Playing PC Games with an Xbox Controller Instead of a Keyboard and Mouse
To fill the gap in my current gaming activities, I decided to try one of the various titles that I have stockpiled. Often these have been bought on a whim but there’s always something of interest to try and explore. So, having recently enjoyed the open world of Mafia 3, I decided to return to GTA V. I’ve owned this title since December 2015 but have never seriously played through in story mode. Last time I dabbled with it was when I bought it and I just fooled around with the various cheat codes that are available and spent a few hours causing mayhem. This time round I’ve decided to apply myself to all facets of the game. However, I ran into one issue with GTA V that I can usually ignore with other titles. Namely, the control set up. I’ve previously played many games that have been developed for multiple platforms or have been direct console conversions. Although such games are intended to be played with traditional games controllers, I have happily managed to play them using a keyboard and mouse. Sometimes I’ve had to spend a lot of time re-mapping keys but I've always got by.
However, on this occasion I found that that was not the case. The games driving mechanics simply do not lend themselves to keyboard use. The weapons system and object interaction also consist of a very esoteric selection of keys. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to relocate specific functions but it simply wasn't viable. Often, I would solve one problem only to create another. GTA V with its combination driving, third person shooting and point and click narrative simply favours a bespoke device. So eventually I gave up my experimenting and simply fetched my Xbox controller. As this Xbox peripherals is compatible with the PC, it was no problem to install it and set up the device. However, the next stage was not so easy. Namely, becoming accustomed to using the Xbox controller. It’s a major mental and physical change. I found that driving vehicles was an easy transition to make. Using the left and right triggers to brake and accelerate is extremely intuitive and feels very natural. Controlling my avatar was far more challenging. Walking, climbing and interacting with objects felt far more sluggish and unwieldy. Aiming via the thumb stick takes a long time to get used to. It doesn’t feel as accurate or as responsive as using a mouse.
This “problem” is very much a case of “conditioning” and “muscle memory”. I made the transition from console gaming to the PC in the middle nineties. There was a time when I use to play both platforms but the PC ultimately won because it’s a multifunctional tool. So, for over twenty years, the keyboard and mouse have been my primary means for interacting with games. I assign the most commonly used keys around WASD, so they could all be easily reached with my left hand. My right operates a five-button mouse. The system works for me and trying to change such a mindset is a big ask. However, it can be done. I am now able to navigate the open world of Los Santos using my Xbox controller. The key is patience and perseverance. You have to stop relying your reflexes and get into the habit of thinking in advance, exactly what it is that you want to do, then implementing it via the Xbox controller. I’m reminded of how Nigel Hawthorn told Clint Eastwood in the movie Firefox to “think in Russian”. However, I cannot see myself playing all future titles with a game controller. It is something I have done out of necessity to accommodate GTA V. A keyboard and mouse remains my primary choice for playing games, although using an Xbox controller has been an interesting experience.