Why don’t I play more PC games? Because I can’t afford to upgrade all the time

These days I’m generally a console gamer (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3) but sometimes I’ll play games on my what would these days be considered dinosaur PC (Intel Core Duo CPU @ 2.13Ghz , nVidia Geforce 8600 graphics card and 2Gb of ram) by today’s standards.

I’m playing a PC game at the moment: Batman Arkham City. I loved it on Xbox 360 so jumped at the chance when I was offered a review code to download it from Steam.

Almost 24 hours later the 16Gb download was complete (yes, my broadband really did take that long) and I clicked play, eager to see how it played on PC  – and was prompt for the game’s CD key, which meant I had exit the game to head back into Steam and copy the CD key) . I also had to log-into Games for Windows Live, which also required a copy of the CD key, as well as aan update, which it downloaded and installed – and then just when I thought I was ready to play, I had to request a new password for my GFWL account as it had been so long since I’ve used it that I had forgotten my password and couldn’t log in.

With all that behind me I launched the game, tweaked some of the settings (I’m running it in DirectX 9 as the Geforce 8600, which is below the recommended specifications for the game, doesn’t support DirectX 11, which is what Batman Arkham City is touting). then got stuck in. Not surprisingly, the game stutters from time to time, most noticeably when there’s a lot of foes on-screen but sometimes pauses for a few seconds, usually as I’m  just about to glide kick one of Joker’s hench men into next week.

It goes without saying that I’m also not using the Physix capabilities that the game has – that would slow things down to a slideshow,  (in fact, I might just try it, for a joke, and see what the frame rate plummets to).

The game still looks great, though  – this is on a PC, after all – but all the hassles with Games for Windows Live and recommended systems specifications needed to get the game looking its best is partly the reason why I play my games on a console. I can hear all the PC purists starting to complain about my preference for console gaming but seriously, I can slap an Xbox game into my 360 console – or a friends 360 console – and know that it’s going to work straight out of the box (unless there’s an update required for it, of course – but then they don’t normally take long to download and install). My Xbox isn’t going to ask me to type in a CD key twice then promptly crash back to the desktop/menu because I had my tongue in the wrong position or something.

Also I don’t have the luxury of some powerhouse computer kindly supplied by [insert computer maker’s brand name here] that will run the game at maximum settings and some blisteringly fast frame rate. In my mind, reviewing a game on some sort of top-end computer that has all the fruit isn’t being fair to consumers: how many joe public gamers have the money to buy top-end computers with the latest and greatest components? Maybe it’s more than I realise, though, and I’m talking through a hole in my head …

But these days, I prefer console gaming because of the convenience – and that I don’t have to constantly spend money upgrading the hardware. Yes there’s a trade off with consoles: less system memory and pared down graphics performance compared to a PC but imagine the nightmare PC games must be for developers to make:  how is a developer realistically expected to anticipate all the potential hardware configurations in existence then make sure that the game works on all of them. It just seems a near impossible task.

It goes without saying that PC games definitely look better on PC (mostly and if you have a graphics card that can handle all the graphical bells and whistles that developers use to showcase PC games) but I can live with that for the convenience of knowing my copy of Batman Arkham City on Xbox 360 will also play on my brother’s Xbox 360 without any problems. I was also put off PC games a while back after Ubisoft’s clunky DRM on Assassin’s Creed 2 which required a persistent internet connection to play it. I took the game back when I realised that: it meant I couldn’t play it on a laptop when I was out-of-town, which sort of defeated the purpose of me buying it, really

I’m going to stick with Batman Arkham City on PC: it plays fine and looks good, but the experience  has just confirmed for me how much I personally prefer console gaming at the moment. Who knows, things may change  …