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Game Column: The PS3 Won’t Ever Have Its Halo

Since 2001, one franchise has been the bane of Sony’s existence in the video game market due to the fact that, unlike most other genres, they have been unable to equal or eclipse its quality or success. That franchise is Halo.

When the Xbox was launched, Sony was the undisputed champion of the video game world. They had blown Sega off the map, had surpassed the once (and future) mighty Nintendo and had a new challenger in Microsoft which many felt would never be able to compete at a top level. Halo: Combat Evolved quickly rose to prominence as the best console shooter that had ever been produced. Proper shooting controls had been translated from the PC, using the twin sticks of the controller and adding sticky aim to account for the obvious lack of precision a stick has compared to a mouse, and the game became a massive success.

Sure, Sony attempted to counter with the “Halo killer” Killzone on the PS2 but most would agree that game was a failure and left the PS2 with no counter to the Xbox’s flagship shooter. But going into the current generation of consoles, you would think that, with their PS3 on deck, Sony would be ready to take on the Xbox 360, which would not have even happened if not for the success of the Halo franchise, on the first person shooter front. To this point, that has yet to be the case.

How could Sony not be able to create an exclusive first person shooter that really works well? That answer lies, literally, in the palm of your hands.

The Sixaxis and/or Dual Shock 3 maybe be the worst controller conceivable for a first person shooter.

To see how Sony got to this point, let’s look at the mindset behind controllers at Microsoft and Sony.

If you still have one, look at an original Xbox controller. The two thumbsticks actually have cross hairs on them. That should be your first clue that Microsoft recognized that Halo would be something special and they would build a controller that handled first person shooters especially well. They did just that and the rest is history.

Sony is, as we all know, a Japanese company and shooters generally do far less well in there then they do here in the United States. The Dual Shock 2 for the PS2 was not built for shooters. It showed in playing most shooters on the console and you really cannot blame Sony as that genre had never really broken into the console market, except for Goldeneye on the N64 being big for a few years, and the Japanese audience had no interest in those games.

These oversights in the last generation are easily excusable. The fact that this current generation, a generation after Halo and Halo 2 and, since the PS3 launched in November of 2007, Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360, the PS3 simply has the same exact controller as the PS2 did, except with bluetooth connectivity, is not excusable.

The Sixaxis and Dual Shock 3 are the exact same thing all over again. Let’s just run down the key issues with the controllers:

  • The left thumbstick is in the wrong place. The Xbox and Xbox 360 controllers showed exactly where the left stick should be. It is used far more often than the directional pad and should be in the more comfortable and easily accessible position of the far left side of the controller.
  • The thumbsticks and triggers (L2 and R2) are convex rather than concave. This obvious mistake leads to thumbs and index fingers, especially on the much more slick triggers, sliding off the buttons. A whole industry has risen up around correcting these mistakes for products trigger add-ons.
  • The thumbstick are too loose. Even the slightest amount of pressure will send the thumbsticks on the PS3 controller flying to the edge. This looseness does not making precise, tiny movements, like those needed for making headshots at a distance, easy at all.

These very fundamental flaws in the most fundamental part of interacting with your PS3 have already and will continue to hamstring FPSs on the PS3.

Some may point to Resistance, Resistance 2 and Killzone 2, which hits American retail shelves today, as games which show that shooters can work on the PS3. To that point, I would say that those games are simply a case of being judged in a vacuum. If you only own a PS3, yes, those three games would be at the very top of exclusive shooters and nothing else would even come close. But, if you compare across all systems and take multiplatform games into account, the Halo and Call of Duty franchises are exponentially better than those games and have built communities which consistently feed upon new titles and DLC. These communities are so large and robust due to the fact that those two games’ controls are unequivocally the best in the FPS genre.

The PS3 has a lot of great attributes but the most basic, the way in which every person who ever plays a game on the console will interact with it, is probably its most flawed. To all those PS3-only gamers out there, I suggest picking up an Xbox 360 if you would like to play an FPS properly as Sony’s console will never have a Halo of its very own.

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  • Wow, very nice editorial. I know I’m not telling you anything that you don’t already know, but about 90% of the information listed above is merely an opinion. I remember when the original X-Box and Halo came bursting through the gates, it was truly revolutionary because there was nothing like it. The original X-Box controller was not so good(IMO, of course), but not long after that we started seeing the “Type-S” hit shelves, which was much better. Low and behold, they took a good controller in the Type-S and made it a great controller with the 360. It’s got a good shape, it feels nice, and yes, the sticks are set up very well for shooters. But one could make an arguement about everything that you and I say is good about it. You say it has a good shape, other says it’s too big. You say it feels just right, others say it’s too heavy and clunky. You say the sticks feel great, others say they’re too firm. The only argument I’ve ever heard about the 360 controller that’s been mostly untouched is the analog stick placement.

    I own and play both consoles, and after 2+ years with each, here’s my opinion on them, when placed side by side. There really is no weakness in my eyes when it comes to the 360 controller. If I had to nitpick on anything, it would be the directional pad, but even that is not too bad. It looks sharp, it feels good, it is just a touch too heavy with the battery packs(but still very good), and you really can’t break the things unless you give them a good toss. The PS3 controller on the other hand is an entirely different monster. It has a lighter, more “precise” feel to it. I’m one of the only people I know that prefers the sticks on the PS3 controller. Their placement doesn’t bother me, as I actually prefer the symetrical design of it, but I’m a big fan of their resistance. For me, the fact that they’re easier to move allows me to put a little more touch on them, which works out well, especially for the shooters. I owned COD4 for both systems, and while I was only a mediocre player on the 360, I’d say I was definately above average on the PS3. But the one thing that brought down the controller in a BIG way for me was the triggers. As you stated, they’re turned the wrong way, and it feels very uncomfortable. I’m one of the people that you refer to that went out and bought the aftermarket triggers. I’m glad I did, as it made the controller night and day better for me, but it is something that I think Sony should look at. Maybe even take a page out of MS’s book and make a second controller. Give it better triggers, and different stick placement, and see if it sells. I know I’d definately want to try it out. Anyway, just my opinions, of course.

    PN has a pretty dosile crowd, but don’t be surprised if this sparks some controversey. I expect to see the The Litigator in here soon, assuming he can pull himself away from Killzone 2 for 10 minutes.

    Great read!

  • Sorry, typo on my part. When I said I prefer the symetrical design of the PS3 controller, I meant as a whole, not necessarily for shooters. I’ve given my choice of a FPS weapon, I’d take the 360 controller pretty much every time.

  • I m happy that they don’t get halo cause gaming industry needs variety.

    after playing Killzone 2 ,Halo 3 becomes irrelevant and almost like a PS2 game(still fun though).

    what this industry needs though is less people like you who enforce their wrong and dumb idea on everyone and state it as a fact.

  • Could someone please answer me this? Why does it matter where the left stick is? Generally in FPSs the left stick controls the movement, while the right stick (which is in the same position on both controllers) controls the camera/look. It is the camera controls that really need to be precise, so, why then did halo not use the left stick for camera, if being in that position really made it more precise? (heck, then it would basically had the default GoldenEye motion controls with analog movement)

    Also, I have to disagree with almost everything else you say. I too prefer the symetry of the DS3 and its predecessors, and I prefer the convex grippy analog sticks, which incidentally also have a larger range of motion, making precision easier. Also the loosness of the thumbsticks is better for me (although I think they did go a little too far, but the 360s ones are far too stiff).

    I will agree that the “triggers” (not really called that on the Sixaxis/DS3) are better for FPSs, but I don’t find them bad in any way (the main problem is the added resistance and range of motion, which are both better for almost every other game that uses them, but not for FPSs. The concaveness doesn’t really bother me).

  • Could someone please answer me this? Why does it matter where the left stick is? Generally in FPSs the left stick controls the movement, while the right stick (which is in the same position on both controllers) controls the camera/look. It is the camera controls that really need to be precise, so, why then did halo not use the left stick for camera, if being in that position really made it more precise? (heck, then it would basically had the default GoldenEye motion controls with analog movement)

    Also, I have to disagree with almost everything else you say. I too prefer the symetry of the DS3 and its predecessors, and I prefer the convex grippy analog sticks, which incidentally also have a larger range of motion, making precision easier. Also the loosness of the thumbsticks is better for me (although I think they did go a little too far, but the 360s ones are far too stiff).

    I will agree that the “triggers” (not really called that on the Sixaxis/DS3) are better for FPSs, but I don’t find them bad in any way (the main problem is the added resistance and range of motion, which are both better for almost every other game that uses them, but not for FPSs. The convexness doesn’t really bother me).

  • Oops, didn’t meen to double post…sorry

  • I agree that the PlayStation controller is not a good controller. I don’t know that it detracts from it that much. It is true that Microsoft really hit the nail on the head with the Controller S and the 360 controller.

    Nice write up. Everyone needs to remember that these editorials are mostly opinion pieces.

  • Scarfinger

    I think you missed the point. The real reason behind Halo’s success is MS understanding how to build a community. The fact that it still has the best matchmaking system doesn’t hurt it either

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