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XCOM goes XBOX

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I’ve stressed that in this blog several times. Of course, this point of view has several reasons, which I would like to explain in advance. For one thing, a console means a technical standstill for years! This is one of the most serious arguments against a console and an absolute “NO GO”.

And not only that! As a “PC enthusiast” I enjoy screwing, tuning and expanding. So my PC goes through a change every 6-12 months, which is triggered either by performance increase or optical improvement.

On the other hand, the graphics alone are much stronger on the PC. It is clear to me that this also requires a graphics card in the range of 200 – 300 Euro. But I have to spend the same for a current console. Another point would be the unbeatable flexibility of a PC. There’s almost nothing I can’t do on a PC. I think I can save myself a detailed enumeration at this point.

But there are two points FOR a console that make me sigh a little bit from time to time. That would be the absolutely comfortable way to play on the sofa in front of the TV and the cool, often handier gamepad (now wireless with vibration).

For this reason I started a small experiment. For this I bought two things: An original Microsoft XBOX gamepad and a 12m long HDMI cable. I want to test how much effort it takes to connect the PC to my 46″ TV and play it on the sofa with a wireless gamepad. I chose XCOM: ENEMY UNKNOWN as the game for the test, because this game is currently played one way or the other and the turn-based structure gives enough time to get used to initial orientation and coordination conflicts in the cerebrum…

I simulate the following situation: PC and TV with sofa are in the same room (standard for me). The TV is running and the PC is off. The receiver of the XBOX Gamepad is always plugged in and behind the PC. I’m lying on the sofa watching TV, suddenly I feel like gambling…

The structure

After booting the PC and starting Steam the setup is quite easy and fast – which I would not have thought. Immediately after plugging in the HDMI cable, the picture primarily switches to the TV, so it is extended. When the gamepad is switched on, Steam automatically switches to Big Picture mode and can be operated immediately via the gamepad. What particularly surprises me is that the sound is also immediately transferred to the HMDI output and comes via the TV. In plain language: It didn’t even take two minutes to build a console out of my PC… Simply Cool!

The start of the game

Since I start XCOM from Big Picture mode via gamepad, the game automatically switches to gamepad control. Another nice plus point..I was afraid that I would have to fight my way through the menu with the mouse. Since it hangs around the corner from the PC via cable, it would have been a bit complicated. The game of course supports the Gampad control and has all controls suitably with colored markings changed. Also all hints and other messages show the matching buttons on the gamepad. So I load my last score and it’s ready to go.

Playing

The first attempts at walking are still somewhat uncertain, but in principle everything is clearly defined. The position of the soldier, which I otherwise determine with the mouse, is in this case aimed at with the left small joystick (what is the name of the thing?!). Due to the fine grids on the map, however, this is increasingly fast.

With the first counter-attack the first new sensory experience already shows up… The gamepad vibrates! Somehow cool. There the hits with the own people seem much more painful. After about 6 hours of playing I got used to the gamepad and am really familiar with it. Every handle sits and actually this game is made exactly for it.

But it looks different with the TV. Clearly, the graphics here don’t look as good as on the PC monitor. The resolution is the same but the picture quality is simply not good enough. In addition, I constantly have the feeling that I am too far away and can’t see everything clearly. Even if I equate the ratio of distance and screen diagonal with that of the PC.

And there it is, the all convincing argument! My sofa. I can lie down halfway, sit upright, lie on my side… Due to the wireless gampad, the position possibilities are unlimited. Simply great!

Conclusion

XCOM only works with Gampad, that’s for sure. For such games, which then as PC version still support the control with gamepad to 100%, this is a great thing. But what doesn’t work at all are first person shooters, where I have to aim fast and agile. I tried it briefly with Far Cry 3 and couldn’t even shoot a goat. It’s like open-heart surgery with ski gloves. So the classic mouse/keyboard cannot be replaced for certain games.

I am undecided about TV and sofa. On the one hand I enjoy the cosiness and the big picture in between. On the other hand I simply SEE better and higher quality at the PC with the same distance ratio. It’s probably a question of taste. However, I would rather tend to play with the gamepad on the PC as I have done for several hours.

Great praise at this point for Steam and its Big Picture mode. Also with regard to SteamOS and the SteamMachines this will certainly be good. For me, this experiment proved that a game console is not necessary. On the contrary, many features are even better. The only disadvantage here was the HDMI cable that ran through the living room…

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