does make this considerably easier than the disc only PS2).

GTA III and VC are both online now. They were never meant to be, but on PC, you can play Multi-Theft Auto. Heck, there's other famous mods, but not really for games I play so I don't really know them that well.

And that's the thing. For the games on it, PC is great. Often, they're a lot of RTS games and MMORPGS that just seemed to play better with a KB and MOUSE. Consoles tend to have games that play better on TVs with gamepads of some type, like Tekken, Punisher, etc. Consider how few racing wheels sell for consoles and how few gamepads sell for PCs.

The thing is, PCs are not consoles. Period. They MIGHT have been, as DISCover and the Apextreme hoped to make PC gaming as easy as console gaming. Drop a game in, it self-installs, self-optimizes, and just starts playing. They never released these systems as far as I know. Only Alienware actually shipped a system with the technology and even it is still mostly a PC. It doesn't pretend to be a 'hook me up to the TV' console.

I had the idea for something similar years ago. This year, I built it. I install my games manually, but have added scripting so that when I drop the disc in the drive, the game will automatically configure my gamepad and start the game up. I'm still working on the self-install thing. Only for games I really play a lot AND would have self-uninstall as disk space runs low. But there are A LOT of variables and things that can change to make that happen consistently correctly. And generally, I find that SOME of my multi-platform games like GTA III and Outlaw Golf play quite well on the PC, better even (and of course, Enter the Matrix). And some don't seem to be quite as smooth. But then, there are SOME PC ONLY titles I dig, and I love having them on my TV. Like gathering everyone around for "You Don't Know Jack" or playing "City of Heroes" on a much bigger screen...which can sometimes be a shortcoming given the resolution difference and onscreen text.

In closing, this has been more of a personal odyssey. My experience (including marrying PC to console in one box since DISCover and Apextreme are hard to find) and my personal taste in games. Notice I tried to use several titles available on console and PC, but I'm still biased.

Ultimately, PCs are not consoles, even when made to look and act like them. Period. And therefore they're after two different markets with SOME overlap in cross-platform releases. Since they're after different audiences, they compete quite nicely since they tend to stay out of each other's way.

I guess the idea is it's nice to play PC only games and also be able to get some new fun title that's primarily console but also on PC (like Punisher, Enter the Matrix, Call of Duty, Halo).

However, since they are different markets, I guess you could argue that they don't compete at all.

In the end, if you dig PC games, then PCs rank highly for playing games. If you dig stuff that's more console-only, then PCs, while good at what they do, probably won't interest you for game-playing.

Final score, then, judging it based on it's abilities and implementation--10


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 09/26/05


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