Video Games

Horizon Zero Dawn and Ghost Recon: Wildlands Make Me Long for a Universal Control Scheme

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

I have always been at odds with control schemes in video games. I’ve never been able to understand why there isn’t more uniformity in the way individual games control.

As an example, there are two recent games I’ve been playing simultaneously — Horizon Zero Dawn and Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Both games allow your character to loot items they find in the world or on the corpses of fallen enemies.

To loot things or open chests in Horizon, you must hold the triangle button (Ps4) until an onscreen meter fills up and the action is performed. In Ghost Recon, the same action is performed using the square button (Ps4). Now I know these are two completely different games made by different developers and released by different publishers, but so what?

Why can’t a universal control scheme be developed, agreed upon, and used across the board?

Horizon Zero Dawn

Yes, there are differences in the actions that can be performed across games, as well as a limited number of buttons on the standard gaming controller. And that’s not to mention the millions of differences in the ways PC and console controls function. I get that. But if a majority of games allow for crouching, say, then why is the designated button that action is mapped so wildly delineated?

Why do some games map crouch to square (I will be using Ps4 controller labels going forward), while others use L3 or R3, or even circle or L2? Why can’t crouch just be crouch across the board?

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Have you ever played an action game of some variety that maps jump/roll to square and reload to circle, than played a similar game where those same prompts are mirrored? So when you mean to reload, you jump instead. Or when you want your character to crouch, he or she actually rolls… right off a cliff.

I think we can all agree that Rockstar is the leading open-world-with-lots-of-driving-game developer, and anyone who’s played their games will attest that using triangle to get into and out of vehicles just feels natural. Which only makes it all the more disorienting to have to use a different button — or, in the case of Ghost Recon and Mad Max, having to use a different button that must also be held down for a period of time. I’m sorry, but having to hold square or X to get into a car feels amateurish when compared to the way the master does it.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

In so many of the games I’ve been playing these days, acceleration, and brake/reverse have migrated from the face buttons to the triggers. But even in a game like Grand Theft Auto V, button mapping can change between different versions of the same game. If you played the game originally on Xbox 360, then migrated to PS4 like I did, you would be thrown for a loop because the default hand brake button changed between versions.

Of course, the button scheme can be swapped manually, but I never figured out why I was driving so poorly in the Ps4 version until I happened to catch a glimpse of my character ducking while I was trying to make a hairpin turn.

I understand that, yes, game developers want to put their own stamp on their games, especially when competing in a crowded genre where perhaps a top dog is barking. But having a familiar control scheme wouldn’t diminish the identity of a game simply by being too similar to other games of its ilk.

And how beneficial would it be to jump into a game and instinctively know how to control your character without having to go through some detailed tutorial? Yet here we are in 2017, having to constantly acclimate to a new and sometimes foreign control schemes.

It’s bonkers, I tell you.