Review by BigCj34

Reviewed: 05/24/07

The ultimate gaming esperience, but at a price of money and convenience.

OK, so if this isn’t one of the most nebulous reviews I’ve written here, then what is this? Let’s put it simply, forgive me when this ends up being a mono-debate between PC’s and console-games, because every PC is different. PlayStation 2’s, Xbox’s, Gamecube’s and Game Boys are more-or-less the same, and although a selection of consoles have undergone revisions in design throughout their later stages, PC’s have to cater for all different kinds of hardware when it comes to gaming. Inevitably that means new games won’t work on older hardware while old DOS games are often a tough task to get to run on new operating systems and hardware.

First of all, I’m not going to go back to the history of computing, as the Personal Computer that we know it was originally coined in 1981 by IBM, there was no custom-building and swapping around parts like today before that. Building computer’s required university degrees in engineering and expert soldering skills, not the ability to read instructions and pull open cases. IBMPC’s originally used storage media of cassette’s, and despite the limited success with home users it was a hit with businesses, and had its advantages of open architecture by using off the shelf components and allowed third party developers to make parts and software for it easily, a trait most obvious today.

PC’s originally used DOS which involved endless typing to get anywhere, while the first Windows came out in 1985 as slow, gimmicky and unstable OS, Windows 2.0 (1988) was much more stable and allowed window overlapping as opposed to just tessellations while the breakthrough Windows 3.0 (1990) added network support. It wasn’t until Windows 95 when we saw the transition from low-resolution DOS graphics to using Windows features such as DirectX and OpenGL making games look much crisper from higher-resolutions. Windows 98 gave better access to the internet but Windows XP took the mainstream market from the DOS Windows to the Windows engine (NT being Windows without DOS, being much more stable but had poor software and hardware compatibility) when Windows 2000 (its NT predecessor) saw enough sales to make the move, although because of this many DOS games and some older Windows games were incompatible although to date patches are available for the better-known titles. With Vista out we now get to see DirectX 10 in action with extra shiny, detailed graphics amongst improved security, but you’ll eventually have to buy it. Alternatives to Windows exist such as the open-source Linux, a decent enough OS but don’t expect it to run nearly as many games.

PC gaming has its similarities yet massive differences with console gaming. PC games have a significantly different layout to the way they’re played, as a rule of thumb (but not always the case) many PC games are designed to be played with the keyboard or mouse while most console gamers would sit in front of a television on the sofa with a control pad. Attempts today have been made to put the PC in the living room, with Multimedia enhancements to operating systems and high-resolution HDTV’s but many PC games traditionally still rely on the WASD key combination or clicking things with a cursor while sat in front of a smaller screen simply because that’s how we’re used to it. However, console-style gaming on the PC is a perfectly viable option, whether it’s a port or through emulation, just sit back on your chair with a control pad and you’re fine (trying to play with a keyboard can be awkward with some game). PC ports on the console are often not as good, due to using keyboard and mouse having much better precision than using a D-pad or analogue stick.

The main advantage of PC gaming over console gaming is flexibility, nothing less. With console gaming you get what you’re given, there’s no pimping it up, adding new graphics cards or extra content, what it is is what it is until the next console 5 years later but it’s far easier. It hasn’t been until recently when you could get the rudiments of downloadable content with console games, in the era of the PS2 and Xbox (by the PC people themselves) when we saw online games. PC games have given the option for fan-made mods, patches for glitchy games and online play for a while and offer limitless flexibility. Downloadable content on consoles is more limited, and more difficult to make and has to be official, large scale fan mods aren’t possible from security restrictions. Games like Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat are largely played, mainstream titles today despite being small mods for Half-Life years ago, many PC games boasting map editors while Half-Life 2 allows mods to be made from scratch for free. Doing that kind of a thing on a console rarer and much more limited in what can be done.

Another aspect of the flexibility of PC games is in the hardware. While you can to an extent decide what display and speakers you’ll use for your console also, the decisions mainly go on what is inside your box. Are you going to dish out on the fastest graphics card out there (at time of writing it’s the 8800GTX) and have all settings at maximum, highest resolution your monitor can muster and have an FPS of 60 on Oblivion or decide you don’t need to spend excessive amounts of money just for games to look good, so decide a Radeon 9600 is good enough? Depending on your set-up, games give you the option to trim down the graphics to get a faster performance, be it by turning off advanced lighting and particle effects down to lowering the resolution and texture detail, you can decide how good you want your games to look and spend that bit more for added smoothness and detail, console games only allow you to play as they are, and if the game is a bit sluggish for your liking, tough. Other than that, your PC is about you so you decide how many DVD-burners you want, how black that case is going to be or how many cores that processor has. With console games it’s just down to the TV/Speakers you’ve got and the AV cable you use for getting the best graphics and sound.

Now having seemed to have trashed console games for most of this review, and stated why PC gaming is never dead, now’s the time to say why console gaming is always there. The important thing is about console gaming is the convenience of it. Go to Gamestation’s and by a game for the console, you can take it home and know it’s going to work, unless your PlayStation dies without your presence. To play PC games you need some computer knowledge, know how good your computer is and read the system requirements five times just to check your computer’s good enough but only just. Then you take the game home, and realise its not playing as well as you like, scraping 10FPS on the lowest graphical settings, but then you can’t take it back because you nabbed the CD-key. While this is a worst-case scenario, it can happen, whilst console games work mostly, no sweat or fuss, the only problem is if the game is any good. There’s no messing about upgrading your computer to play a games, messing about with settings or wondering why the game is crashing on your setup.

Another important aspect of console gaming is that innovations come first on it. Take a look at the Nintendo Wii, using motion-sensitivity controlling developers have such a thing in mind when writing their games, and is so far a hit. The graphics are weak but has the innovation, as with Ninendo’s portable the DS. Try releasing motion sensitivity on the PC and it will be lost in the clad of accessories available for it, and games aren’t optimised for it. Games for the PC are made for the keyboard, mouse and a gamepad in mind mostly,

Lastly console gaming is far cheaper than PC gaming, the PS3 had caused huge uproar from its £425 launch tag despite its power, but anyone could happily spend that on a very mid-range computer, whilst the PS3 is an immensely powerful machine. Top-quality PC gaming costs at least £1000, although that’s only when we’re talking extreme-resolution monitors, a decent PC need only cost around £500 and you need a bit of computer knowledge to get around the aspects of PC gaming, it doesn’t and never will offer a pure out-of-the-box gaming experience like consoles so. Although people say that games aren’t about the graphics, you do need acceptable graphics to get the experience otherwise we’d all be on the Atari 2600 now. Graphics on maximum settings aren’t necessary, but playing in a horribly empty, jagged game world takes away a large chunk of the atmosphere and game experience. Consoles tend to last longer in lifespan than one PC, look at the PS2 which has been around for 6 years until the PS3 came out (not that they all worked for that long!), usually consoles last around 4-5 years before you have the chance to upgrade, leave a PC for three years and there’s a good chance it will choke when trying to play new PC games. However, PC games themselves tend to clock in cheaper than console games, new console titles are normally £10 more than their PC cousins, while many old PC classics cost a fiver, but console greatest hit ranges cost notably more if they don’t get discontinued.

While we’ve seen some influential titles on the console, PC’s have introduced us to some fantastic titles, such as Half-life, Deux Ex, Ultima, Doom, Warcraft, Command and Conquer, Carmageddon, Unreal and Grand Theft Auto (that originated on PC) having a massive influence on the way games were made and some of these spawning new titles even today. Consoles (or more specifically, gamepads) are often more suited to particular genres, such as fighting, racing, sports, platformers but many strategy games work on the PC from their point and click nature, as do shooting games, and a good number of RPG’s, while online play is easily available as chances are your computer is equipped with the internet (how are your reading this if it isn’t) although that isn’t to say you can’t play console-style games on the PC for reasons I mentioned before. Console games are better for in-room multiplayer, it’s not much fun trying to gather all your mates around a 17 inch screen and many PC games are designed for LAN/online for multiplayer.

Overall, if you have the knowledge, the money and the time, PC gaming is a far greater experience than console gaming due to its sheer flexibility. Console gaming is far more convenient and cheaper, and gets the games played with those who have other things to do than mess about with Windows-installations and graphics card upgrades. Despite the arguments of PC vs. consoles, console gaming will never beat PC gaming due to PC’s sheer flexibility and PC gaming will never replace consoles because many aren’t bothered with the inconveniences of upgrading, configurations and the knowledge that’d necessary with PC’s. You make the PC, you decide if its good enough because you only play Counter-strike or if you need to get every new graphics card out. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate gaming platform, but at a price of money and time while you need to do some homework on hardware.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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