Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Gears Keep on Sputtering... Why I Prefer Console Gaming

One marketing line I always liked from Gears of War was "The Gears keep on turning.", referencing that the COG soldiers, called Gears, were constantly fighting their fearsome Locust Horde enemies. Well, with the recently released PC version of Gears of War, it's more like they keep on sputtering.

While the gameplay of Gears of War (PC) is as spot on as it always was in the Xbox 360 version, and even more so with how well the controls have translated over to a mouse and keyboard (Wretches are so much easier to deal with when they get in close. Bastards.), the port is plagued with technical issues that really vary from system to system.

Simply installing the game off the DVD (which you naturally need to keep in the drive to play) took an hour. An hour long bloody install. Once that was done, it took me about another 45 minutes just to get Windows Live to recognize my Xbox Live Gamertag. So much for a simple transition on a universal system.

To resolve this, I ultimately had to go on the web, log into, and while remaining logged in, I went back in the Windows Live Guide within Gears of War and created my Gamertag brand new, logging in properly after it recognized that the Gamertag was already in use. What a pain.

Onto the gameplay issues themselves. I have constant stuttering and frame rate hiccups in game, and while its playable, precision sniping is not going to be possible. I've tried everything to get the frame rate smooth, from dropping all the Video Options down to "Low," to editing several sections of the game's .ini file (the default settings detected for my system were all Medium). I have one more idea, to try and modify a sound setting in the same .ini, and if that doesn't work, I'll be forced to wait for a patch. Overall, I spent about another hour tinkering with the game's settings.

So that's nearly three hours spent overall dicking around just to try and play the game properly, while nearly a year ago, I was able to simply pop the Xbox 360 disc into my console and play. Back in the before time, the long, long ago, 3 hours was nothing and I could tinker and optimize to my hearts content, but today, when I'm married to my job, I don't have the time to waste on fixing something the developers should have optimized in the first place. I exceed all but one of the game's minimum system requirements, so I should be able to pull out a smooth frame rate, and this smacks of nothing but sloppy development.

And this is an excellent example of why, when all's said and done, console gaming is the superior choice for the average consumer. On Medium graphic settings, Gears of War doesn't even look much better than its Xbox 360 counterpart, so the only real advantage is the new content and the mouse/keyboard controls.

While I'm not saying that PC gaming blows and is always problematic, I'm simply saying that there's a simpler way to game for people on time constraints.

Sputter, sputter, sputter...

Update: So changing that audio option I thought of in the .ini file had no effect. What seems to have helped a bit was dropping my Desktop's Colour Quality down to Medium (16-bit). The stuttering is still there, but it doesn't seem to last as long.

Another annoying problem I'm experiencing now is a lot of lock-ups and crashes to desktop. I also had Windows Live cause one crash error on me, and I'm simply logged in and playing the Campaign.

This all started in Act II when you meet up with the Stranded, and now I'm on the section where you guide Dom past the Kryll with the spotlight, and it's crashing on me a lot.

Not very much fun.


Anonymous said...

Sputtter Sputter eh?

Well, lemme tell ya i didn t have a single sputter and "precision sniping" within a second after leaving cover is totally awesome with a mouse ::cough::

dual core, 8800gts or better, 2gb ram or better.... all components that are in the midrange price segment by now, and they do make the game come alive in a way that a console with its low res tv graphics can't even dream of.

All a matter of knowing what the right hardware for the game is... or rather what hardware you "should" get so you can actually enjoy a given game. So i can't really relate to your "sputter" rant at all.



Juxtapose said...

Yup, sputter, sputter, and I'm certainly not the only PC gamer with those issues, as the official forums indicate.

When the game is playing smoothly, precision sniping with the Longshot kicks, but once it starts to stutter, even though it only lasts for two seconds, that'll mess up a shot or even get you killed.

Epic enhanced the Unreal Engine 3 for the PC version of the game, but let me tell you, when Gears of War was released on the Xbox 360 last year, most PC publications were praising it as the best looking game ever, and it was on a console.

Anything playing on my 26" Samsung LCD at 720p looks damn fine, so I don't know where you're coming form with your "low res TV graphics." Have you actually played something like BioShock or Gears of War on the Xbox 360 on a proper HDTV console set-up?

And your last paragraph is the thing, isn't it. If I already have the hardware that meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements, I should be able to easily install and play the game smoothly on the lowest settings and a low resolution, yet I can't. I can play BioShock, a game based on the same engine, just fine with all the options on High, but Gears of War chugs along on Low.

That, my friend, is poor optimization on the programmer's end. If I truly need much better hardware to even run the game smoothly, than they should have listed higher system requirements.