Ten things I hate about games #2: Non-standardised inputs

Hey, Games With Cars In – when did it become okay to put Accelerate on the right trigger? Did I miss that memo? For years (basically forever) Accelerate was bound to A, or X, or whichever button was the easiest to push with your thumb for extended periods of time without other buttons getting in the way. Right trigger was for handbrakes, or launching weapons, or nudging opponents with the right side of your car/ fist of fury / rolled up beach towel, depending on the game.

I’d never experienced anything else until I played Just Cause on the Xbox 360. In that, right trigger makes the car go forward and A, of course, makes you jump on top of your car and stand ready to launch your revolution-startin’ self onto another vehicle (all whilst somehow remaining able to steer, presumably through a Heath-Robinson string contraption attached to your knees).

Just Cause screenshot
"Wait a second," thought Rico, "fish can't fly! Something about this angling trip DOESN'T ADD UP"

The problem came to a head when I’d shot my way through a prison to free a rebel leader (or… something, plot’s not really a strong point in Just Cause) and after a furious gunfight and a pained extraction I managed to bundle him into a truck, jump into the driver’s seat, and under a rain of bullets from understandably upset guards I promptly jump on the roof and get shot to death.

That earned me my nickname – The King of No Buttons – amongst several of my closer friends, and to this day I can’t handle switching between games without a decompression period of at least an hour.

Grenades are the biggest problem. Maybe because they’re always a limited resource or maybe because they explode in my face distressingly often, I can’t tell which – but it’s as though there’s been a deliberate attempt not to put the button that throws miniature lumps o’ suicide around the arena in as many different places as possible.

Halo, for example, binds grenades to the left trigger which in almost every other game is used to squint down the end of your gun – an action which I’d forgotten was impossible in the venerable father of the console action FPS, and quite often I’d try to line up a shot from my assault rifle and instead lob a bomb fruitlessly into the centre of the arena.

I’m more of a PS3 man, though, if I’m honest. The recently-released Starhawk has Run on R2 and grenade on L2, meaning that instead of hustling along to an objective when I’m already in a rush, I throw an explosive device through the doorway and make myself even more late than I was previously.

Fear 3 Screenshot
FEAR 3, here, starring a remarkably fleshy ghost

FEAR 3, inexplicably, puts grenades on R1 which as we all know is the button that makes bullets come out the end of your gun and which I’d frequently press in a panic to unload the contents of my shotgun into a baddie but, of course, end up essentially punching them with a live grenade.*

I think we’ve reached a point where we can standardise this, can’t we? Henceforth, if you’re making a PS3 game with shooty bits in, here’s what the shoulder buttons do. No need to thank me, just use it. That’s thanks enough:

R1: Makes bullets happen. Binding the action of shooting to anything other than this (I’m looking at you, Red Dead Redemption) is perverse and clearly just a cry for attention; it’s the button that our trigger finger naturally rests on at all times. If the controller was a gun, this is the button that would kill people. Any other button is equivalent to rubbing the handle or, at the very best, ejecting the clip.

L1: Squint down the end of your gun and make your eyes work a bit like binoculars. If your game doesn’t support squinting, you could also stick Melee attacks on this and I’ll let you off with a warning, but really all games with guns in should support aiming.**

R2: Hold to pull pin, release to throw grenade. That’s it. No variation. I’m sick and tired of accidentally lobbing high-explosive around the Battlefield like a maladjusted Easter rabbit.

L2: Hit people with items held in your hand or, alternatively, just your hand. If you’ve already put melee attacks on L1 then put BIGGER MELEE ATTACKS on L2 because everyone loves melee attacks so WHY NOT GIVE US MORE OF THEM.

*Although, hell, there’s a game in that isn’t there

** For the love of Jesus, though, stop putting Melee on R3. Stick buttons are NEVER FUN TO PUSH. Circle is good. Let’s just all use that and be done with it.


5 responses to “Ten things I hate about games #2: Non-standardised inputs”

  1. Ben Avatar

    actually aim with your gun is clicking in the right stick

    1. grant Avatar

      With some guns, maybe. With others you just zoom your eyes in semi-uselessly; I’m after a tighter aiming control hampered by lower speed, really, rather than the macrovision built into Master Chief’s head

  2. Andrew Avatar

    The left trigger in Halo 2/3/etc isn’t Grenades, it’s Off-Hand Weapon – which defaults to grenades when you’re not dual-wielding. There’s an inherent logic to the left trigger firing your left-hand gun when the right trigger fires the right-hand weapon. Also, squint down the barrel of your gun by clicking the right stick; you need clicks rather than the trigger when you’re using multiple levels of zoom on snifles.

    But definitely agree on Just Cause; the worst bit was that I’d change the controls back to A to Accelerate, and it would forget next time I loaded the game. My favourite button confusion moment remains the time in Mercenaries when I mixed up the Handbrake button for the Leap Sideways Out Of The Vehicle button, and jumped out of a speeding Humvee only to watch helplessly as it contained on, only to plough through the journalist I was supposed to pick-up and escort. Smooth.

    1. grant Avatar

      Is that a proper aim function? It’s more of a fairly useless zoom, in my experience. Not such a problem on the PC versions but the Xbox suffers a bit in my opinion.

      I always felt the “default” setting in Halo was Grenades, as MC seems keen to throw away that second pistol at the slightest provocation (why he has to drop it to hit someone is beyond me) – but I get you. It’s not iron-sighty, which is what I’ve become used to, and was something of a culture shock.

      That mission in Mercenaries – with the journalist – made me so incredibly fucking furious that my flatmate hid the game from me after that. Still haven’t found it, although I’ve moved house a couple of times since.

  3. Gareth Avatar

    R2 was go in racing games as far back as Gran Turismo, I think, and Metropolis Street Racer. There, it took advantage of the analogue nature of the triggers on the Dreamcast. I’m not sure how much standardisation I really want: because it leads to the same game being made over and over, and because “wrong button syndrome” is an essential part of games, and leads to humour without fail.

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