It's a common topic these days, and always subject to much debate. For the longest time, I refused to believe PC gaming really was dying, primarily because some of my finest interactive experiences as a child came from my old Tandy/IBM. I distinctly recall the good ol' days of text adventures (shut up, they were great), Hero's Quest , Earl Weaver's Baseball , Ms. Pac-Man and more. Later, in college, I had a blast playing the likes of Diablo , Heroes of Might and Magic III , Baldurs Gate 2 , Icewindale and Unreal Tournament with a bunch of friends. Therefore, in no way would I ever want to come to the conclusion that PC gaming is dying. If I do that, it feels as if a part of me would die along with it. But unfortunately, the time has come: it is dying, and I have to come to terms with it.
Now, I could spend hours comparing the cost:value ratio between PCs and consoles, but that's an argument that can be spun in a variety of ways, and one that's loaded with hidden pitfalls. And I could claim that an appalling lack of diversity and innovation in the past decade has led to the PC's demise as a gaming platform, but I'd rather not. It's a valid claim – just about every last big title these days simply builds on the foundation set by either Half-Life , Command & Conquer or Baldurs Gate – but that just generates a lot of animosity. The PCers hate to hear it, regardless of how true it is. There's far more diversity in terms of genres and innovation when it comes to gameplay on consoles, and that's a straight-up fact. All of this has contributed to the PC's downfall, along with the elitist PC developer mindset ('cough' Valve 'cough') that basically says, "we're the best, we don't ever have to change." However, it goes well beyond this.
I'm playing through The Orange Box on the 360; this is my first time through Half-Life 2 . The hype for this game was through the roof, so of course, I was very excited to finally get a chance to play it. And this is a great game, but the further I got, the more something was eating away at me…it was gnawing at my brain, desperately trying to tell me something. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but last night, it hit me- it felt cold. It felt stark, bland, and most importantly, lifeless. At that moment, I realized that most all PC exclusive games felt this way to me now. They lack the warmth of some of the colorful, vibrant, dynamic worlds we've been seeing in the console realm for quite a while. I had just completed Uncharted: Drake's Fortune before starting The Orange Box , for example, and the contrasts are plain. Granted, it wouldn't be fair to compare the two games in terms of gameplay because they're in completely different genres, but it is certainly fair to compare graphics and design.
Thing is, when I'm moving about in the world of Uncharted , it's a lush environment that just feels as if its full of life. The color and shading is astounding, the detail is unbelievable, and perhaps most crucial of all, the character interacts with this environment correctly . He slows down when moving up and down steps, he moves slower when aiming and moving side to side, and his body responds to proper physics and momentum. Of course, I realize FPSs operate on a different control scheme, but even some FPSs have gone past the likes of Half-Life 2 . No matter what surface I'm on or what I'm carrying, I always feel as if I'm walking on glass in The Orange Box . Even Resistance: Fall of Man provided some semblance of human physics when moving and acting, and many other FPSs have as well. The bottom line is that I am always aware I'm playing a video game with Half-Life 2 .
And this only seems to happen to me when I'm playing a PC game. Again, it's the significant lack of warmth that creates this feeling, and I finally figured out why. For whatever reason, PC games simply haven't advanced to embrace a new generation's qualities and requirements, which is very difficult to accept. I grew up in a time when PC gaming was superior to console gaming in every possible way, from graphics and sound to depth and presentation. These days, things have quietly pulled an almost complete 180 on me…almost nothing on the PC is better. They say Crysis had the best graphics of 2007, which may very well be true, but I've seen that title on a monster rig. Now, I'm no massive graphics whore, but I can definitely tell differences in visual quality, and I really didn't see much of anything in Crysis that significantly outstripped games like Uncharted , Unreal Tournament 3 and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare . I'm also noticing some superb acting in console games recently; Heavenly Sword had the best voice acting and animation I've ever seen in video games. Remember when all that was super cheesy in console games?
And with the innovative and beautifully designed titles like Folklore , Beautiful Katamari , Super Mario Galaxy , Warhawk and Assassin's Creed , I've been forced to notice that I've seen absolutely nothing new on PC – that wasn't also on a console – in over a decade. Go ahead and count up all the console exclusive titles that scored 80% or higher at GameRankings in 2007, and compare that to the number of PC exclusives you find in that same review window. It's not a pretty sight. On top of it all, no longer can we say that the PC version of every multiplatform game is superior; in fact, that's almost never the case unless we're talking about a FPS. And even then, the differences are so minimal it almost just comes down to which control interface you prefer. Lastly, it's becoming increasingly difficult to find a great PC game that A. isn't also on a console and equally good on a console, B. isn't a FPS or RTS, and C. doesn't feel completely lifeless. The instant I realized I couldn't think of a game that fits all three of the aforementioned criteria, I concluded- PC gaming is dying.
There's simply no other way to look at this. We've come so far in the console gaming universe that entire worlds are actually starting to jump right off the screen. Something like The Orange Box and Half-Life 2 is supposed to be the be-all and end-all of advanced technology, and not only does it feel bland and cold, I'm not even all that impressed with the design. Thing is, a few years ago, I would've been. And that's exactly the point- I've been playing so many console games, and it's just because they're better . I have never believed in platform loyalty; all that does is eliminate fantastic gaming possibilities. But at this point, I really can't see what I'm missing by not having a gaming-capable PC, and trust me, I've looked. I'm sorry, Mr. PC, my dear friend, but perhaps it's time to lay you to rest.
It may be the only decent thing to do.