Steam Controller Pitch: Part Two


Anyone who has been using the Steam Controller for a while probably already knows about what I’m about to type below. If you still don’t have one or aren’t yet sold on the idea, consider this post a mostly complete pitch for how it changes shooters compared to playing them on consoles.

Around Christmas I already did a post talking about how fundamentally the Steam Controller has changed my general PC use in the living room outside gaming. That alone might have made it worth the $50 for me. When I was forced to really dig into the configuration for Fallout 4 however, I believe it drastically and singlhandedly improved my experience with that game.

If you try to use the Steam Controller with Fallout 4, look up Steam Controller configurations for it, or videos talking about its compatibility, you’ll find that this is one of the trickier games to use it with. This is because Fallout 4 can’t receive controller inputs and keyboard inputs at the same time. Most PC games can, which makes Steam Controller configuration really easy — you can just assign the default Xbox configuration and make additions or alterations from there.

With The Witcher 3 I simply started with the Xbox controls but changed the right track pad to input the mouse so I could use the mouse pointer to navigate menus. With a couple other alterations I was able to have all the comfort of playing most of the game like a console game, but using the mouse let me more quickly navigate the UI. This is what I’ve generally been doing with the Steam Controller — combining the simplicity of console controls with the depth of a PC UI.

With games like Fallout 4, you have to have the Steam Controller act like only a keyboard and mouse, or only a controller. The popular community configurations I found for Fallout 4 seem to simply be creating a semblance of the keyboard configuration on a controller which in my opinion felt somewhat convoluted. People who are coming from a background of mostly playing games with keyboards might prefer it, but I wanted the aforementioned balance I described. So, I ended up building a configuration from scratch. After a few hours of matching up the original key bindings with the Xbox configuration and some in-game testing, I got what was essentially an Xbox layout with mouse aim, which feels like a huge upgrade from shooters I’d been playing on consoles.

Valve added this thing called the “mouse-like joystick” to the Steam Controller configuration tools specifically for games that don’t allow simultaneous joystick-keyboard input, but I think it’s pretty inferior to a straight-up mouse. The sensitivity just feels all wrong in both Fallout 4 and Wolfenstein, but I’ve heard Portal 2 might be a good learning experience for it. It works better for controlling third person cameras than for first person aim. Ultimately though it’s better to rework the whole configuration around that limitation even if it takes a lot of extra time.

A huge bonus that surprised me (and I think is a relatively recent software update to the Steam Controller) was the touch menu, where you can use either touch pad as a cursor input for an overlay menu attached to more inputs. In the context of Fallout 4 I added nine inputs to this touch menu for the keyboard’s quick weapon select keys. It’s basically the same as the quick weapon select menu on the console control scheme but a bit faster and more high-tech. It has a lot of untapped potential for other games.

Setting up this controller layout has immediately made Fallout 4 a much more enjoyable game, bringing out the potential of its already great control and feedback. Maybe part of it is that I set up the configuration just as I was finishing up the main quest and first becoming free to enjoy the rest of the game. One unexpected effect the Controller has had on Fallout 4 specifically is that I’m playing it in third person mode a lot more. I still switch to first person in enclosed spaces, but I’ve been playing most of Fallout 4 like a normal third person console action game from a couch… only with the precision aiming of a PC first person shooter.

The funny thing is, I haven’t even tried out the Steam Controller with games like Grand Theft Auto V or Metal Gear Solid V, both of which have a banner that says “Works Great With The Steam Controller” on their pages on Steam. Maybe third person shooters are especially suited to it — they merge a perspective optimized for console games with some mechanics that benefit greatly from PC control. I haven’t even tried the Controller out on the mouse-and-keyboard games it was supposedly designed for like MOBAs or strategy games.


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