Enough of the tweaking. PC gaming needs sorting out.
Welcome to Pro-G's Monday Morning Rant, our latest regular feature where one of the team gets to vent their spleen on anything that annoys them about the wonderful world of gaming. No subject, no matter how taboo, will be free from our cutting comment and vicious vitriol. Got that Monday morning feeling? Read on, and brace yourself for a wake-up call.
10 years ago I was a pretty hardcore PC enthusiast. I enjoyed reading about new PC hardware as much as the latest video games. But today, with home consoles competing with PCs in terms of visuals and offering a far easier play experience, PC gaming is becoming increasingly tedious. Windows Vista was hailed by Microsoft as the operating system to make gaming easier, and better, but most users would argue that it's done the opposite.
Let's take BioShock as an example of a recent high-profile PC and console game. On the Xbox 360 I'd turned the TV on, loaded the game and begun my adventure into Rapture in about a minute. On the PC it was a different story. To start with it took nearly 15 minutes to install the game - way to dampen your enthusiasm before the game's even begun. And that's just the beginning of the nightmare that is playing a modern PC game.
Next up came checking for a new display driver. The big two video card manufacturers (Nvidia and ATI) tend to release new optimised drivers for their cards to coincide with big new titles, so this whole process can add another 15-20 minutes to the install - depending on how thorough you like to be when removing and installing drivers. But anyway, 40 minutes after first placing the game disc into my PC's DVD drive and I was ready to play.
Well, play is a loose term. I was actually ready to spend the next half-hour tweaking various visual settings to get the game running and looking its best. Many games these days claim to be able to work out what settings are best for your system, but in reality you're going to need to spend some time changing various detail, texture, shader and filtering options until you find the perfect balance. So, finally I'm ready to start, I admire the lovely water effects and then my PC reboots. Brilliant.
To be fair, that random restart was the only problem I encountered during my play through the game on PC, but that kind of occurrence is something I've come to expect from PC gaming. Another gem PC developers like to throw in is patches that make your previous save games invalid, giving you the option of continuing through the game with numerous problems or starting from scratch and hoping the patch actually fixes the issues you had in the first place.
When Vista arrived I believed, perhaps foolishly, that PC gaming would take a turn for the better. We were promised all kinds of things, from better visuals via DirectX 10 to streamlined installs that would give PC gamers a console-like instant gaming experience. I'd love to hear from anyone that's managed to experience this PC gaming nirvana as Vista's caused nothing but misery for me. If PC gaming on XP was a hassle, on Vista it's a chore.
On Vista's launch gaming was a joke. None of the drivers were mature enough, the games ran terribly and the much talked about DirectX 10 games were nowhere to be seen. Even today, almost a year after its debut, Vista makes even the best gaming machines look like OAPs, while XP boasts far superior gaming performance. Even EA's Crysis, a game that is almost single-handily waving the Vista and DirectX 10 flag, runs better on XP - albeit without some of the DirectX 10 effects.
So the question that begs asking is: why spend £2k on a new gaming PC if you're just going to get a headache? It's a hard one to answer. PC gaming and the personalised nature of the hardware has some kind of pull that I can't get away from, and as much as I moan I'm not likely to abandon a hobby that is 10+ years in the making. I just hope that Microsoft, Nvidia, ATI, Intel and all the other big players involved in PC gaming sort out Vista before it's too late. I want to be able to experience Crysis in November without spending a week tweaking it.
So here's my Monday Morning Rant: Make PC gaming less of a hassle. It's time for Vista to deliver on some of its promises.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.